A fantastic dining experience is about much more than great food—although great food is definitely a requirement. We’ve all had those moments when we’re completely stumped by the question: What are you in the mood for? After all, once you make it over the initial hurdle of choosing a cuisine, there are a million other factors to take into account. Price, location, pace, locally sourced, unique and unexpected or cozy and familiar. Are you ready to go home and dig into some leftovers now?
Luckily there are lots of ways to hone in on the dining experiences of your dreams. First, it’s important to find a place with the right vibe. If you love people watching and don’t feel like having an intimate conversation, you may want a lively, fun atmosphere with music and crowds. If you want a quiet meal in an intimate setting, look for a romantic bistro. If it’s a family affair, be sure to find a restaurant that’s kid-friendly. The finest cuisine in the world won’t taste good if you’re already battling your surroundings before you even order.
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Your Smartphone or tablet are two of the handiest tools for your quest for the ultimate dining experience. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, [R]oughly one-quarter of consumers say technology options are important features that factor into their decision to choose a restaurant.” The ever growing and improving range of restaurant apps combined with the more established review sites like Yelp and Foursquare make pinpointing your venue easier than ever.
The right ambiance really can make or break a meal. While there are plenty of apps that allow you to search by cuisine and ratings, most don’t focus as much on atmosphere. Enter the “Pandora of restaurants” Hoppit, which lets you search for dining experiences by ambiance and whom you’re with (family, a date, solo, etc.). Hoppit remembers your choices and lets create a look book of your favorite spots.
Luka, one of the newest restaurant apps, aspires to be a game-changer for finding your ideal dining experiences. It uses artificial intelligence to learn your tastes and preferences and scans online reviews to find the perfect suggestions for you. Right now it’s only available in San Francisco but it’s poised to expand quickly.
If you’re craving a certain dish cooked in just the right way, Foodspotting lets you search for dishes. It’s sort of a combo of Pinterest and a local restaurant guide. Users can upload pics of their meals and give them ratings and recommendations. See what friends and local foodies are recommending.
Urban Spoon and LocalEats are both great food guides that give you info, reviews, and menus for local restaurants all across the country.