As you read this, you’re probably sitting home by the fire, fondly reminiscing about your Thanksgiving Day feast. I hope the food was tasty and the drink refreshing. I hope you and your loved ones took a moment to bask in the warm glow of family.
Most of all, I hope you had power.
All this focus on food got me thinking about food apps for your smart phone. There are so many of them out there, and they come in all shapes and sizes: recipe finders like Epicurious, review apps like Yelp, reservation tools like Open Table and even food games like Sky Burger.
I’ve done a lot of app taste-testing over the years, and I came up with three decent ones worth investigating. I use the word “decent” because I’m still waiting to see that perfect food app. Until that day arrives, these should keep you going.
Local Eats ($.99)
As I said, there are lots of restaurant finders—maybe too many. I don’t like Zagats—it’s expensive and all you really get are boiled down comments and a phone number. Urban Spoon is quite popular. It has a spinning wheel that randomly selects local spots by shaking your phone—kind of like the “I’m feeling lucky” feature on Google—but in my opinion it’s too gimmicky.
Local Eats is an app that strikes the proper balance between information, price and quality. Taken from the Where Locals Eat book series, the app delivers a curated list of the best 100 restaurants in the 50 largest U.S. cities. Simple right?
You can search for places around your location, or filter by city, cuisine and name. You might not agree with all of the selections, but there’s no disputing that this app is a great starting point for finding a good meal. At 99 cents, it’s worth the download.
Tipulator is an app that calculates your tip on a dinner bill. I briefly debated whether to recommend it, mainly because of price. There are many free tip calculators that do almost the same thing as this one. In fact, your phone comes with one already built-in.
So why buy this app? Ease of use. Tipulator has a really simple interface along with various presets that let you add the tip based on different percentages. Once you enter the total, you simply press the desired percentage and it quickly adjusts the total. It also has a neat feature that helps you subdivide the check depending on number of people in your party.
Some folks gripe that the app doesn’t let you enter the tax, but you’re not supposed to tip on tax, so Tipulator is actually making sure diners don’t inadvertently overtip.
Enter the dark horse. Harvest is yet another simple app (notice a theme here?) that performs a single function very well: choosing produce. Think about it for a second. How many times have you gone to the grocery store and wondered whether those strawberries were ready to eat? They look pretty good, but what are those brown spots along the tips?
You get the point.
Harvest helps guide you through this process for almost every fruit and vegetable you can imagine—and some you’ve never heard of. You browse a huge alphabetical list of produce, tap your phone, and in a split second you’ve accessed all the key information you need to determine whether that melon or berry is ready to eat.
The app also displays information to help you determine pesticide levels of certain veggies, based on things like appearance, location and time of year.
At $1.99, it’s not a cheap app. But it will pay for itself in spades just by helping you shop more intelligently.