The right app can help you find favorite restaurants and score great reservations. (Photo: Thinkstock)
If one of your favorite things about travel is trying new food, you know that navigating through a city’s restaurant scene can be as difficult as it is delicious, no matter how many Yelp reviews you peruse or OpenTable points you have. Trustworthy recommendations can be hard to find, lines are long, navigating through a big menu is tricky, and getting a good reservation often seems like a magic trick that only concierges can perform.
Thankfully, a new generation of apps and websites makes things much easier. Here are seven appetizing options.
Use Table 8 for hard to get reservations (Photo: Table8)
Bestia is one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles. Tables are booked weeks in advance, and walk-in diners often endure long waits to sit down for chef Ori Menashe’s pasta and charcuterie. But Table8, a new VIP reservations app, can get you a prime-time table there for $20. Other A-list L.A. reservations available for $20 through Table8 include star-chef spots like Walter Manzke’s République, Suzanne Goin’s A.O.C., Tin Vuong’s Little Sister, and the much-coveted patio at Vartan Abgaryan’s Cliff’s Edge. On a recent Friday night, we used Table8 for a 8 p.m. reservation at République. We showed up 10 minutes early and the place was jammed, but we were seated quickly, at a table next to one with two cast members of Glee. By 8 p.m., our drink order was in. Table8 launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles earlier this year, with plans to add New York this fall and 15 to 20 cities by the end of 2015.
Book reservations on demand with Resy. (Photo: Resy)
Resy is a prime-time reservations service that has launched in New York with a well-curated list of restaurants like downtown king Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern, celebrated chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s Toro, and Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s American Cut. Some reservations are free, and others available on the app range from $4 to $20 (and up) depending on demand. The app will let you know whether you’re booking the main dining room, bar seats, or an outdoor table at neighborhood favorites across the city. Resy has its eye on expanding into other markets including Los Angeles and Miami.
OrderAhead offers delivery from restaurants that don’t typically deliver. (Photo: OrderAhead)
Visiting Washington, D.C., and craving a burger from Shake Shack, but don’t feel like standing in line? No problem: OrderAhead will deliver your SmokeShack. (That’s a cheeseburger with bacon and chopped cherry peppers; trust us, this is the burger you want.) OrderAhead, which launched as a takeout service, now also offers delivery from restaurants that typically don’t deliver in big markets like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and D.C. That means, for example, pizzas from Gjelina and sushi from Sugarfish if you’re on L.A.’s Westside — all in the comfort of your own hotel room.
Use Foodspotting to see what you can order before you get to the restaurant. (Photo: Foodspotting)
Foodspotting lets you view photos of the best dishes at restaurants, so you’ll know not just where to go but also what to order. It’s like a curated version of Instagram, focusing on what you might want to have for dinner in the place you’re visiting. You can view the most popular dishes in a city or sign in with Facebook and see where your friends have been and what dishes they thought were worthy to share.
Find independently owned restaurants using Local Eats. (Photo: LocalEats)
You didn’t travel cross-country to have Yelp recommend you go to a Cheesecake Factory, so get your restaurant recommendations on LocalEats. This site ignores chain restaurants and spotlights independently owned local favorites in major cities. It’s useful whether you want a burrito in Houston or Dungeness crab in Seattle.
Who needs a waitress? Settle your own bill with TabbedOut. (Photo: TabbedOut)
You’ve finished your dinner and are ready to go, but you can’t find your server for the check. TabbedOut solves this problem at more than 5,000 locations (including both restaurants and bars) nationwide. You pay for your meal plus tip using your phone and leave the restaurant whenever you’re ready. Multiple users can split the bill, solving another problem that always seems to slow down your night.
Order the best food from around the country straight to your door with Goldbely. (Photo: Goldbely)
If your travels have you dreaming of the Texas barbecue or treats from New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar you had on your summer vacation, GoldBely will mail-order your fix to you, anywhere in the country. This fancy-pants online food store has deep-dish Chicago pizza from Lou Malnati’s, lobster pot pies from Maine’s Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co., ribs from the incomparable Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas, and so much more. Dessert can be the decadent Candy Bar Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar or a pecan pie from Savannah’s Original Candy Kitchen. Browse by region and create your own feast by ordering some of the country’s most beloved dishes. Whether you want bagels, chowder, sausages, or ice cream, Goldbely will bring them to you.
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