One of the more maddening conversations we all seem to have with our friends, our partners, and even ourselves is the one that starts with, “what do you feel like eating”? In Manhattan, this usually means, “where do you want to go and eat?”.
The question is initially met with a pause, as anyone within earshot is waiting for someone else to make a suggestion. Then after the pause we have a round of, “I don’t know’s” and “where do you want to go’s” and then in the final stages of this we have the random suggestion that is met with wide spread derision and the obligatory response by the suggestor , “I didn’t hear anyone else’s bright ideas”. Then of course you end up at the local bar or pizza shop because you are now so angry and hungry you will eat your own arm.
So, a friend was coming to town with a yen to eat at local Italian spot, Supper, on E.2nd St. in the E. Village. Supper, on a weekend night (and that means from Wednesday on in NY) means wait on the sidewalk or at the adjoining wine bar for about 30-45 minutes for a table…and then pray that your entire party is there when they call you or you will lose your table. On this night it was about 12 degrees out, the wine bar was crushed and we had six people in our party. The wait was to be an hour+. Now, of course, the previously mentioned conversation was about to begin.
A few months ago, I made the inevitable artsy guy cell phone choice, switched to AT&T and bought an iPhone. I soon discovered the App Store and it’s endless number of both idiotic and banal as well as helpful and indispensable applications that can be uploaded to your iPhone. There I discovered something called Urbanspoon.
Urbanspoon is an application that uses the GPS device in the phone to locate your position and help you find a restaurant based on 3 criteria; neighborhood, type of cuisine and price. The interface looks like a slot machine of sorts and you can randomly “shake” your phone (either by pushing the button on the screen labeled “shake” or by actually shaking the phone). This activates the slot wheels of the three criteria and makes suggestions on a restaurant. You can lock any or all of the wheels into a specific spot, say, E.Village, Italian, $$$. That would give you suggestions limited to E.Village, Italian restaurants in the medium to high price range. Then when you choose a restaurant the program gives you the address, phone number and reviews. It will also interface with the GPS and give you directions.
Back at Supper on that cold evening, I was of course the first person in the crowd that everyone looked to for another suggestion and I drew a blank. It was the weekend and we were a big party, so I was really stuck. I whipped out my trusty iPhone, opened up Urbanspoon, got the wheels spinning and voila! within 20 minutes we had a table for six at Gnocco on E.10th St. on the north side of Tompkins Square Park. We had a lovely meal, some very good wine and a waiter with an Italian accent and that scruffy bad boy look that the ladies at the table were very pleased with. Score a win for Urbanspoon and me.
Urbanspoon has since been featured on commercials for iPhone and it’s App Store. I have used it both here in NY and anywhere I have traveled since acquiring my new digital companion. It has proven to be one of those indispensable applications amid the virtual forest of mind numbing diversions offered for the iPhone. I am not sure if it is or will become available for other cell phone platforms but since we all either have an iPhone or know someone who does, turn on to Urbanspoon, it will save you from ever having that “where do you want to eat” conversation ever again.