Gotham and the Windy City

January 8, 2007

Happy New Year! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday break, and that your resolutions are still intact a week into the year.

While there was plenty of eating and celebrating over the holiday, and while I haven’t written on the blog in far too long, we weren’t completely idle the past few weeks here at Urbanspoon.

We added New York City with its 23,602 restaurants and Chicago’s 7,894 restaurants to the site. Technically, that means we’re now nation-wide (if not nation-tall).

Check it out!

Thanks Seattlest!

December 15, 2006

Seattlest wrote a really nice piece about Urbanspoon the other day – check it out:

http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2006/12/11/
urbanforknspoon_is_the_best_restaurant_guide_in_seattle.php

Spoonback

December 7, 2006

Since embarking on this little project, Urbanspoon, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how little I know about food. I love to eat, but compared to food bloggers like Hillel at Tasting Menu or Pim at Chez Pim, I’m a total novice. It turns out (you probably already knew this) that food blogging is huge. All of these dedicated people eating and assaying and photographing and then putting it all down in virtual print for the benefit of the rest of us.

I knew practically nothing about this resource, and I’m guessing that’s true for a lot of people. So there’s a need to connect diners with food bloggers, and vice-versa. We’ve added a feature to do our part to help.

Bloggers - Spoonback is a way for you to share your posts on restaurants with everyone on Urbanspoon. You can see what it looks like on blogs like Megan’s iheartbacon, Matthew’s Roots and Grubs, Thomas’ Cuisineazine, or Laurel’s LBlog. And you can see how these posts are shown on Urbanspoon for restaurants like Crow and Tilth.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Pick a restaurant that you’re reviewing on your blog, go to the restaurant page on Urbanspoon, and click the link “add your review to this page”.
  2. Pick an image link (there are a bunch on that page to choose from, some really tiny, some bigger with more interesting info) that you want to add to your blog post.
  3. Copy the html into your blog post.

From there Spoonback will take over. It will notice the image, read in your post, and show a snippet from your post and a link to your blog from the restaurant’s page on Urbanspoon.

Dinner and a movie

November 21, 2006

Eating out isn’t always just about the meal. Sometimes dinner is just one piece of a larger evening agenda. We added a feature a couple of days ago that might be a help when you’re planning a night out – at least if the plan involves restaurants and movies.

Pick the movie theater you’re going to and you’ll get a list of the restaurants within walking distance, rated by popularity and price.

For instance let’s say you want to see Volver at the Egyptian (opening there this Wednesday). Like me you might notice that Via Tribunali (on my wishlist) is right up the street. So now you’ve got a perfectly good excuse to go to a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.

We also added a similar deal for the hotels in town, for those who might be visiting Seattle and looking for a place near their room.

It seems like everybody has been to La Carta de Oaxaca. Everyone raves about it, everyone says, “you haven’t been? oh you have to go.” So I actually feel a little embarassed not to have tried it. There are a bunch of restaurants like this that people who know good food have recommended – but that I just haven’t gotten around to yet. I kind of lose track of them, and next thing you know I’m back at Nishino’s instead of trying something new.

Fortunately we’ve just added something to Urbanspoon that can help – “Wishlist”. It’s basically a way to keep track of restaurants you want to try. Think of it a bit like your Netflix queue. Next time you want to try a new place and can’t think of one, just pull a restaurant off your wishlist.

Here’s my wishlist.

We got a bunch of feedback asking for this feature – thanks!

We’re on the phone!

November 15, 2006

It turns out people don’t always choose where to get dinner while they’re sitting in front of their computer. Let’s say you find yourself at a dead stop in traffic on the 520, tired and hungry and eager to let someone else cook. Now Urbanspoon can help.

This is particularly true if you happen to have a Blackberry. Thanks to Phil Bogle we’re now integrated with his Berry411 application. Search for a restaurant and you’ll get Urbanspoon reviews, links and popularity right from the results. If you have a Blackberry and you haven’t heard of Berry411 you’re in for a treat. It’s free, faster than calling 411, and can answer pretty much any question you have to ask.

If you don’t have a Blackberry but your phone has a web browser, just go to http://www.urbanspoon.com. We have a version of the site that works well on the phone.

For the technically inclined, we’ve built a simple REST api that makes it easy to integrate from additional platforms. Anyone interested in putting a J2ME face on Urbanspoon? How about text messaging? Step right up…

Getting started

November 10, 2006

Hi.

We’ve just gotten Urbanspoon off the ground, and it seems like a good idea to have a place to talk about the site, the company, and, most importantly, eating. Thus this blog. If you have questions about any of those things, please don’t hesitate to ask!

The idea behind Urbanspoon is to make a truly simple restaurant search site. Most often when we use the web to get info about a restaurant we want the phone number, the location and the menu. Most of us don’t have time or inclination to maintain a food blog, but we do have opinions and recommendations that we share with our friends. Urbanspoon should help with that.

Apart from the basics, here are a few distinct features:

  1. Restaurant menus – I always have a hard time finding these. So we want to show either a link if the restaurant already has a menu online, or show a scanned menu if they don’t.
  2. Reviews from the critics – we want to offer people a range of opinions in one place. We’re currently looking at sites like the Times, the PI and the Stranger. We also want other people with strong opinions – either on Urbanspoon.com or on their own blogs – to chime in on restaurants, and let the best reviews rise to the top.
  3. Voting – we have a simple up/down voting scheme to measure the popularity of restaurants in town. We wanted something totally transparent, like Rotten Tomatoes but for restaurants.
  4. Personal restaurant lists – people can create and share lists of their favorite restaurants and their own commentary on those restaurants. The idea is that most people don’t take the time to write a whole blog about food, but everyone can share their favorites.

I hope you like it – we can’t wait to hear what you have to say. And to see where people are eating!

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