The most well-known name in restaurant reviews, Zagat, has released their iPhone application. It offers a basic, yet informative way to search through Zagat’s catalogue of venues and determine the best choice for your stomach and your wallet.
The application first opens to a simple search to help you find your specific area of interest. You can search for a restaurant, hotel, shop, or even search nightlife spots. Below those choices is a large area that can be pushed to update your current location. Restaurants can be further narrowed down by cuisine, neighborhood, or by viewing the Top Lists. These lists showcase the best according to Zagat in various areas such as type of food, décor, or service. The other categories also allow you to clarify your search with similar choices. The advanced search allows you to get very specific results by setting ranges for the venue’s ratings as well as cost in addition to the other choices available in the simple search.
Through the Options screen, you can adjust the search radius from .5 to 50 miles and set your starting location by using your internal GPS or by selecting an area, address, or recent location. There is also the ability to view recents, create favorites, and a function that will dispense recommendations. The recommends function begins by determining the nature of the outing: date, friends, business, family, or celebration. It then clarifies the situation with questions such as the type of date, meal, or other more intangible properties such as restaurant “vibe” or cost preferences of your company.
Upon selecting a venue, the screen displays their address and phone number. The phone number is clickable and will dial directly from there, while the map button in the top right corner brings up a google map view with a link to directions through your maps app. Below that is the official Zagat rating and a brief review of the venue. If they have a website you can tap the link to view it inside Zagat’s app, so you won’t have to navigate back from Safari and relaunch the app. Finally, the page displays the hours of operation and any features associated with the venue. Any place can be added as a favorite or the whole information page can be emailed, which leaves Zagat and opens an email message.
The program loads swiftly over the EDGE network or wifi, even on a first-gen iPhone. The colors are mostly white and red, but the simplistic theme adds to the usability of the application. Instead of attempting to create a vivid, graphic-filled app, Zagat has opted for being informative over stylish. This approach allows for easier viewing and avoids lengthy load times. The load times that do occur are accompanied by a culinary quip known as a “Zagat Outtake”. These sometimes amusing quotes fill the very brief load times and often go by too fast to even digest.
The app puts as many features as it can into the actual program and only leaves the program when viewing directions or emailing venue information. The focus on minimal, quick navigation and low load times makes the program actually useful. Its purpose is to inform as opposed to entertain, and the Zagat application portrays that respectable, articulate style they are known for in their print publications.
The $9.99 price tag seems professional as well. The cost may drive away the average foodie to get something like Urbanspoon, but those familiar with Zagat’s reputation will most likely find this app a good value. The print version is $14.95 for non-members, so anyone who would be inclined to purchase that and has an iPhone would most likely opt for the more portable digital version. The app continues to update its features and has made some improvements with the recent 3.0 firmware upgrade. Grab this app on the iTunes Store and start working out your culinary muscles.