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Urbanspoon iPhone App Helps You Pick a Restaurant

The basic idea of the free Urbanspoon app is to offer various cuisines, price points, and neighborhoods on slot machine reels. Shake your iPhone (or push the Shake button), and you get a random suggestion for where to eat. If you don’t like the result, shake it again. If you want to limit your options, say to a particular neighborhood or a type of food, you can lock the reels.

Check out the Filter button at the top right of the screen. You can limit your results to Only Popular restaurants and eliminate chains from your results. You can also set a maximum distance and search for specific meals (breakfast, lunch, and so on).

When you get a restaurant you like, just tap the name of the restaurant. In response, you see a screen with the restaurant's address, phone number, the kind of restaurant it is, and a link to read reviews of the place. There are also buttons for voting on the restaurant with a percentage score of how other users have voted.

If you like or hate a place, make sure to write your own review, and think about the kind of things you find helpful in a review: “THIS PLACE ROCKS!” isn’t all that useful.

Back on the main restaurant information page, you can tap the phone number in the listing to call the place. If you tap the address, you are taken to the Google Maps app with that address plugged in so you can get directions.

Now, if you don’t want to leave your next meal to the fickle finger of Lady Luck, you can browse Urbanspoon’s database by neighborhood, cuisine, features (who delivers?), what’s popular, and even by nearby restaurants using your iPhone’s GPS and the recently added Scope feature. Tap the Scope button to get a Google Maps page with your location and tons of pins representing nearby restaurants. Tap a pin to find out what it represents.

If you’re adventuresome, try limiting yourself to one shake and sticking to whatever comes up. It could be awful, but you might also discover a new restaurant you wouldn’t have otherwise tried!

Urbanspoon also has a social networking element. You can connect to Facebook to make posts from the app and see your News Feed from others who have also plugged their Facebook info into the app. You don’t have to do all that stuff if you don’t want to, but it’s there.

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