Smartphones have changed the way we experience travel, from instant photo uploads to the ability to meticulously chart our courses — right down to every meal we eat. Some argue that despite the convenience, this new technology takes away from the experience of stumbling upon a great restaurant or getting wonderfully sidetracked on unfamiliar city streets. But some smartphone apps will take your serendipitous exploration to a whole new level. We’ve selected nine food apps that will enhance your travel experience rather than take away from it — especially when it comes to food.
To find these apps, we paid special attention to the breadth and scope of app content. For example, while there are many social dining apps that connect travelers with home-cooked meals at the houses of locals, we found that the app EatWith serviced the largest number of cities around the world. We also made an effort to include apps that are not all about sharing and social media — ones that act as personal diaries as much as public platforms.
There is a preference in this list for content that is curated by experts, because as much as we value crowdsourced suggestions, navigating sites like Yelp abroad can be tricky. For example, in many parts of the world, Yelp is mostly used by visiting Americans, not locals. Other countries have their own similar sites, but they are usually in a language other than English. Most of the apps we selected are specifically geared to guide you as a traveler — not as a tourist.
Travel apps are great, because they help people who are hard-pressed to set aside a few hours to plan an itinerary do so in increments, or even while they wait for their flight at the airport. Last-minute dinner cruise on the Seine? Check. They also provide ways to connect with the local culture that traditional research cannot. For example, the app Foodspotting highlights popular dishes in your area and advises you on where to get them. So when you’re in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, you can procure the doubles sandwich that is so popular among the local Trinidadian community, instead of settling for a popular restaurant that is well within your comfort zone.
So spend a few dollars (or none at all) on these guides that are as mobile as you are.
Leave your question of where to dine to the professionals. We’re talking big names like Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, and Emeril Lagasse. Chefs Feed, which recently gained $4 million in early-stage funding, connects users with the vetted recommendations of professional chefs in their respective cities. And who understands a city’s culinary beat better than the people who cook arguably the best food for that city? The app currently includes guides for 23 cities in the United States and Canada, and one international city (London).
If you love traveling, but feel a tad disappointed that you don’t know a local who will invite you to dinner, then EatWith is your solution. EatWith connects tourists with skilled home chefs by letting diners browse through hosts in various cities, choose a specific menu they like, and get the chance to eat in a local’s dining table along with other visitors. Though only some of the hosts have Michelin stars under their belts, all of them go through rigorous testing; only 4 percent of all applicants are accepted to the program. It’s one of the best ways to make friends and feel at home in your travels. The app services over 150 cities around the world.