Friday, March 15, 2013

App of the Week - Yelp

One of the things that we love most about traveling is discovering new places. Since Tracey and I are self-confessed foodies, we also love discovering local restaurants, cafes, bars and even the odd brewery. We're not talking Red Lobster or Olive Garden, but locally run and owned places. I guess it's our way of pushing back on all the processed corporate uniformity that is plaguing our wonderful country.

The question however, is how do you find the gems from the rocks? The wheat from the chaff. You get my drift. Enter Yelp. You can think of it as a local Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor whilst very useful for telling you what the local attractions are, tends to be populated mostly by visitors, not locals. Yelp on the other hand tends to attract locals who offer their knowledge and insight in the form of reviews, some of which can be very detailed. Yelp.com had more than 100 million monthly unique visitors as of January 2013. We find it a gold-mine of local insight.

You do have to be a little cautious sometimes. A restaurant with only a few reviews that are just too good is obviously suspicious (maybe the owners mother and brother wrote the reviews)! So we look for places with lots (20+) of recent reviews all in the 4 - 5 star range.

The great thing about the Yelp app is that on a smartphone, it knows where you are. Hungry and fancy lunch at a cute backstreet cafe? Click on the Nearby button and then Coffee & Tea and Yelp will bring up a map or a list of all nearby establishments matching your criteria. Find one you like, check if it's open and then click on directions to begin navigating you to it. You can even share your experiences with the Yelp community and your friends by leaving your own review. I love it!