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How do you keep track of your restaurant list(s)?

Living in the L.A. area and being an avid reader of these boards, I now have a huge list of restaurants that I like or want to try, but there are so many that I often find myself forgetting most of them when a dining out opportunity presents itself.

Often, I have time to plan and then just pull up my computer document (copied/pasted from many posts here) and go from there.

But sometimes I'm out running around or with friends in a specific area of town that is somewhat unfamiliar, and end up missing a great restaurant opportunity. :)

I think I'm going to break down and buy a smartphone/PDA which would not only give me access to this site, but also allow me to upload my own saved information.

I'm in the process of creating a simple spreadsheet that tracks cuisine type, general area, address & phone and recommended menu items. I already have about 200 places (and it's growing all the time)!

Anybody else have some creative solutions to this uniquely chowhound problem??

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  1. Break down and buy a smartphone.

    1. 1 - 200 is a LOT of places

      2 - I have a daily "to do" list on ... um, what's the name of that stuff? ... oh, yeah, PAPER! ... and right there in the same document, Page 2 is my page of "where do I want to eat today?" addresses. I only print out Page 1 daily but a fresh copy of Page 2 (when updated) is always in my car.

      1. Moleskine.

        and I only write down what I am definitely interested in, not everything I see.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cathy

          I love my Moleskine, which is always in my purse. I keep a list of places I really want to eat, plus the phone number and major cross streets. Then if I'm somewhere unfamiliar and feeling hungry, I check the list to see if any of the places are close by.

          I'm very good about crossing things off the list or putting them on the back burner if the list gets too long, so it doesn't get any longer than 20 restaurants at a time. And honestly, I don't see more than a couple of new places each week on my local board whereI really want to eat, so the list isn't growing like crazy.

          Special occassion restaurants go on another list since they're usually destinations in and of themselves.

        2. This is 200 places in all of California, as I travel around the state a great deal. For example, there are about 10-15 restaurants in Santa Barbara alone that I want to keep on my list, depending on my mood, time of day, budget and dining partner(s).

          I tried keeping a simple list but ended up leaving too many things off and not being prepared when I was outside my immediate area.

          In fact, if it was only a short list, I wouldn't need one at all, because my memory is good enough for that. :)

          I'm pretty sure I'm going to transfer my sortable spreadsheet to a smartphone because my list is only going to grow.

          3 Replies
          1. re: okie

            If you get a smartphone with Web access, you can just check Chowhound.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              > If you get a smartphone with Web access, you can just check Chowhound.

              Is there a low-bandwidth "mobile" version? I find most web sites a chore to browse on a (Sprint) Treo 650...

              1. re: Jefferson

                I'd like to know this too.

                Some sites (Yahoo I think) sense if you're on a PDA and auto-port you to a custom-tailored page.

          2. As much as I hate to say it, a smartphone might be the right one, along with a mapping software like Google has, so that you can put in your address and see what's on your list and nearby.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I really, really, really like Microsoft Streets and Trips... we bought a version of it for our BC trip, and it was a more expensive version, but it also came with a GPS locator. So, we can type in a restaurant that we want to go to, and the GPS locator tells us where we're at, and then tells us directions on how to get to the restaurant. I have the regular version at work and it's SO easy to use! Also, you can mark all restaurants in the area, or you can pinpoint Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, essentially whatever you want. We created maps for all of the restaurants we wanted to go to in BC, and then saved the maps to my husband's phone, but we also could look up random restaurants in the area we were in.

            2. I use the great program "HandyShopper" on my Palm Treo smartphone. It's basically a checklist/todo list, I use it for places I want to eat, movies to see/rent, etc.

              When traveling, I put addresses of places from Chowhound into a "hotlist" POI category in TomTom GPS (also on my Treo). This way wherever I am, I can always get a list of these places in distance order from where I am. It worked great for us in Tucson and we're going to try it in Italy soon.

              1. Thanks for the the TomTom GPS idea.

                I have a TomTom Go unit for my car and have been very impressed.

                I'm looking at the Treo 700w smartphone and TomTom Navigator 6 is ported, so that could be a fantastic solution, especially if you add eateries to their POI's.

                4 Replies
                1. re: okie

                  Damn! Now I want the TomTom 6! I have a Treo 700w and always rent a GPS unit when I travel for business, so maybe I can expense my chowhound tools!


                  1. re: BJK

                    Get the Microsoft Streets and Trips GPS version... it's really not all that expensive, I think about $100 or $120.

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      Unfortunately, TomTom runs rings around MS S&T. I've used both as well as Ostia and Destinator. I run a WM2003 based PDA instead of a dedicated unit. It is simple enough to add a new item to the contact database and classsify it as to ethnicity, locale, price range etc.

                      With your resto locations loaded into a TomTom POI file it will check your location and give you a list of hits in ascending distance order.

                      If you are going to a foreign country these things are invaluable, you can always get to wherever you want to go even if you can't make out the road signs. Preload all your destinations bfore you leave as well as a list of dining candidates and head on out.

                      1. re: Scrapironchef

                        If only it didn't have such a stupid name! And commercial! I've never tried it though, so I may like it better than Streets and Trips.

                2. Of course, if you're really posh, you could use one of these:



                  1. What a good reason to have to get a Smartphone.

                    When I lived in Los Angeles I had a group of friends that were foodies. We'd travel in the greater Los Angeles area to a new restaurant every month. It was great.

                    Now that I live in Houston. My husband and I try to hit a new restaurant a month, but it doesn't always happen that way.

                    1. I have my lists, reviews, and info on my pc, but I also print out a copy of reviews and restaurant lists and keep them in folders which I have in a zippered canvas briefcase which I keep in the trunk of my car. I am going to have to get a pda because the case is bulging and weighs a ton.

                      1. I saw a little book today at PaperSource called "Restaurants to Check Out", by Imagineering Company. It looks like an old fashioned restaurant order pad, with room to write both the names and addresses of the places you want to try, plus your own ratings too. They have it on Amazon.com, along with one for movies.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: Katie Nell

                            I have this notebook too--I keep it next to the computer and throw it in my bag when we're headed out.

                            I guess I'm not as tech savvy as most...

                        1. I create a text file and email it to my cell so I have the info while on the road.

                          Does anyone keep a restaurant scoring sheet...in case a few years pass between eatery visits and you just can't remember if you like the place or not....(is my age showing):)

                          1. There's a free program called NetSnippets that does something like bookmarking but way more easily and creatively... lets you highlight text to save rather than a whole page, etc. - It simplifies rather than makes more complicated. See www.netsnippets.com

                            I would love a way to easily (not a lot of cut and paste) throw the restaurants I read about onto a map I could just pull up to look for the bullet points. I think something like this is possible with Google Maps or some downloadable feature from them - but haven't looked into that yet. It might be something to go tinker with.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Cinnamon

                              Being a total dork, I actually set up a private "Wiki" site (using the same software that runs Wikipedia) to keep track of my restaurant lists, links, etc.

                              Hey, Chowhound team! This would be a great service to the community ....

                              1. re: Sgt Snackers

                                Maybe the next evolution toward geeky perfection for your chow site is TiddlyWiki? Due to about 200K of JavaScript, it makes a portable, self-contained wiki which would be easier to take notes into while you're out chowing. I'm not sure how you post it back to the web, but then, there are a lot of things I don't yet understand about it.


                            2. I have lots and lots of little sticky notes with tiny tiny writting stuck to and falling out of my wallet.
                              When they get to old and tatterd, I consider them expired, or they've settled permantly beneath my cranium, or I have moved them to my map, which is xeroxs of several differnt neighborhoods tappped together here and there. Since NYC has lots of water around it, that's where the sticky notes get planted. It is protected from the other contents of my bag by a clear plastic sleeve.
                              I think it has quite a visual appeal, nothing is as lightweight as paper and I don't have to worry about charging it.

                              1. I used to keep a Word file on a PC that I would update and print off several times a week. I used the smallest font available, and shrank it further on a photocopier with size reduction. I carried this in my wallet. As my database grew, this became impractical.

                                At some point (10 years ago?), I started carrying a PDA with a list feature. Among other purposes, I use this to track and break down restaurants I have tried and liked by city and broader regions, much like Chowhound's boards do (I travel a bit for my day job), and into five "star" categories, placing restaurants in rough order of formality and cost, not excellence. There is also a corresponding set of lists for places to try.

                                Over time, I've added additional lists built around specific affinities: cocktails, authentic Chinese food, Latin places, brunch, late night, new but not yet open, etc. My most-consulted and -updated is my "hot list", which comprises the twenty or so places I am most interested in trying next. This one jumbles the categories.

                                Two of the odder categories include my "dead pool" of places I found so dreadful and/or ill-conceived that I am certain that they will be out of business soon, and a "warm list" of newish places that I should check out but can't get really excited about visiting on my own, mostly as a means to ensuring I don't completely overlook them. I generally end up at "warm list" places when other people suggest them.

                                The whole thing is still rather unwieldly, but it is eminently portable, works well with my backup setup (I have lost PDAs over the years without losing the database), and is far better than relying on my own memory.

                                For a period of years, I had Zagat-to-Go, a PDA version of all their restaurant guides, but it doesn't work reliably on my current PDA, causing it to reboot regularly, so I haven't renewed its license. Too bad; this was very handy, great for addresses and phone numbers, though I always tend to distrust the actual recommendations. It has a nice search feature: I could, say, find all the Italian places with patios in two nearby neighborhoods. I am hopeful this software will work more reliably on my next PDA. I'm back to tracking addresses and phone numbers of restaurants in my own hand-built database.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  I've switched to TomTom 5.1 for navigation and was suprised at the completeness of the restaurant database supplied with it. On a recent trip to Vancouver most of the places we wanted to try were already there, including phone #s. Supposedly V6 will allow you to dial directly on a smartphone.

                                2. Maybe it would be a good feature to have on Chowhound?

                                  1. i created a free, private bookmark page using linkatopia. i use tags to categorize the restaurants.

                                    1. I'm the OP and thought I'd provide an update.

                                      I did buy a Treo 700w smartphone and as a short-term solution, copied over my Excel spreadsheet that now has 200+ places listed. I have categorized several different ways (broad geographical zones, more narrow geography, type, price range, etc.) and can sort by any.

                                      Unfortunately, the mobile version of Excel does not link websites from it's cells, so while I have all the websites included, I can't just click on them. I have to copy and past them into the mobile browser.

                                      But beyond that, so far the system is working pretty well. I have address and phone numbers so I can always just call the restaurant and get directions.

                                      I want to try out the TomTom solution on the phone but that's a pretty good investment. Maybe I'll try and sell my existing TomTom Go on eBay and use the proceeds for the smartphone version. :)