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Jan 10, 2013 10:22 AM

Tracking Restaurant Wishlists and To Do's

What to you use to save lists of restaurants you want to try? I can't seem to find an ideal solution even though I feel like my requirements or expectations are fairly generic.

I'd like to save a list of a bunch of restaurants...preferably around the country/world. I'd like to then be able to search by location--ideally with a map, but using cities would suffice--and by cuisine. Ability to search by other things like price or within user created tags/lists would be a nice luxury. As would the ability to track which I've been too...and maybe with the ability to make notes. And I'd want to be able to access it easily on a phone or ipad--either with a mobile friendly website or app.

Seems straightforward, right?

Foursquare does the list management, location based searching and mobile stuff right...but won't let you create a list that the whole world doesn't have access to.

Dinevore was great at the list management, but its database was at first incomplete and then when opened to user input, sloppy. And it was impossible to use on an iphone.

I need to play with Yelp and Urban Spoon some. And now there's Evernote food.

What do you use?

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  1. I just use the easy MS Excel.

    I have columns for the venue name, type of food/cuisine served, dollar signs ($) indicating the average cost, the venue's location, a column reserved for my starred review, and a comment section.

    From there I can just sort it based on the location, cost, review, etc.

    In addition, I attach hyperlinks to the venue names, so a quick click opens their website for viewing their latest menu options, reservation information, and mapping (if needed).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Novelli

      Not the most mobile or GPS friendly method...but I guess its tough to beat for scalable list or tag management. If I had any development skills, I'd do that and build a mobile front end over a database version of that...

    2. I started out by creating a Filemaker Pro database, which I kept on my Mac and my Palm Pilot. Filemaker was pretty easy to work with (trust me--it isn't like Access, you don't have to be an IT pro). It let me create fields for all the relevant information, and search and sort it any way I liked. I could cut and paste data from online reviews and websites, which made the data entry quick and easy. I could enter data on either device and then sync them later.

      As the technology has evolved, I traded in the Palm for an iPhone, and switched from Filemaker to its simplified and cheaper little sibling, Bento--but it all still works basically the same way. I remember that Bento felt a little too dumbed-down at first--there was something-or-other that I was frustrated that it wouldn't do when I first converted my Filemaker databases--but I can't remember what it was now, so it couldn't have been that important!

      One thing to note if you're a Windows user--they make Filemaker for Windows, but not Bento. You could accomplish the same results with Filemaker, like I started out doing, but it costs more. There are iPhone and iPad apps for both Filemaker and Bento.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MsMaryMc

        I was toying with the idea of just going my own route like that. Good to know you can still make it mobile and not an impossible mountain to climb. Although it's nice to stand on someone else's shoulders with the data, which is what makes things like Yelp, Urban Spoon or Evernote Food attractive.

        Do you basically have to move the database back and forth? Manually or will it synch? Or does it read from remotely from your Mac? Don't suppose there's a way to plot on a map with GPS coordiantes, is there?

        1. re: wallyg

          I just have to open both apps (Mac and iPhone) and hit the sync button.

          Clicking or tapping a URL will take you to the page in your browser, and tapping the phone number on the iPhone dials it--but unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to get it to go from the address to a map showing the location.

          1. re: MsMaryMc

            Or I'm guessing to plot all the addreses based on current GPS location on a map...

      2. I do it the old fashioned way. I keep it in the notes app for the iPhone & iPad. It syncs when I'm home or I can email or text myself when I'm out of the house. I have a small moleskin notebook that has 3 years of notes. Finally, when I hear about a new restaurant, I send myself a PDF of the menu. It's not very efficient. But, so far, it has worked.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kalivs

          If you're someone posting on Chow, though, you're probably the kind of person who's always being asked to recommend a "good restaurant in a certain neighborhood at a certain price point with a certain kind of cuisine" by everyone...and I can't imagine jotted down notes are easy to comb through.

          1. re: Kalivs

            That's the old fashioned way?!?! Just kidding. :)

          2. If geographical location is the most important to you, I would start by creating a google map of all the places you want to try. The problem with going this route is that you will have no way to search based on other tags besides the map. However, when I'm in an area I don't frequent, it's really convenient to bring up my restaurant map and find something close without searching through a bunch of addresses. It's really helpful in dense cities - I have friends who have hundreds of restaurants in a Tokyo map, and usually we can find a place within a few minute walk in a couple seconds just by looking at the map. You can use different colored pins and icons to separate price points and things like that - you just need to come up with your own system.

            1 Reply
            1. re: la2tokyo

              Yeah...Google Maps does a lot of this well. I'll use it when I'm going somewhere on vacation. I could see it being great when I need to find something nearby in a pinch. But as you mentioned, it's not very good for in, find me all the Italian restaurants in Lower East Side. If Google would just allow you to add tags to places, maps would work great...especially with the link to Zagat/Google Places for reviews, hours and menus.

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