The world loves food. Even if you may not be a foodie, there has to have been a time when you came across a dish and it brought you instant joy. As Voltaire put it, nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.
And given our obsession with what we put in our mouths, it’s no surprise that there are tons of web apps that focus on helping you find good restaurants to eat at. But that just tells you where to eat at, not what to eat there. Foodspotting wants to fill that void.
Map Your Way To Food
The first thing you notice when you land upon Foodspotting is the lovely interface, and how easy it is to navigate around. The homepage is dominated by a large map of your current location (which Foodspotting auto-fetches for you), with little pins showing photos of dishes. Click any pin and a pop-up marker will tell you what it is, which restaurant it’s in, and where it’s at. It simply couldn’t be simpler.
The map itself features a few options to help you narrow down your choices.
‘Overview’, ‘Latest’ and ‘Best’ are self-explanatory, with the map updating when you click any of these options.
‘Following’ shows you only those items uploaded by people who you are following on Twitter. This list is populated either by you choosing to follow a user you see, or by linking your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Foodspotting and automatically following friends. It works well enough, and will help you in finding what your friends are eating and thus get easy recommendations.
‘Guides’ is meant to let you create a cool food guide for others looking for a gastronomical experience. But as much as I tried, I couldn’t find a guide available. I looked in San Francisco, New York, Mumbai, Paris and Istanbul, but there was just nothing there. It’s a good feature on paper, but since many users don’t seem to be using it right now, it’s redundant.
Finding A Great Dish
Of course, it’s not just the map alone that you have to rely on to find something that will bring a smile to your stomach. Foodspotting includes many other ways to browse the site, including categories (cocktail, ice cream, chocolate, shrimp, etc) or the latest uploads in your current map area. There’s also a similar option to get the Best in your map area.
Now, the Secret Breakfast Ice Cream in San Francisco seems to be the worst-kept secret in town, given how many people are raving about it. Clicking it will open a page that has the name and place, a map of where it’s located, a phone number, and figures for the number of people who have ‘tried it’, ‘want it’ or ‘love it’.
This is the followed by the best user-uploaded picture of the dish (upvoted by other users) and comments upon that. Scroll down and you’ll find other users who have recommended the same dish, with their photos and comments.
It’s a lovely way of finding out how people have chosen to have this dish: some who prefer the ice cream by itself in a cup, others who club it with another flavour and have it in a cone, and even quirky additions like corn flakes. It not only gives you an idea of what goes well with this ice cream, but also lets you find users who might have similar tastes as yours, thus letting you find people to follow for better recommendations in the future.
Of course, another way you can find anything you want is to simply search for it, but in my experience, this doesn’t work that well. Foodspotting is a much better site to browse around to get recommendations rather than search for a specific item. I guess it’s more inclined towards those who are a little more adventurous in their food outings.
Sharing Your Favourites
The content on Foodspotting is all user-generated, which means you are always welcome – and in fact, encouraged – to contribute your own food discoveries to it. Now, be aware that Foodspotting works best when you are using it on your phone (it has compatible apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone), where all you have to do is click a photo with your phone-camera and upload it with a description. And yes, the GPS coordinates are auto-added too that way.
But hey, that doesn’t mean the web interface is devoid of an option. You can easily share any dish you like. The ‘Where Is It?’ tag is the most crucial one, of course, which will ask you to either choose from one of the preexisting places or add a new one, complete with name, Twitter, type of place and its full address. The ‘What Is It?’ is just for the dish’s name, while ‘What did you think?’ is the place to write a short review. And of course, you can add a photo, as well as link this with your social networks for auto-reposting. Before you click done, make sure you check the little heart icon if you loved the dish.
Also, when you share it on Facebook or Twitter, adding #dishoftheday or @Foodspotting might just get your dish featured on the website!
In its current form, Foodspotting gets the basics right in putting together what a dish-sharing web app should have. It’s easy to navigate, has enough different options, and includes some cool options, like finding the many, many different local flavours of McDonald’s or the best red velvet in the world.
And Foodspotting delivers. I discovered some great dishes which I normally wouldn’t have come across, even if I had found the restaurant. Even if you go through the whole menu, it’s not like you can have everything on it; so this is a great way to find a particular recommendation in a particular place.
Currently, I do think too few people use it to make Foodspotting a great service. But it is expanding. In the past two weeks that I’ve been using it, the rate at which recommendations have been added has gone up, so there’s hope yet for this to be your go-to guide when looking for a cool dish to try.
Foodspotting focuses on finding great dishes, not just restaurants, to help you look for your next meal with a plethora of browsing options7
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