There are some food apps that are so ubiquitous they might as well come pre-installed on everyone's phones. By now, you've mastered the offerings of Urbanspoon, your thumb can find Yelp with your eyes closed -- particularly useful if you're hiding your phone under the table while pretending to pay attention to what your dinner companion's talking about -- and Epicurious is constantly staring, shaming us for not using it more.
But there's more to food apps than just "where to eat." A whole new generation of apps aim to be more specific as to how they can help your culinary experience. Here's the best new(ish) kids on the block:
It's great knowing a bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor is going to be at his usual spot at precisely 8pm on Sunday night, or that Tacos Arizas will be parked near the Echo Park Walgreens. Unfortunately, that kind of reliability is rare. Most food trucks actually take advantage of, you know, being trucks. That means mobility. That means being annoyed when the Grilled Cheese Truck is parked in Venice. Luckily, there's Street Eats, which allows you to find the nearest truck using your GPS.
While there's certainly something to be said about informing your decisions based on the opinions of a widely-diverse and extremely-large crowd (say, looking at reviews for a local eatery on Yelp), there's also something to be said about being a bit more discerning as to who you take recommendations from. For instance, whose opinion should be weighted more: A user who goes by the name urban_mango_12? Or Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batalli? If you're siding more with the latter, Chefs Feed is an insta-download.
Eating East LA
Judging by its name, this app may seem like it's geared specifically for those of us who live, work, or just hang out on the vague "eastside" of town. But, judging from the image on the iTunes page for the app, where West Hollywood(-ish)'s Village Idiot is front and center, you know they use a very loose definition. From the website: "A majority of the 110 entries are budget-friendly spots located between Hollywood east to Boyle Heights, and Koreatown north to Eagle Rock." If that's your normal eating range, it's definitely worth the $1.99 download price.
This has over a quarter of a million recipes, searchable by keywords, courses, or just by putting in leftovers you need to get rid of. Necessary downloading.
While this app is still in beta -- users can download and utilize it during its "test phase" while it tries to complete funding at Kickstarter -- the idea behind it will make this an immediate download once it's complete. It helps users design, plot, and manage their farming space. In other words, finally a way to translate all of that "experience" with Farmville into some tangible skill.
Food labels are intimidating. They're full of big scientific words, various numbers of food dyes, and all sorts of additives that can either be terribly bad for you or innocuous. Unless you're a chemist, it's almost impossible for the everyday person to navigate all the pluses and minuses of the various chemicals in food. Enter: Chemical Cuisine, which takes care of the heavy lifting by giving you all the information you need about food additives.
Forget Google Maps, Weather, Chase's cash-checking, or even MLB's At-Bat app. There is no more vital software for your phone -- food-based or otherwise -- than Happy Hours. It's obvious why.