Five Free Restaurant Recommendation Apps

Say you find yourself in an ideal lunchtime situation: your class or meeting ended early, you feel prepared for tomorrow’s lecture or presentation, and the weather is relatively warm. You’re hungry, and it’s a perfect day to try a new restaurant near one of the UCSF campuses.

So where will you go?

Put your smartphone to work by launching a restaurant discovery app that factors in your location, budget, food preferences, and the dining history of you and your friends. I’ve listed five popular choices below.

Ness Dining Guide

Ness Dining Guide (for iOS) offers personalized restaurant recommendations based on your and your friends’ ratings. The more restaurants you rate, the more accurate the app’s predictions will be. Connect Ness Dining Guide to your other social media accounts like Facebook and Foursquare — to find out what restaurants your friends have been to — and Instagram — to see food photos that your friends took while dining there.


Yelp (for iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, and Palm) is a tried-and-true choice for restaurant recommendations, and for a good reason. Search for a specific cuisine, then narrow your search by distance, price, rating (stick to 3+ star establishments) and what’s open now. If you have time, browse the reviews to learn the restaurant’s signature dishes and what dishes to avoid.


Foodspotting (for iOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry) focuses on individual dishes, rather than entire restaurants. Craving mac n’ cheese? Find out which restaurants serve it in your area, then look through mouth watering mac n’ cheese photos until you find the best nearby option. If you’re not sure what you want to eat, you can look through images of popular dishes served at nearby restaurants until you see something that strikes your fancy.


Urbanspoon (for iOS, Android, and Blackberry) has a fun, slot machine-style interface that displays a random restaurant selection. To narrow the results, you can lock down the neighborhood, type of food, and price point. The app incorporates ratings and reviews from your friends and also from newspapers and food blogs, which makes the recommendations all the more trustworthy.


Foursquare (for iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, and Palm) is best known for its location-based check-ins and badges, but it’s also a great tool for exploring and bookmarking nearby restaurants. Use the Explore feature to browse nearby restaurants that your friends have been to, and read tips for ideas of what dishes to order. If you like the restaurant and wish to return later, add it to a personal list of local eateries for quick reference.

Do any of these apps work particularly well for you? Let us know in the comments.

Published by

Erin Hayes

Erin is the Web and Marketing Assistant at the UCSF Library.

One thought on “Five Free Restaurant Recommendation Apps”

  1. I use and highly recommend UrbanSpoon – very easy to use and it also works in a lot of countries; on top of that, it is very google friendly too so any reviews posted usually show up in google results pages.

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