This is a rave review from the future, when the Chefs Feed app has more listings, when the little bugs have been fixed, and when the economy has recovered and I might actually consider trying the tasting menu at Benu on a whim.
I love the idea of this iPhone app, which shows you the favorite dishes of local chefs. So when you’re standing in the middle of, say, Potrero Hill in San Francisco, it will point out that nearby you’ve got Serpentine’s hamburger (recommended by Traci Des Jardins of Jardinière) and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous’s white corn and caramel ice cream (recommended by Matthew Accarrino of SPQR).
I’ve long wanted the dish approach to restaurant-finding. That’s the Chowhound way, and I am a disciple. There are certain dishes that are worthy of a trip, even to a restaurant that has very little else to offer. But if I told you just to go to the restaurant—well, chances are you’d hate me later. And this is a cool way to handle the problem inherent with anonymous online recommenders: make them non-anonymous. Famous, even.
Right now, the app is a little spare: a glorified version of a magazine’s “top tastes” list, with a few too many obvious and expensive options. I’m sitting here at Second and Howard streets in San Francisco, and the closest options are far away (the Ferry Plaza Marketplace) and obvious (the Ferry Plaza Marketplace). Or not the sort of thing I’d pop in and eat (the tasting menu at Benu). The app works best when it offers a suggestion that’s surprising and nearby. I assume that will happen more often when there are more entries.
There are navigation problems familiar to other apps: The chef profiles only go back, and the maps don’t go anywhere. I don’t understand the “Filter” option at all—I think you’re supposed to hit the Filter button on a list of all the city’s dishes so you can sort by category, but it doesn’t work. Even if it did, it suffers from that problem that all restaurant searches have (CHOW’s included): The categories offered (African, coffee, Salvadoran) aren’t necessarily the ones you want (light, quick, simple salads).
But with this app, that may not even be an issue, since the beauty of it is that it doesn’t ask you to pick what you have in mind and narrow it to something suitable—the whole point is that if you approach it with an open mind (black bean noodles and fried chicken! Intriguing …) you’ll find something fantastic. And even more wonderful, something fantastic nearby. Right now it works in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. More cities to come. And it’s free!
Image source: Chefs Feed