Update: problem solved. It turns out that Marvin, for iPad, is about to come out in an iPhone version, which does everything needed. But perhaps a discussion of all this would be helpful to others. After all, I can't be the only person who carries a restaurant list on his smart phone!
I have an enormous text list of over 8000 restaurants, grouped by neighborhood. Here's how I've been using it on my iPhone: I export the latest version into html, converting nabe names (which top each section) into headers. Then I use Calibre to convert the html into epub.
Then it synchs into an epub reader on iPhone. I can use the table of contents to go to the chapter for whatever nabe I'm in, or else I can search the whole doc for a given bit of text (e.g. "home fries") and be shown a list of occurrences, each noting the chapter in which it appears....so I know the nabe. So search results look like this:
1. (DOWNTOWN) Bob's Diner 123 Main Street great ***home fries***
2. (UNIVERSITY AREA) Stacy's Diner 222 Broadway great ambiance, nice ***home fries*** and don't miss the cherry pie
Voila, I can look for mentions of "home fries" in the nabe I happen to be in.
I've been doing this for years, first using Stanza (an obsoleted epub reader) and, lately, Shubooks - which is migrating to an iBooks-type search function which won't show chapters in results (and, meanwhile, their search is case sensitive-only, so it's an enormous pain).
I'm reaching the point where I have no way to effectively use my restaurant list on iPhone.
Please don't recommend epub or PDF readers for iPhone....I've gone through every single one of them, and they either don't offer search, or they show search results one at a time, or they list search results without showing chapter name for each result. Marvin, an epub reader for iPad, works great, but won't run on an iPhone.
My data is nowhere near normalized enough to export into a spreadsheet. So I guess I can:
Create a script to gutbucket-dump the data into a filemaker-type database, then use Bento or another db app. I'm not a filemaker guy, so I only have a fuzzy idea of how this would work in actual application.
Find a dedicated iphone app (not a doc reader app) that will do something like what I want, even if the app's really intended for another purpose.
Use one of the meta programming tools to create a simple iphone epub reader that does what I want.