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Do You Urbanspoon?

Brown Spoon

There are a lot of review sites on that clever InterTubes thingie for finding good places to eat out. These include Yelp, Chowhound, Citysearch, Zagat, and the web appendages of all sorts of print (and other) media where food and drink get reviewed. It can seem like there’s too much information at times! Each of these sites has strengths. Unfortunately, many have a lot of things to quibble about. Some say there’s too much other stuff on some sites, and the restaurants get buried. Others complain of too much subjectivity.

That’s the rough-and-tumble of the Web, if you ask me. You pays your nickel and you takes your choice.

Me, I’ve become a fan of Urbanspoon. It’s not a big as others, but I find it to be an easy place to learn about eating establishments, both here in central Texas (where I do most of my grazing) and on the road.

What do I like about Urbanspoon? First off, it’s not a place for “restaurants and other stuff.” It’s about restaurants. Not spas. Not vacation packages. And certainly not about the latest celebrity sightings. Secondly, it’s a moderately-moderated website. That is, there’s some “adult supervision” about the place, to help keep things on track. For instance, if you find that one of your favorite places is missing on Urbanspoon, you can get submit it for the site. However, your submission will be reviewed before listing. You may get an email asking for clarification from someone at Urbanspoon.

I like that. A light touch, but at least somebody’s working to maintain standards.

The Urbanspoon site is colorful and link-rich. They’ve got apps and badges, and lots of newsy information. You can sign up for a newsletter. Indeed, you can sign up for the site and edit a short profile. if you do that AND you get the newsletter, it’ll be heavily tailored towards your interests. Clever coding work. Connect to friends who like to eat (and who doesn’t?). Vote for or against places you try. Build a wish list for places to try in the future.

One feature that especially appeals to me is, Urbanspoon is blog-friendly. You can claim your blog on Urbanspoon, and there are link badges available on any restaurants you review. You copy an HTML badge to your review and Boom! You’re linked in. Folks who cruise Urbanspoon can then find your blog link and read your review! Oh, sure, they could also find your web reviews through Google. Maybe. If they can cut through all the other clutter that populates Google searches about restaurants.

Urbanspoon doesn’t moderate the like/dislike part of the review process on their site (except perhaps for bad language or misbehavior). So it’s a popularity contest. As long as you realize that, and also realize that nearly every other web review site is similar in that sense, then you’ll understand how to use the info you gain from Urbanspoon (and elsewhere). However, the addition of links to critical reviews and blog posts where available is a feature you don’t see other places. That means you’re not locked in to one type of review, and I think that gives a better perspective on a place you’re considering taking the family or significant other. No, it doesn’t remove the biases; it adds viewpoints.

Once I learned how easy it was to link my reviews into Urbanspoon I’ve been hooked. Now when I write about a new place, or an old favorite, I can easily add my commentary to the discussion. (What readers do with that…)

So check out Urbanspoon in your area, if you’re looking for a new place to dine out. And if that area happens to be central Texas, then look for the Chile Underground (your favorite food review site, yes? YES??) and you’ll have the best possible information on where to eat. (If you’re not sure that’s true, just ask me. You can trust me. Honest.) It’s worth the few minutes of Web research to get the kind of experience you’re craving…

Enjoy the (Best in Restaurant Reviews) Heat!

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