Ever notice how in movies, the coolest characters and best scenes are always in a restaurant or diner that everyone’s magically agreed on ahead of time, everyone knows the location of, and everyone seems to like? You never see James Bond arguing with his many, many girlfriends using phrases like “Well, I don’t know, maybe we should go to that new place down the street? ” or “No, that’s China Garden you didn’t like, I’m talking about Panda Garden!” While you may not be able to remove all the un-Bond-like elements from your life, you can still discover new places in your own city, or in new cities, without the hassle, using a new iPhone and Android app for restaurant recommendations called Nara.
Every experienced traveler knows that the best way to discover a new place to eat isn’t to go to the snooty concierge, it’s to ask the locals. Unfortunately, the advice of one or two cabbies or guys-at-the-bar isn’t always as reliable as you’d like, and may not be to your particular liking. Using Nara, you have access to thousands of restaurants across 25 major American and Canadian cities, and best of all, the app allows you to give places “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” creating your own Digital DNA, a list of restaurant recommendations customized to your personal tastes. It’s like having a pocket restaurant guide that says “Steve’s Guide” instead of Zagat. (Who names their kid “Zagat,” anyway?)
On a recent trial of Nara, I decided to see what the app could tell me about my hometown of Philadelphia. Like the kid trying to stump the Magic Eight Ball, I figured there was no way Nara could show me something new in a town I’ve eaten in literally my whole life. I was incredibly wrong.
I started off by picking three images from provided sets which I decided best represented how I would spend a day off.
I also was asked which type of scene I like best.
Nara also thought it was important to ask my favorite cuisine. Good question.
Then, after arguing with my friends over what we were all in the mood for, (Sorry, Nara can’t help you with this part), I put in two of my favorite Asian restaurants, Tria and Sampan.
Nara worked its electronic magic and provided me with a list of over a dozen restaurants nearby, many of which I had never heard of.
I chose Pod, the closest place I was unfamiliar with, and Nara allowed me to make reservations right then and there by connecting to online reservations provider OpenTable. On the way there, I played around with the app, adding “thumbs up” or thumbs down” to all the places I’d been before. Just like rating songs on Pandora or movies on Netflix, the process is actually addicting, and before I knew it, my Digital DNA had “Jason” written all over it.
Pod was awesome. The food, drinks, and service were excellent, and my friends and I all enjoyed ourselves in its casual but sophisticated atmosphere.
I quickly gave it the “thumbs up” in Nara, and it stored that information for future restaurant recommendations. I was amazed that I would never have found this place on my own, and thought about how difficult it would have been to access it through restaurant guides or Google Maps. If this is what Nara can do in a city I’ve lived my whole life, what could it find me in places I’m unfamiliar with while I travel. No more overprices airport fast food during layovers for THIS guy!
Nara is available in 25 North American cities including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, and introducing Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Memphis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Nara is available free of charge online at Nara.me, on Android in the Google Play and on iOS in the App Store.