October 2016 Bar Bulletin
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October 2016 Bar Bulletin

Dining 4-1-1


Gone are the days when one simply calls one’s favorite restaurant on speed dial for a reservation. Savvy techie or simply a beginner with your iPhone, you now have a wide range of options for researching and reserving places to eat.

The apps and web pages one uses reveal a lot about one’s demographics. Apparently the public falls into three categories when it comes to deciding what or where to eat: foodies, planners and impulsives. There are apps and web pages favored by each.

Foodie Data Sources

Several web pages and apps are designed to appeal to foodies, but the true foodies follow the sources on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other feeds. Those sources? Seattle is full of successful restaurateurs with Twitter feeds: Tom Douglas (@TomDouglasCo); Ron Zimmerman (check out The Herbfarm homepage); Ethan Stowell (@ESRseattle); Matt Dillon (Sitka and Spruce); or the restaurants themselves, such as @marjorieSeattle, @larkseattle, @Spinasse, @volterraballard, etc. Or you can follow local food critics, such as Nancy Leson with The Seattle Times. These are just a few of the feeds one can follow to be on the cutting edge of Seattle foodie culture.

For those who prefer a dining out experience with real food journalism, check out Seattle Eater (www.seattle.eater.com). The go-to resource for any foodie on this site is Eater 38 — the quarterly-updated list of the 38 essential restaurants in Seattle with recent reviews. Some restaurant enthusiasts close to our group cannot rest until knowing that they have dined at each establishment — a feat that could take years to accomplish.

The list is always alphabetical (no rankings) and currently ranges from Seattle institutions such as Canlis and Maneki to the brand new Capitol Hill taqueria Chavez. Every list that Eater publishes is adjacent to an interactive map — a unique feature allowing the reader to see the location of the restaurants and their proximity to each other.

Aside from Eater 38, the website is known for publishing a monthly Heat Map that identifies the hottest restaurants in town at any given time. A very recent review of the Seattle Heat Map inspired us to revisit the newly opened Tarzan and Jane in Fremont to indulge in the Sunday brunch paella. To keep things interesting, Eater also publishes topical lists, such as the “Eight Elite Ramen Restaurants” and “12 Essential Happy Hours.” And a past top noodle list is actually how we discovered a favorite noodle bar — a Xi’an-style, hole-in-the-wall called Qin.

After reviewing the lists of enticing restaurants, click through the articles containing the latest industry news. Here, you can read up on the newest poke establishment in the Central District, the rooftop bar renovation at Mamnoon or Rene Erickson’s next big adventure. Regardless of the story, Seattle Eater will have it first and you can plan your dining calendar accordingly.

Finally, always remember that Eater is a national blog that includes two dozen city chapters. This makes for a fantastic resource when travelling. Before any trip to a major metropolitan area, you can consult the local Eater to map out your non-touristy meals.

The Planners

To some of us it seems as if Open Table (www.opentable.com) has become the ubiquitous default for finding new restaurants and making reservations. In researching this column, we discovered it has a fairly small market share, targeting the older, more affluent “planners.”

The company was founded in San Francisco in 1998 and was taken over by Priceline in 2014. Open Table touts that it provides reservations for 31,000 restaurants around the world and makes reservations for 15 million diners each month. It covers a large number of the Seattle-area restaurants, so it can serve as a one-stop search location for many reservations.

The search functions usually work by neighborhood or type of food, although the searches can get a little clunky if there are multiple restaurants with the same name in the country. (We have shown up at the Metropolitan Grill only to find out that our reservation was in New York or Calgary, and more locally, when we clicked on the Purple Café, we found that the first to come up was not the one downtown.)

Open Table has a frequent-diner program that may be an incentive for some (on average, a $1 value per reservation), but the feature that causes us to list it as a favorite and some of us find most useful is the mobile app’s ability to use your location to offer you a selection of reservations available at the moment. This option will rank your search by proximity to your location and show available times, starting at 15-minute increments. It works nationally (we have not yet tried around the world). You can also use the mobile app for reservations.

Many may remember Urbanspoon as a competitor for this market niche. This site was acquired by India-based Zomato (www.zomato.com). The Zomato home page functions quite similarly to Open Table’s, but with more convenient quick searches by topic, neighborhood and trends. Zomato has more international coverage and may be a good option to investigate if you are planning a trip overseas.

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