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IPhone 3G apps

August 7, 2008 | 10:00 pm

Iphone3g I have seen the future, and there is food. But I’m not sure there’s quite enough for me. Not yet anyway. Like millions of other folks, I just bought an IPhone 3G. For someone who barely learned how to dial his old cell phone, it’s quite a marvel (even if my daughter just shakes her head pityingly at half of the things I’m amazed at … that was so 2004!).

And like millions of other folks, one of the first things I did was run right over to the App Store (not literally run, of course, because with these new machines you can do it over the Interweb!). Unlike millions of others, the first things I looked for weren’t games, but anything related to food. I did find some things, but food as a topic doesn’t seem to be nearly as popular as Crash Bandicoot.

Of course, the 3G comes with a pretty good food tool built right in. Since the GPS system is based on Google Maps, you can locate yourself, then type in “restaurants” and watch little red pins fall from the sky marking all the nearby locations (you can even do this with the satellite view if you’re of a mind to). Tap a pin and the name, address, and phone number of the restaurant come up as well as a link to their website, if they have one. Tap the phone number to call; tap the address for directions; tap the website to read more.

Most of the other food apps only augment these functions. But a couple are fun. I particularly like the one called Urbanspoon, which gives you an approval rating for each restaurant based on votes by its members. For those who can never decide where to go for dinner, it also has a function that’s kind of like a slot machine: it brings you a random alignment of nearby location, cuisine and price range and makes a suggestion. This randomness may be considered "fun" by some, but it's the culinary equivalent of picking stocks with a dartboard (this frustrated the New York Times' Frank Bruni no end in a story he wrote recently). You're probably better off using the "Browse" or "Near Me" function and then checking the ratings. Some restaurants will even offer quotes from published reviews by the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly or Los Angeles Magazine.

Another app called LocalEats seems to be intended more for travelers, with ratings of 100 best restaurants in 100 cities. You can search by city, by address or by which restaurants are nearest you. I searched the recommendations for Long Beach, where I live, and couldn’t disagree with any of the choices: Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, L’Opera, 555 East, Frenchy’s Bistro, Coffee Cup Café and Lasher’s. But that was all I found in Long Beach. (What? No Bake’n’Broil?)

There are also non-restaurant food apps, but they aren’t nearly as much fun, doing things like organizing your grocery list, or figuring how much to tip or how to split a tab (can’t you just see two fanboys sitting over their IPhones arguing about who had the swordfish and who had the salad and whether the server deserved 15% or 17%?).

But I did find one particularly useful app called Units that works like a calculator to convert different measures. If you’ve ever pondered over switching from grams to ounces when reading a European cookbook, or tried to remember just how many teaspoons are in 2/3 of a cup, this is really handy.

But there are thousands of apps out there and that’s just what I found in my first day. Do you have favorites of your own? And what would your dream food app be?

From the Apple Apps Store: Urbanspoon, free; LocalEats, 99 cents; Units, 99 cents.

Photo credit: Apple