By Swati G. Sharma
It's Friday night. As usual, I have plans with a group of friends, and again, as usual, no one can decide where to go.
But no worries - it's the Matchbook app to the rescue!
I open the application on my iPhone, and voila! A list of restaurants that I jotted down - either recommended to me by a friend or a spot I walked past at some point - appears on my screen.
The Matchbook app provides a simple service: It keeps track of restaurants, bars, or cafes you wish to explore at a later date.
To add a place, you enter the restaurant name or use the locator search service to find a restaurant near you. You can also use the search option to find restaurants by location or by tags, such as "cocktails" or "trendy ambience."
Once you save the spot, you can see thoughts and quick tidbits from other users. The app also provides reviews from Yelp and other publications that have reviewed the place. Once you visit the restaurant, you can add your own tags to the restaurant and share your experience.
There are many restaurant-oriented apps out there, from Yelp to Urbanspoon to Open Table, but I find that Matchbook does provide a unique service to its users. I love exploring the city and often seek recommendations from friends. It's such an easy way to keep track of these places and helps me avoid scrambling to find a dinner spot at the last minute by relying solely on Yelp reviews or resorting to that neighborhood restaurant where I have the menu memorized.
It also allows users to search by tags, one of my favorite options. Most of the tags address the vibe of the restaurant, not just the cuisine, which I love. Are you in the mood to pull out your plaid shirts? Then search for "hipster" restaurants. In the mood for heels? Then look for "fancy." You can also look for spots with live music, dancing, or simply good food.
One downside is that this app is still catching on, so newer restaurants and bars don't have as many comments as would be helpful. Still, the upsides rule out this one negative point.
Matchbook offers a very specific function: to keep track of where you want to go. You can't make reservations through it, and the reviews and tags are fun but not nearly as complete as looking through Yelp.
Yet the app has found a way to offer something other nightlife-type apps haven't been able to offer: a convenient and fun way to stay on top of your city explorations.