Monday, October 25, 2010

Menupages vs. Urbanspoon

Whenever I want to check out New York City restaurant menus or reviews, I usually visit two websites: Menupages and Urbanspoon. These two well-designed and informative sites make it easy to find a restaurant depending on which cuisine I'm in the mood for, and which neighborhood I want to schlep to.

Today I want to focus on a couple of features that
distinguishes one website from their competitor, based on my personal experiences using both.

As far as completeness of restaurant menus is concerned, I would give the edge to Menupages. Moreover, Menupages offers the option of viewing the menus online, as well as in Adobe PDF format. This is much more user-friendly and convenient as opposed to Urbanspoon, which only offers the PDF option.

This might be my inner geek talking - but Urbanspoon's implementation of the "View the Menu" needs improvement. They rely on external links to each individual restaurant's website, and we all know how those links can become invalid after site redesigns.

To illustrate, I searched for a few of the restaurants I dined at recently, and clicked on "View the Menu". In some cases this brought up a broken link ("The page cannot be found"), so much so that for Otto Pizzeria, I couldn't resist clicking on "Edit Restaurant Info' and changing the external link to point to the correct page on Otto's website.

On the other hand, while user-generated reviews have their place, I give props to Urbanspoon for including links to "official" critics reviews like the New York Times, in case us self-proclaimed foodies are curious if the pros agree with our opinions.

But what I believe is the real innovative feature of Urbanspoon is their program for food bloggers. Yes, you've seen them - those ubiquitous folks who take hundreds of photos of their dishes before digging in. (Oh, the self-restraint!)

Simply by adding a small piece of code that Urbanspoon provides, food bloggers can link the restaurant reviews on their own sites to Urbanspoon, so their posts appear on the website after a few days. Quite a few New York City food bloggers (only 379 of them, whoa!) have already discovered this (check out the blog leader board). By clicking on each blog name, you will see all the restaurants they have reviewed and their ratings - like this blog's.

Pretty neat blog integration feature, huh? In this respect, Urbanspoon rocks!