Introducing Philly Eats: A local restaurant app that puts hundreds of professional reviews right at your fingertips

An experiment in finding out what happens when you make local reviews easier for people to search, scan, save and see what’s nearby.

In a city with a restaurant scene as vibrant as Philadelphia’s it’s not difficult to find a place to eat—it’s hard to find the best place to eat. Our latest experiment improves local food-finding by giving people access to hundreds of professional recommendations from trusted local food writers, and we’re looking for feedback from early adopters.

Philly Eats was built in partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and makes professional reviews easy to search, scan, save and know when you’re near a noteworthy place. What differentiates this app from competing digital products isn’t its comprehensiveness, but the high quality of the content.

The iPhone app consolidates more than 300 of Inquirer critic Craig LaBan’s reviews from the past two years, 10+ professional dining guides and also offers a way to create your own list of restaurants to visit. We’ll continue adding some reviews, guides and restaurant openings for a short period of experimentation, and then pause to evaluate its usefulness and popularity.

The app makes local reviews easier to find and save than ever before, making planning simpler and more successful. Through the experiment we’re also hoping to discover new ways local news can support more informed decision-making.

The features in this experimental app blend the best of both worlds — technology and journalism — to better serve local news readers. It’s the result of combining the best traits of product and tech culture, which is a tight focus on research, user experience design and structured data (i.e. address and cuisine metadata); with the best of what local news has to offer, which is context for the local scene, cultivation of good sources and a familiarity with the habits and needs of locals.

You can download Philly Eats in the App Store now. Here is an overview of its six major features:

1. Search

You can search restaurants by cuisine, price, neighborhood and more; and also sort review by distance, rating and by the most recent.

2. Guides

If you don’t feel like searching for a restaurant on your own, we’ve included lots of local guides that list top restaurants in the city, the suburbs, South Jersey and beyond.

3. Scan

You can browse just the highlights of a restaurant review first (think: what to order, what to drink, etc.) before reading a more in-depth take.

4. Save

You can save restaurants to a personal favorites list so you always know where to go.

5. Plan

On each restaurant review highlight page you can make reservations, get directions, read the full review, go to the restaurant’s website or click to call.

6. Get notified

You can turn on notifications for new restaurant openings and when you’re nearby any of your favorite restaurants.

We look forward to getting feedback from early app users and see what types of conversations it sparks.

Graphics and animations by Faye Teng, the lab’s UX designer.

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