Whether you’re on vacation or simply in an unfamiliar part of town, you’re going to have to eat sooner or later. So when your stomach starts growling, just follow this guide to find the best grub.
How to find the best restaurant wherever you are
Download Yelp to your phone
A lot of people complain about Yelp, but it’s incredibly helpful. The app allows you to search the area around you to discover restaurants, bars, and more. Right now, Yelp is most useful for food and drinks because it’s completely reliant on its users to add information. If a restaurant closes and no one tells Yelp HQ, the app could lure you astray. Still, Yelp’s listings are usually correct.
Choose the Restaurants section
Click Nearby and then Restaurants. A map pops up, showing your location and a lot of different options. If you need to search another area, go up to the search bar and enter your destination. You can tap and move the map to include the radius you’re willing to travel, then click Redo Search in This Area.
Narrow your choices
Yelp has some helpful icons to help you narrow down your dinner. You can click on categories like American, Italian, Sandwiches, or Pizza. But don’t do that yet! (We know you’re hungry. Just wait a sec.)
Look up in the search bar and click these little slider bars. That opens the filters section.
This click will dramatically improve your results. Once you’re inside the filters, you can choose whether the restaurant offers delivery or takeout, how expensive it is, and, importantly, whether the place is even open right now. You can also choose the distance from your location: 0.3 miles, 1 mile, 5 miles, or 20 miles. (Yelp also offers a “Best Match,” but who knows how far that is?)
Make the most important click
Your Yelp results do not default to the best options. Advertising and other algorithms can come into play in the default view (also known as Best Match). But if you truly want your best food options, keep scrolling in that filters tab until you see Sort by. Drop down this box and select Rating. Click Search at the top to take you back to the map view.
See how the list has changed? As you scroll through the list now, you should see results in order of the best-reviewed restaurants. Sometimes, you’ll see a weird, slightly lower score among the 5-star gems, and sometimes you’ll see an ad, but your results are far more accurate now. You can further narrow your options by cuisine or other factors, but always remember to check that filters tab each time to be sure the app is sorting by rating first.
What if you’re traveling?
Yelp works best within the United States, and especially in larger cities. Remember, either a business owner or a Yelp user has to take the time to enter each business into the site. You could easily miss a hidden gem because no one took the time to add it. (Adding a new restaurant you’ve discovered is a great way to support them.) Yelp users don’t always take the time to add fast food or chain restaurants.
Outside the U.S., Yelp results aren’t often as helpful. You literally can’t even use it in Bermuda. Major European cities often have a fair amount of Yelp listings. But for international travel, TripAdvisor is often a better option. Just remember, if you take the time to add your restaurant discoveries and write a review in Yelp, you’ll be helping future travelers who could follow in your footsteps. And isn’t it nice to pay it forward?
If you’re a real pro, you can do some research on your vacation destination and add some bookmarks to the most promising places. When you arrive, click More on the bottom of the app, then click Bookmarks. Your saved places appear, sorted by distance. You can also click the map icon in the upper right corner to see your bookmarked spots highlighted in relation to your location.
Take everything with a grain of salt
Remember that Yelp ratings are not gospel. They’re just a guide to help a hungry wanderer find a reliably good meal. You may find an incredible restaurant that only has three stars. Or you may have the worst dining experience of your life in a 5-star Yelp favorite. The best restaurant in the city may not even be on Yelp because the locals don’t want visitors dropping by. Your mileage may vary. And don’t discount the power of trying an unlisted hole in the wall. You could discover the next great dining experience and use Yelp to share it with the rest of the world!