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Searching For Good Food

I like food.  More precisely I like good food and there’s little that annoys me more than being in my own city or travelling and suddenly getting stuck with a sub-par meal with a supra-par bill.  I become a regular at those restaurants that have been able to deliver on their promise of food, service and atmosphere while typically never setting foot again on those that don’t.

To help me make my new restaurant selections (and hopefully avoid any bad choices) I rely on a combination of friends’ or colleagues’ suggestions along with both online and paper restaurant guides such as Zagat.  Naturally I’m not going to leave my Treo without its own portable solution and so I’ve subscribed to both Vindigo and Zagat To Go for some time to do just that.

On the one hand there is no doubt that it is absolutely amazing (never fails to impress) that I’m able to so easily access thousands of restaurants from dozens of US cities and many of the world’s capitals at the push of a button on my Treo.  On the other hand it is disappointing to see how little creativity and effort has recently been made to make either of these offerings world-class solutions.

Vindigo hasn’t had a real update in years and according to a senior executive at the company there are no plans at all for one in the future.  Zagat To Go meanwhile is anything but Treo-optimized and lacks many but the most basic of functionalities.  Overall both applications seem best suited to the greyscale Palm V or years past (which Vindigo still uses in its marketing collateral) instead of our feature-rich, wireless enabled, full colour Treo.  In both cases it seems that they’re just happy to milk the cow.

With some 2 million Treo smartphones on the market today and an estimated 4 million additional ones by the end of next year there’s certainly an opportunity for a new player to come in and make a play for the mobile restaurant guide market.  In the meantime however we’re stuck with these two so I’ll try to make the best of it.

Vindigo Guide
Along with a complete restaurant guide, Vindigo also also offers additional local information for major US ciites (over 70 in total) such as movies, bars, music, shops, museums, services, bathrooms, maps, directions and world weather.  Strangely the only world city outside the US that is included is the UK.  The whole package is available for a very reasonable $24.95 subscription per year.


The first two Vindigo screens above are unfortunately the only signs of colour that you’ll get to see within the application after which you’re relegated to the rather dull black & white experience below…  In this case, the San Francisco guide offers a total of 1594 restaurants to choose from which can be sorted by cuisine, food rating and cost.  Navigation is not facilitated by the fact that you can only use the Up/Down on the 5Way.


Selecting a particular restaurant will first open to its detail tab with all the contact details.  Clicking on the telephone number will provide you with the option to call that restaurant but with the slight problem that someone forgot to add the ‘1’ in the area code you you won’t get too far with it…  The second tab provides a short review (in this case from Gayot).


The next two tabs, Go and Map above, are simply and respectively designed to provide you with walking/driving directions and a map which also references your ‘home’ location.


The last restaurant tab, provides you with the opportunity to vote and add your own food rating, recommendation and review.  Additionally, by ticking the ‘My List’ button you can add this restaurant to a category for future reference.  Vindigo also includes a very smart advertising module throughout its application which allows you to opt to receive information from select companies such as Renaissance Hotels and JetBlue in this case – I’m actually surprised that other developers have not explored this business model.

As I mentioned earlier, aside from the restaurant guide Vindigo also provides seven other local guides with a similar level of detail as the one that I outline above.  They may not be best-in-class but you nonetheless benefit from having all the information at your fingertips.

Vindigo: The Good
There must be something that I ‘really’ like about Vindigo otherwise I would have deleted it ages ago but I am struggling to figure out what this might be exactly.  More than anything I think that I’ve come to view it as ‘travel insurance’ to make sure that I never get stuck somewhere not knowing where to go.  Vindigo has helped me on more than a few occasions in the past to do this and overall that’s been enough for me.  Nonetheless, this does not diminish the fact that I would really like them to get on with it and deliver a worthy update in the future.

Vindigo: The Bad
My main complaint with Vindigo is undoubtedly one of design and I’m sure that a minimal amount of work by a good graphic artist would go a long way to make this application significantly more pleasing to use regularly.  At present, the few scattered touches of colour are little consolation for an otherwise grey and dull shell.

Additionally, while Vindigo does offer the ability to rate and review a restaurant on your Treo, it is frustrating that you will be unable to read those reviews online or share them with friends or colleagues.  There’s also the fact that you cannot create a list of personal recommendations or restaurants that you would like to visit in the future – instead there’s just a catch-all category called My List which jumbles everything together.

Moreover, any Treonaut who like me may already be stretching his or her free available memory will be stuck by the fact that Vindigo cannot be moved to your SD card with PowerRun for example.  One complete city guide will easily use up 1.2MB of memory and each additional one another 500K or more – there is therefore no chance that you would ever be able to download all 70+ city guides to your Treo.  In its favour, Vindigo does offer a ‘Wireless Link’ allow you to download any additional cities over the air while on the go.

Vindigo: Conclusion
There is no doubt that the database of all the restaurant, movies, shops, museums and others that Vindigo provides is extremely extensive and overall very good.  However, it is a shame that it is so poorly laid out and short on design.  Having said this, it is incredible that you can carry and have access to all of this information in your pocket for only $24.95.

Zagat To Go Guide
Staying close to its roots, the Zagat To Go guide is primarily focused on local restaurants and more recently also nightlife across 30+ major US cities and 4 world cities (London, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo) as well as a list of Europe’s Top eateries.  Zagat is also in the process of adding Marketplace and Shopping guides but these are currently only available for NYC.  Additionally, there are also Top Movies and US Top Golf Courses guides included in the yearly $24.95 subscription.


The traditional Zagat listing and rating across four criteria of Food, Decor, Service and Cost is replicated in the application and you can easily sort each column by clicking its header.  There is nonetheless no quick way to sort by cuisine but this can be done via an Advanced Search.  The landing restaurant detail page, above right, provides phone/location, cuisine, neighborhood and features information.


The review tab provides a short but always helpful description of the restaurant and its unique attributes.  A useful add-in is the ability to add the restaurant to your calendar along with a date and time.


To help you navigate the many restaurants and find those that might come closest to your interest you have the option of selecting among a variety of Top choices and also narrow it down by Cuisine or Neighborhood.  The Advanced Search functionality offers you the ability to narrow your search even further to as few or as many specific criteria as you want.

Zagat To Go: The Good
The standard Zagat layout makes it easy and quick to find the top choice for any particular criteria and the reviews complement this nicely to make a decision.  I was also glad to find out, somewhat by accident, that Zagat To Go runs fine when transferred to the SD card with PowerRun – something which allows me to easily install 10 guides or more without worrying about the free memory on my Treo.

Zagat To Go: The Bad
I miss the ability to add my own reviews and other notes and recommendations to any of the listings.  Additionally, a total lack of 5Way and keyboard navigation support makes it just that little bit more tedious to use.  There’s also the lack of a wireless sync capability or an automated and incremental update with new listings via Hotsync.  Finally, since there is no online backup of your ‘favorites’ you will likely lose all of your selections if you accidentally delete or need to reinstall the application which I consider to be a gross oversight.

Zagat To Go: Conclusion
Having the simplicity and usefulness of the Zagat paper guides converted to digital format and with you at all times with Zagat To Go has an undeniable appeal for me.  I do wish that they could update it and also integrate it with their online offering but again at only $24.95 per year I believe that it’s a terrific service to have whether you’re looking for that elusive location when travelling or exploring new venues back home.

UPDATE: Please note that although I thought that I had Zagat To Go’s version 4.0 installed on my Treo I actually didn’t.  I’ve now had the opportunity to correct this mistake and can categorically tell you that Zagat’s latest version is _extremely_ good and addresses many of my complaints above.  If I had known about this before I would have painted Zagat To Go in a much more favourable light…

Treonauts are always looking for tasty morsels

Posted by Andrew on November 1, 2005 at 01:44 PM

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» ZAGAT TO GO v4.0 for Palm from Two Percent Nation
Though we actually released the Palm and Pocket PC upgrade to subscribers on October 31st, today we officially launched the new version of ZAGAT TO GO with this press release. Initial feedback, especially from the Treo community, has been extremely [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 8, 2005 12:14:43 AM


by brandon | Nov 1, 2005 6:08:42 PM

that was an amazing review. thank you!

by Winston | Nov 3, 2005 9:17:00 AM

While I agree with your review you neglected to use the most current version of Zagot-To-Go. The currect version includes much needed improvements like Treo optimized controls, mapping functionality, a "My Wish" which allows you to segragate those places you want to visit, and wireless updates and guide downloads. If you had used this version I think your review would have been a little different.

by Andrew | Nov 3, 2005 10:12:01 AM

Winston - thank you very much for letting me know!

I always thought that I had the latest v4.0 version installed but I didn't... It does indeed make a very big difference to now have full 5Way support + the 'My Wish List' is excellent.

I agree with you that if I had had this version to review I would have painted Zagat To Go in a much stronger light.

Cheers, A.

by neil | Nov 10, 2005 10:34:03 PM

I've been a Vindigo user from their first release. i recently purchased the app when I got my Treo 650, and I'm really disappointed in it, for some of the reasons you mention. It doesn't take advantage of any of the treo's features. I've emailed their tech support to give constructive criticism, but they seem more interested in standard mobile phone versions then continuing to support the platform that launched their product.

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