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The 22 Best Free Restaurant Apps

The 22 Best Free Restaurant Apps

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If you’re a smartphone user, you know that your phone would be a lot less smart without your apps. According to Nielsen, Americans had an average of about 41 apps on their smartphones in 2012, and that number has certainly increased since then. And if you’re like most Americans, there’s often no question more seemingly difficult to answer than "Where are we going for dinner?" Luckily, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are quite a few.

The 22 Best Free Restaurant Apps (Slideshow)

You’ve probably heard of Zagat, a service that has been reviewing and ranking restaurants and other businesses since 1979. We’ve come a long way since then, with tons of dining apps with a variety of helpful uses.

Now you can download dining apps to find restaurants, make reservations, choose healthier options, and find out what to order. Zagat now has its own app, but there’s also an app that lets users upload photos of their favorite dishes. So the next time you get a recommendation for that five-star restaurant across town, you’ll already know the dish you want to try.

Other apps let you know where the vegetarian, vegan, and vegetarian-friendly restaurants are located, no matter where you are. And if you let your apps get to know you, many will recommend restaurants based on your preferences.

With all the different dining apps available, it can be difficult to find the best ones to fit your needs. To save you money and time researching (as well as buyer’s remorse), we’ve put together and ranked a list of 22 of the most downloaded and highly rated apps on iTunes and the Google Play store so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. .

So, how did we get our list of the best dining apps? We had three criteria for judging which ones were worthy of space on your iPhone or Android:

1. Ease of use. What good is an app if you can’t get the most out of it? We leaned heavily in favor of apps that feature a streamlined user interface. If we weren’t able to install or use it easily, we didn’t include it.

2. Comprehensive listing. Did the app have a large, diverse selection of restaurants? If the answer was "yes," it made it to our list.

3. Affordability. We figured you’d rather spend your money on the actual food, so all the ones listed below are free!

So without further ado, click here for our list of the 22 best restaurant apps!

Check your head: In the Thinking Space "mind-mapping" app, you can create maps to connect thoughts and ideas. It's great for organizing and for forming new concepts. Ad-supported free version, $4 premium version

Manage your files: Astro File Manager makes your phone act as a miniature PC. You can copy/move/rename files, back up apps, send files as attachments, and create compressed files. Ad-supported free version, $4 premium version

Handle tasks wisely: The GTasks task manager syncs with the desktop Google Tasks, which you can also access in the Web version of Gmail and Google Calendar. It's so useful, it should be in­­cluded on every Android phone. Free

Manage archives: The powerful AndroZip File Manager works with archives, including 7ZIPhone, BZIP2, GZIPhone, RAR, TAR, and ZIPhone files. You can use it to create GZIP, TAR, or ZIPhone archives, too. Free

Text with panache: Forget the stock SMS utility. Handcent SMS brings customizable texting tools--with iPhone-style speech bubbles--to Android. Free

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The 22 Best Free Restaurant Apps - Recipes

MealBoard combines recipe management, meal planning, groceries and pantry management into a single app. You can manage your recipes, ingredients, food categories, meal types, stores, store aisles, grocery items and many more with its clean, uncluttered interface.

Cut your time spent planning your meals and groceries. With MealBoard, a few taps is all it takes!

Add your own recipes, or import recipes from the web using MealBoard's built-in web browser.

You may also scan recipes (using OCR technology) from your cookbooks and recipe magazines.

Create your meal plan in minutes! Easily move meals to another day, add meal notes and adjust the number of servings. You can even set prep reminders!

Create your grocery list from your meal plan. The grocery items get sorted by aisle, and if you're using multiple stores, you can view the list by store.

You can also set up the grocery prices so you'll see the total cost and stay within your budget!

Track your pantry inventory

Ever wondered how much sugar left in your pantry? Or how many tomatoes left in the fridge?

MealBoard lets you keep track of items in stock. Once you're done shopping, move items from the shopping list to the pantry. And as you cook meals, you can easily adjust the items left in stock.

Plan meals in your iPad, do the shopping with your iPhone, follow recipes in the iPad as you cook meals.

You can set up MealBoard to sync data across all your devices.

Tired of manually typing recipes in your iPhone? Use MealBoard's web interface! It's free and it lets you type recipes from the comfort of your Mac/PC keyboard.

25 One-Bite Appetizers

The tastes of Provence are on spectacular display in these special mini tarts, which, true to the region's cuisine, call for simple ingredients that pack intense flavor. And, so, the dough is basic, with a smattering of cornmeal for texture. The filling is a riot of sweet and savory, matching sautéed onion and fennel with Swiss chard, sweet dried currants, egg, crème fraîche, Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses and pine nuts. And—hooray for simplicity!—there are no special tools required to make this appetizer: You can make the tartlets using a mini muffin pan.

Even veggie skeptics won't be able to turn down these savory bites, which take the beloved cobb salad's signature ingredients—avocado, tomato, blue cheese, hard-boiled eggs—and pile them into an edible bacon cup. You can make the delicious little vessels a day in advance and just refrigerate until you're ready to fill them. The finished hors d'oeuvre is crunchy, creamy, salty and totally addictive.

We're going to come right out and say it: This is the most adorable appetizer you will ever serve. Wedge-shaped strawberry Jell-O, flecked with bits of fresh strawberries, sits inside miniature sliced lime rinds, and each one gets a smattering of black sesame seeds. Vodka optional.

We have yet to meet an appetizer that screams "Please pair me with wine!" more than these lovely canapés. The bottom layer is a biscuit made with white wine on top is a tiny spoonful of tangy blue cheese and a few grape halves. A sprinkling of coarsely chopped Marcona almonds comes next and then, the pièce de résistance: a drizzle of honey and a smattering of lavender buds, which add a light floral note that beautifully complements all of the snack's other flavors.

Photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

Salty slices of cold roast beef, creamy and tangy blue cheese and tart green grapes threaded onto a skewer make for one of the most amazing, flavorful appetizers you can throw together with three common supermarket foods.

Homemade cheese crackers are easy to make and customize, depending on the cheeses and herbs you like. This recipe combines thyme and Parmesan, but you could also use asiago and rosemary, Spanish manchego and sage, or any other combination you can dream up.

Chef, cookbook author and TV personality Sara Moulton makes these crunchy, savory, Asian-influenced snacks with store-bought convenience items: thin rice crackers, mayo, wasabi and precooked shrimp.

Photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

The "recipe" for this Italian sandwich-on-a-stick is so simple, you'll make it once and remember it forever. All you need are cherry tomatoes, baby mozzarella (aka bocconcini), olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, basil leaves and a fistful of toothpicks.

Photo: Tiffany Burke Photography

As chefs across the country continue to pickle everything from Brussels sprouts to cabbage, plain old pickles (er, pickled cucumbers) are still some of the best. Though many of the newer varieties hitting gourmet grocery shelves are terrific on their own, you can spruce them up with this no-brainer trick from Lynnae Schneller, founder of Lynnae's Gourmet Pickles: Spread them with cream cheese and wrap them with slices of ham.

If you're expecting guests who like spicy food, you can't get much simpler (or tastier) than cherry peppers stuffed with extra-sharp provolone and thin slices of prosciutto, which chef Doug Psaltis serves at his Chicago restaurant RPM Italian. You can fill the peppers the night before&mdashjust bring them to room temperature before serving.