The idea of another Toronto restaurant guide may not seem original, but Urbanspoon, a newly launched website, sets itself apart by combining the best elements of other guides with some ideas of its own. And it presents them all in a clean and user-friendly design. Like many guides, it lets you browse by type of cuisine or by neighbourhood (including the suburbs), with the results listed alphabetically or ranked according to ratings.
What distinguishes it from the crowd is that instead of a single editorial opinion—a questionable practice on similar sites offering paid advertisements or coupons for the very restaurants they list—Urbanspoon links to multiple reviews published elsewhere. It’s a single accessible source allowing you to compare what Toronto.com, NOW, Toronto Life, dine.to, and Eye Weekly have said about a restaurant without scampering all over the internet. Users can also comment on restaurants, or rate them with a simple “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” Aspiring food critics can even add links to their blogs.
Other nifty features let you set up user accounts to keep track of your favourites, share them with friends, or create supper-destination wish lists. At the click of a button, you can find all the restaurants close to a theatre, sports venue or hotel, all listed in order of proximity. Urbanspoon also features a map of every restaurant in the city as if lit up at night. It doesn’t serve any discernible purpose, but sure looks neat.
There are, of course, always quirks with any new website. For the top restaurant lists to better reflect reality, more and more users will need to vote. Likewise, not enough of the city’s blogs have added their reviews, including Torontoist’s entertaining and useful Torontoist Challenges. The Google map window on Urbanspoon’s neighbourhood guides is far too small to be of much use, with up to fifty restaurants crammed into a tiny frame. But as the inevitable growing pains work themselves out, Urbanspoon will be a useful source for comprehensive restaurant information.
Graphic from Urbanspoon.