You're a Foodie, I'm a Foodie

By Lizz Kannenberg in Food on Dec 3, 2009 4:40PM

foodie.jpg Who says tech in Chicago is in a rut? Quick on the heels of Groupon's cool $30 million in VC funding comes Foodie, the little iPhone app that opens the doors of the city's elite restaurants to anyone with an appetite for great dining experiences. And for once, yours truly was on the cutting edge of a new social trend.

It also pays to have ambitious friends like my former co-worker Ari Bendersky, who told me this summer that he and business partner Matt Marcus were developing an iPhone app. Ari is the consummate food and wine buff - he writes about the stuff for the HuffPo and NBC Chicago - so since I'd just spent a condo down payment on grad school and wasn't exactly lighting up the reservation lines at Graham Elliot, I was thrilled when he clued me in about Foodie and offered me the chance to beta test it. When I downloaded the beta version of Foodie and saw what I was in for, my little heart (or was it stomach?) went a-pitter patter at the thought that I might be able to eat out somewhere besides my neighborhood taco joint. Without a second thought about my meager bank account, I used the app to reserve a table for two at Perennial.

The user experience had the kind of minor hiccups that are to be expected in a beta test, but overall the flow of use was well-planned and simple. I made my reservation and was offered the opportunity to email it to my dining companion, and once I arrived at the restaurant Foodie prompted me to confirm my arrival.

That functionality prevents users from making reservations for non-Foodie members, but at a mere $1.99 to download and $0.99 per reservation (the first three are free), there's no reason your friends and family can't get in on the exclusive deals us Foodies are already enjoying. If you're a big diner outer, you can grab a monthly or yearly membership that comes with unlimited free reservations. I knew I'd be a long term member once I laid out a mere $25 for a 3-course meal at Perennial, and I got to construct my menu from any of the appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts. I chose the black truffle gnocchi, filet mignon and a berry custard, all with the smugness of knowing that everyone else in the restaurant was paying $31 for that filet alone.

To celebrate its launch this week, Foodie is offering deals from such culinary heavy hitters as the afore mentioned Graham Elliot, where you can score a nine course tasting menu for the price of five courses ($75), mk and Custom House. Or try new hot spots you haven't had the inclination or funds to check out yet, like Pilsen's Nightwood ($35 for 3 courses).

Whether you're a dining novice looking for an affordable in to the upper echelons of Chicago's dining scene or a seasoned palate, Foodie is your pocket maitre d' and your ultimate insider tip. It's only available in the iPhone for now, but rumor has it that Blackberry and Android versions will be available early next year. To that we say, raise a fork!