When I married a woman who is an incredible cook and loves to bake, I knew I had hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is that also meant I was now obligated to watch hours of programming on the Food Network. In the last five years I’ve seen so much Paula Deen my arteries are clogged just from watching, and I’ve learned that you can make literally anything into a food competition with ingredients I’ve never even heard of (what exactly is “jaggery” anyway?).
Well, if you’re a foodie like my wife who loves watching the Food Network then you might interested in their new app, Food Network On the Road. The question now is does it live up to the promise of helping you find all the places where the stars eat when you’re on the road? Read on to find out.
Tingling My Tastebuds
Upon starting up Food Network On the Road I was impressed with the visual design of the app. The street signs and chalk-drawn paths lead you through the app providing a fun approach. While, in contrast, the minimal toolbars, grid layout and subdued color palette give it a professional appeal. The way entertainment and professionalism have been combined here is quite unique and definitely done well. Certainly, other graphic designers could learn from the techniques that have been employed here.
But, enough about how it affected my eyes. Let’s get to the reason I downloaded this app: my tastebuds. You land on the Featured page to begin with. Swiping through, you’re given restaurant suggestions from different Food Network shows or themed road trip ideas such as the “Eat Like An Iron Chef” road trip or “Best Sandwiches in 50 States.” Since I’m a sucker for burritos, enchiladas, nachos and pretty much anything smothered in cheese, Food Network’s “Tex-Mex Road Trip” was my personal favorite.
Exploring Your Options
Other than what’s listed on the featured pages, you can use the Nearby and Find sections to look over other restaurants that have been showcased on Food Network. Nearby shows you anything that’s been featured on the Food Network within a radius of about 200 miles from your current location, but the distance could vary depending on how many results are in your area.
There weren’t always as many results as I would have hoped. I live close to a city of over 200,000, and the closest restaurant was 50 miles away. Some states had as few as two establishments listed and there were none outside of the United States.
In the Find area you can filter results by city, chef, show, cuisine or into different categories like FN’s City Guides and Best of … Lists. There are city guides for five major cities: Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco.
Once you make a selection, you’re presented with quite a few options. You can see the place on a map, add it to favorites, add to or create a road trip, recommend the place, view photos, get directions, see nearby restaurants, and visit their website or call to make reservations. Favorites are filed into a folder in the Road Trips section and recommendations can be shared on Twitter, Facebook or through email.
There are several ways to start planning out the ultimate foodie road trip. You can simply use one of the six featured ones included with the app, or create road trips by adding food destinations from the Featured, Nearby and Find tabs. Just tap the To Road Trip” button once you’ve opened up more details about the location.
Once you’ve picked out all your destinations you can see them in a list or plotted out on a map. If you want to change the order you’ll visit them, in just tap Edit and then tap and drag each item to rearrange them until you’ve got everything set the way you’d like. Unfortunately, what anyone would need to do next to finish planning (plotting out each location, getting directions, etc.) should be easy, but here’s where this app falls short.
Quite a Mismap
While it’s easy to discover restaurants and I appreciated that there were so many different ways to find my favorites, when it came to actually locating them on a map, there was much left to be desired. The map function is just not useful. Seeing a location on the map is about all it’s good for.
Once you map out locations you’re interested in, there are no other features available that are to be expected when trying to use a map. In order to really explore the surrounding area or even just get directions you have to bounce over to Apple Maps. While that doesn’t seem like it should be much of a problem, you’ll need to keep switching between Apple Maps and the Food Network app if you want to plot out more than one restaurant to visit.
This, for me, was the main downfall of Food Network On the Road. The best apps are self-contained. The moment I have to leave an app the less chance I have of coming back. After all, what good is it to plan a road trip when I can’t even get directions easily? Hopefully an update in the near future will build Apple Maps into the app.
A Lukewarm Reaction
Overall, my opinion of Food Network On the Road is mixed. I love the concept and when I first heard about this app I thought that it would be a winner for sure. I’m still excited about the ability to easily find your favorites that have been featured on different Food Network shows. This definitely creates an even better connection with fans who just can’t get enough.
However, I hesitate to fully recommend it until some of the kinks have been worked out and the features more fully developed. Simply making improvements to the maps function would very quickly take this from bittersweet to mouthwatering.