Menu Sites: Filling A Void

I understand that most chefs probably aren't part-time Web designers—they have better things to do, like cook your food—and most restaurants don't bother hiring someone who is. But of all the industries to jump on the "gotta have a Web site" bandwagon, the restaurant industry is certainly lagging behind. The folks on donrockwell.com think so, as do the editors at Bon Appetit.

It seems simple enough: Show me your menu or a sampling of what your cooking is like, have your address and phone number on each page, and go easy on the Flash-tastic factor. But alas, it appears some restaurants don't really care that many people these days only leave their computers to eat.

Filling the void is a new breed of online restaurant guide that offers actual menus for hundreds of restaurants. MenuPix.com launched a D.C. version in November, and now MenuPages.com is covering the nation's capital.

MenuPages, with 1,853 menus and counting, touts its find-a-food search capability, which is pretty nifty. Search for "tater tots" in Upper NW, for example, and Tonic pops up. (But no tater tot-bastion Bar Pilar, even though they do have the menu in the listings.) Looking for pork belly in Arlington/Alexandria? The site pulls up Bangkok 54, Indigo Landing and Restaurant Eve. Not foolproof but fun nonetheless.

Both sites offer user reviews and personal pages to keep favorite menus, and both sites will probably develop over time.

So until restaurants can get their acts together (props to Café Atlantico chef Katsuya Fukushima for planning to launch a blog), these sites are a nice complement to what's already out there.

Which are your favorite restaurant sites? How about the worst you've seen?


Jesse said...

busboys and poets has the best website!!!

Amanda said...

They get extra points for creativity.

Amanda said...

Buh-bye tater tots:
Park View, Washington, D.C.: I was disappointed to read in today's Weekly Dish that Bar Pilar is going upscale. I gave up trying to eat at the pricey and over-populated St. Ex a long time ago, but have really enjoyed having Bar Pilar as a casual and affordable dining option int hat neighborhood. (Does this mean no more Tater Tots?) It always looked pretty well populated to me. Does "getting off the ground as a restaurant" necessarily translate into hour-long waits? Is that the only way to make it affordable?

Tom Sietsema: I was bummed to hear that a delicious source of lomo saltado is disappearing -- along with those Tater Tots -- but I think the chef knows what he's doing (and what people in the neighborhood like to eat). The price points are expected to remain budget-friendly.

Anonymous said...

I like Sonoma's website.

DC is pretty ahead with restaurant websites. When I have been in other cities, I am utterly lost without the ability to find menus, make reservations online, etc.