Review: Menu and Hours app for Android is worth the wait

A screenshot of Menu and Hours. This is a portion of the Dish on Market menu.
A screenshot of Menu and Hours. This is a portion of the Dish on Market menu.

Let me start this review with a few disclosures.

I’m friends with Michelle Jones, the creator of the Menu and Hours app. Michelle began to publish my $10 Challenge pieces on her popular blog, Consuming Louisville, back in 2010 when I was just a fresh-faced blogger fresh out of a traditional newsroom. I consider her a role model and a friend.

I’m a financial supporter of Menu and Hours. I donated money to the Menu and Hours Kickstarter campaign, which means I received this app for free as a reward for my donation.

I’m not a tech writer. I still haven’t figured out the technology behind fax machines (something about pictures or magic, I think).

We square?

Good.

*clears throat*

Menu and Hours is a Louisville-centered restaurant app that provides you with the basics — the menu, hours, location and phone numbers of some of the region’s local restaurants. There’s no reviews, PDFs or other annoyances I’ve found on similar food-centric apps. Instead, Menu and Hours uses a slick, clean design to relay the information that really matters when you’re hungry.

Menu and Hours debuted on the iPhone in September and arrived in the Google Play store last week. As a devoted Android operator, it’s been a long few months of seeing iPhone-leaning friends plug the usefulness of this app. Now it’s my turn.

The app’s appearance immediately grabbed me. There’s no pictures and not a lot of color, just some bright blue spot color and a couple of clean sans serif fonts. It’s odd to see a food app without a lot of bells and whistles, but the sparse displays help me hone in on the basic information I want from my favorite restaurants.

The restaurants are sorted into basic categories such as American, Chinese and Breakfast/Brunch, but I really like the special categories listed at the bottom — Louisville Classics, New and Noteworthy and Fancy Cocktails, to name a few.

Non-traditional categories in Menu and Hours.
Non-traditional categories in Menu and Hours.

Restaurants are easy to find throughout the app, whether you search by keyword, location or type of food. When you find a restaurant that you particularly enjoy, you can add them to your favorites by typing the star in the top right-hand corner so the name will appear in the left sidebar for easy access any time you use the app. This will come in handy when I want to show friends and co-workers the items available at some of my go-to establishments (I’m looking at you, Dish on Market and Wild Eggs).

The menus are comprehensive in the Menu and Hours listings. Prices and descriptions are available for most restaurants. It gets a little dicey with places such as Sweet Surrender bakery that have menus that change daily. But Menu and Hours includes a note when a restaurant has a flexible selection and, in the case of Sweet Surrender, lists all the items that could be offered on a given day.

Some of my favorite Louisville restaurants haven’t agreed to be listed in Menu and Hours — yet. I remember Michelle making the rounds of some Louisville businesses to ask for their inclusion in this app. Now that Menu and Hours has arrived in the Android space, I hope restaurants can see the value of providing her with their information for inclusion in Menu and Hours. I’d also like to see restaurants working with Michelle to make sure the most up-to-date menu is available on the app. I found one case (Café Lou Lou, specifically) in which the menu had been changed in real life, but not on Menu and Hours.

Even though Menu and Hours is a fairly new addition to the smartphone horizon, I already wonder what I did without it. Menu and Hours is one of those few apps that I can see myself using every day, right along with Twitter and Facebook. This app tells me where to go and what to expect when I get there. I don’t just love Menu and Hours because I’m a Louisville food writer. I love Menu and Hours because I’m a Louisville food eater.

Bits and Pieces: Banh Mi Hero, Andrew Zimmern and other Louisville food news from the web, 12.10.12

News

  • Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc. wants $10 million from the city for “an artisan distillery, a retail store and other tourist-oriented activities” that the company is developing on West Main Street. The project is called the Evan Williams Experience. Fancy. (Courier-Journal)
  • Louisville-based online company FoodCalc has launched EveryoneEat, an iPhone and Android app to help people with chronic illnesses make better choices about their meals when they go out to eat. (Business First of Louisville)

 

Openings

  • A new Vietnamese restaurant called Banh Mi Hero has opened in the Highlands. You can get banh mi sandwiches, Vietnamese-style tacos and jasmine rice cups. (Consuming Louisville)
  • The owners of Hammerheads in Germantown plan to open a new restaurant on Lexington Road called Grind House in January. Grind House will feature burgers made of meat such as wild boar, ostrich, duck, venison and elk. (Business First of Louisville)

 

Etc.

 

Leave a comment about Shakespeare to win a copy of the Menu and Hours iPhone app

Michelle Jones of Consuming Louisville and I want to give away some goodies.

Michelle is the creator of Menu and Hours, a Louisville-centric iPhone app that provides basic information about your favorite local restaurants. I may have talked about the app a time or two.

We want to share this app with the world (well, the iPhone world, but Android development is in progress). Any time that I write a $10 Challenge that features a restaurant on Menu and Hours, Michelle will give away two free copies of the app (usually $2.99 in the iTunes Store) to readers who leave a comment on the $10 Challenge post. 

The Bard’s Town, the most recent $10 Challenge contender, is featured on Menu and Hours. For a chance to win one of two free copies of Menu and Hours, answer the following Bard-themed question in the comments section of this post:

What is your favorite William Shakespeare play? (Or tell me why you don’t have a favorite Billy Shakes play.)

You have until Thursday to leave a comment. I’ll randomly select two names on Friday.

Menu and Hours, a Louisville restaurant app, available on iTunes

Michelle Jones, the woman behind the blog Consuming Louisville and Let Them Tweet Cake meet-ups, has launched her long-awaited, Louisville-restaurant-centric iPhone app, Menu and Hours.

Here’s what the iTunes store has to say about it:

Menu and Hours is a beautiful, easy to use app with all the information you want about restaurants and none of the frustration of restaurant websites. No PDFs, no flash, just the food menus, operating hours, location and contact information for over 90 independent restaurants in the Louisville, Kentucky area.

Full disclosure 1: I’m friends with Michelle, and I supported this app during Michelle’s Kickstarter campaign that launched the creation of this app.

Full disclosure 2: I’m an Android user, but I supported the creation of this iPhone app. That’s how much I believe in what Michelle created for Louisville. This city has been missing a simple, useful, Flash-free resource for getting the basic information about local restaurants.

Download this app from your friendly neighborhood iTunes store. It’s $2.99. Support a fellow Louisville lover.

Help a sister out and tell your favorite restaurant about Menu and Hours

Good news: Michelle Jones got the funding she needed to get the Menu and Hours app up and running.

Less-than-good news: Some restaurants don’t understand why they should have their information on this app.

Let’s do a quick recap: Michelle, aka the mind behind Consuming Louisville, Let Them Tweet Cake and just about anything else awesome, raised money through the website Kickstarter to start development of an iPhone app called Menu and Hours. The name says it all — this app will provide the menu, hours, contact information and location for Louisville restaurants (read more about it here).

But some restaurant owners don’t quite get Menu and Hours, Michelle says.

It seems like there is a bit of suspicion about new technologies and a bit of disbelief that I’m not trying to charge them to participate. When I go in to speak to a restaurant owner that I don’t know there is a wall that comes up. I’m sure they get pitched by salespeople all the time, so their uneasiness speaking to me (not to mention I’m interrupting their already busy day) makes sense but sometimes it’s really hard to breach that wall.

For you supporters who want to see Menu and Hours up and running, don’t get huffy at these restaurants — get friendly. Go to your favorite restaurant and tell them why they should have their menu and hours on a legit app. Send them to this website so they can be included in an app that I strongly believe will help steer Louisville eaters to the best local joints in the city.

Get out there. Make your voices heard. Occupy a table or two. But be nice about it.

Louisville restaurant info + iPhone app + Michelle Jones = Kickstarter project of awesomeness

“We’re hungry and we have questions.”

Michelle Jones, publisher of Consuming Louisville, a friend of this blog and a gift to the city of Louisville, is in the process of developing an iPhone app called Menu and Hours. This app will provide basic information to users about Louisville restaurants: location, hours, menus and contact information. No flash, no PDFs, no annoying Muzak — just the basics of what you need to know to find some good dinner.

Michelle needs some help getting this program off the ground, so she has turned to Kickstarter to raise $6,000 to pay for a programmer and graphic designer to get the app created. If this isn’t a project worth backing, I don’t know what is. Michelle has done a lot for the city of Louisville through her blog, her involvement in the Louisville Digital Association and her creation of Let Them Tweet Cake. On a personal note, Michelle has been a great friend and helped me dive into the Louisville blog scene when I moved back to town.

Why don’t we give back to someone who truly loves this city and the people in it?

As it is with other Kickstarter projects, there are different giving levels and gifts that come with each pledge to Menu and Hours, and no money comes out of your account if Michelle’s $6,000 goal is not met. Menu and Hours’ Kickstarter page addresses issues you might want to know about before donating, such as Android availability and restaurant participation.

If you want to make Menu and Hours a reality, click here to visit the Kickstarter page. You have 25 days, readers. Let’s do this.

The $10 Challenge: Chop Shop Salads

(Blogger’s note: Buying a car is a witch. I’ve spent the past two weeks scouring the internet, visiting used car lots and haggling like hell after the family mechanic told me that my beloved Mercury Tracer, Judy, was close to death. Today, I emerged from Bob Montgomery Honda [shout out] victorious. I said good bye to Judy and hell0 to Yoda the Toy0ta Corolla.

Not only do I have a new[er] ride, but I will return to my normal blogging schedule that has been severely interrupted during the car-buying process.

Now, on with the food, dear friends.)

The Crunch salad from Chop Shop Salads. Kudos to reader greendrv for guessing the correct dish.


I might not have ever known of Chop Shop Salads if the restaurant hadn’t built a respectable social-media presence.

I’ve seen Chop Shop’s West Market Street location whenever I’m in the downtown Louisville area, but there’s only so much I can learn about a restaurant when I’m passing it at 25 miles per hour.

It wasn’t until I began to follow Chop Shop on Twitter that I became interested in this fast-food salad concept.

I can’t remember how I found Chop Shop on the social networking site (or if they found me), but it was a great discovery nonetheless. Chop Shop harnesses the sheer magnitude of the social media machine and uses it to drum up business (just look at this post — I’m several paragraphs in and I’m too busy talkin’ ’bout Twitter to even mention the food).

The restaurant effectively engages its readers on Twitter by offering discounts on its menu of salads and wraps. During basketball season, for example, they would routinely ask fans to tweet in what team they wanted to win an upcoming game, and winning fans would receive $1 off their order. They also send out tweets encouraging Facebook and Twitter followers to come into Chop Shop, pull up the restaurant’s Facebook or Twitter page, and get a $1 discount on their order.

The former promotion is what brought me to Chop Shop for the first time.

With my iPhone pulled up to display Chop Shop’s Twitter page, I visited the Market Street location during my lunch break.

Chop Shop takes the idea of a salad bar and amps it up to an 11. The menu offers a selection of restaurant-created salad creations that start at $5.49 and increase depending on ingredients. Chop Shop has some interesting combinations, such as the Tijuana Pool Boy with shrimp, feta, corn and black beans ($8.99); the Cowboy Club with grilled steak, bacon, goat cheese and sunflower seeds ($9.29); and the Handsome Rob with steak, chicken, four types of peppers and fried onions ($9.29). There are also more classic salad options such as cobb ($8.99), Greek ($7.99) and Ceasar (begins at $5.49). If you don’t like what the restaurant has put together, you can build your own salad starting at $5.49 with a wide variety of greens, meats, cheeses, protein, fruits and veggies. Need a more portable meal? Any salad can be made into a wrap, which cost less than the salads.

For my lunch, I selected The Crunch salad that includes iceberg lettuce, tequila lime chicken, cheddar, corn, black beans, red onions, tomatoes and tortilla strips ($7.69). Per the recommendation of the menu and the nice guy building my salad, I selected the Green Goddess dressing.

Watching the Chop Shop employee assemble my salad took me back to the first time I ever visited Subway as a kid. I remember the joy of standing on my toes and looking over the glass partition to watch firsthand how my order was made. The same thing happens at Chop Shop, only with more theatrics. Salad Guy (my name, not theirs) dumps the ingredients into a bowl, gives it a toss and gets to chopping with some kind of knife instrument that I’ve only seen in my nightmares. It’s dizzying and more fun than salad building probably should be.

After paying for my food (including my $1 discount), I took my salad back to work to enjoy at my desk. The Crunch was a tasty version of a southwest salad that a lot of restaurants offer. But the Green Goddess dressing really set the whole thing off. It was creamy with a hint of avocado, a good flavor to match with the tang of the tequila lime chicken. The chicken was well flavored, and there was a good portion of pieces spread throughout the dish. I loved the crunchy corn and beans, as well. Next time, I might ask for the dressing on the side when I order to-go, because my lettuce starting getting sogging on the ride from Chop Shop to my office. Salads also come with a sliced tortilla, which was kind of bland, but suitable if you want some carbs with your salad.

Nobody told me that a salad could be that filling. It might seem silly to pay almost $10 for a salad, but Chop Shop loaded mine with lots of toppings. I started got bleary-eyed as I inched toward the bottom of the plastic bowl. So much produce, so little time.

I’m eager to try Chop Shop again, especially with the variety of salads and willingness to offer deals through social media. Take note, restaurants — engage your audience, and more business could come your way.

Notes about Chop Shop Salads:

  • I’ve been reading that Chop Shop is going to bottle and sell some of their dressings. Heck yeah.
  • If you visit the Market Street location, park on Jefferson Street and walk. Don’t expect to park close, especially not during lunch hour.

The Stats:

Chop Shop Salads, 436 West Market Street and 126-D Breckenridge Lane, Louisville, Ky.

  • The Crunch salad: $7.69
  • Total (with tax): $8.15
  • Total (with $1 promotional discount): $7.15

Mission: Accomplished