Stacy Johnson wanted to go to a reliable resource that provides a realistic view about local restaurants.
"I was obsessed with food and always wanted to try some new establishment ever since I was 10 years old and the first time I ate oysters," Johnson said.
But she found that one person's idea of a great restaurant wasn't often her idea. And when she started using a smartphone, hoping to grab a bite to eat wherever she was, it wasn't easy, either. She tried Yelp and others, but wondered who really wrote the reviews. And sometimes good experiences could come from a place not even mentioned in guidebooks, she said.
"That's when I decided to go ahead and create a better solution," the Chicagoan said. "I wanted to combine incredible people with good taste."
Johnson said she learned a lot about restaurants during her travels to France, China and elsewhere. And that's what led her to launch FoodMafia.com, which offers reviews and information on Chicago and suburban residents by local people, in March 2011. She plans to expand offerings in various cities later this year. FoodMafia.com offers a member-based resource that offers restaurant recommendations, food events, deals and news from food industry, chefs, bloggers and local connoisseurs.
Now, the site offers a free app for your iPhone and it's already had about 300 downloads. It includes information for about 9,000 restaurants, all selected or recommended by of the site's members. On Sept. 7, the app will cost $1.99. The app integrates the same features as the website. It specializes in neighborhood hot spots, where the locals eat. It filters location, price, style of cuisine, mafia meter (aka member recommended rating), chefs and godfathers (aka FoodMafia.com approved members).
Once you select a restaurant, information will appear on the screen, including a description, reviews, menu, map, photos, videos, website, and options to call directly, share to social media accounts and add to a list of favorites, recommendations or a vault, aka your dining wish list. You can even directly upload photos and videos.
You can also follow Food Mafia on Facebook (Chicago Food Mafia) or Twitter @FoodMafia.
Surfing: Palatine-based Weber-Stephen Products LLC, maker of Weber grills, offers its first digital book, "Weber's Time to Grill: Get In. Get Out. Get Grilling," available for download on the iBookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. For more, visit www.timetogrill.com. Also, Weber has its first free app for iPhone and iPod touch, called Weber Grills, with content previously available at Weber.com.
•T-Mobile USA Inc. is offering the Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan with no data caps, speed limits starting Sept. 5. New customers can purchase any smartphone or bring their own compatible smartphone. Current T-Mobile customers on Classic or Value plans can upgrade their existing service by adding an Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan. The plan will cost $20 per month when added to a Value voice and text plan or $30 per month when added to a Classic voice and text plan. For example, a single line Value plan with unlimited talk and text combined with unlimited nationwide 4G data will cost $69.99 or a single line Classic plan with unlimited talk, unlimited text and unlimited nationwide 4G data will cost $89.99. For more, see http://www.T-Mobile.com/unlimited-data-plan.
•U.S. Cellular said the Samsung Galaxy Metrix 4G is now available online at uscellular.com and will be available in stores nationwide starting Friday for $179, after a $100 mail-in rebate. But it will be operating on 3G here, the company said.
• St. Charles-based Tradeshow Network Marketing Group has unveiled a new website at www.thetradeshownetwork.com, which features idea galleries and articles on the latest advances in trade show exhibit designs and event marketing strategies.
• Lisle-based Midwest Real Estate Data, the multiple listing service for the Chicago and suburban region, debuted a face lift for its website at MREDLLC.com. It provides a more interactive and user friendly experience.
•Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.