Side Dish: Not Just for Steakhouses

side dish Side Dish: Not Just for SteakhousesI dined out at Perilla last night, the restaurant co-owned by Harold Dieterle, winner of the first season of “Top Chef.” Mr. Dieterle is also the restaurant’s executive chef. Accompanying me were three chef-friends, all of whom had been my classmates at the French Culinary Institute. Naturally, then, we dined in courses, with each of us making sure there weren’t any duplicates at the table.

Of course, every course was delectable, but what really made the meal beyond memorable for me were the side dishes (creamed corn and farro risotto). I don’t usually order a side unless I’m in a steakhouse — and that’s all going to change going forward. After dining at a restaurant with a carefully crafted menu, such as Perilla, I realized the side dishes are not an afterthought or filler. They’re on the menu because they’re standouts that will complement any of the main courses. You can be sure of this, in particular, when you see but a few intriguing sides listed on a menu.

Have you dined at any restaurants with to-die-for side dishes? Tell us about it here or join the discussion on Facebook.

Let OpenTable Help You Travel Smarter This Summer

summer vacation Let OpenTable Help You Travel Smarter This SummerTIME magazine offers up “50 Essential Tips for Smart Summer Traveling” — and OpenTable makes the list not once, but twice. TIME likes the fact that diners like you are behind our restaurant ratings and reviews. And, they call out the convenience of our iPhone app for travelers in search of places of to dine.

Of course, if you’re taking a “staycation” in your own city, OpenTable can help you explore new neighborhoods and find first-rate restaurants, too.

Top Restaurant Cities: The Debate Continues

best restaurant cities2 Top Restaurant Cities: The Debate ContinuesThe fine folks over at Forbes Traveler have weighed in on U.S. cities where the restaurant scene is reason alone to hop in your car or on a plane this summer. Although they admit that there are foodie-friendly cities throughout our nation, they direct culinary tourists to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco (“America’s great foodie town”), Chicago, New Orleans, and Las Vegas.

The list is, in my opinion, a bit slim as we’ve become a nation of gourmands, and most major metropolitan areas are culinary destinations in their own right. What cities do you think should’ve made the list? Tell us by sharing a comment here or over at Facebook.

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants: Our Diners Have Spoken

top kid friendly restaurants Best Kid Friendly Restaurants: Our Diners Have SpokenWondering where to dine out with your children this summer? Wonder no more. The winners of our 2009 Diners’ Choice Awards for Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants are in! Derived from more than 2.5 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 9,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list makes it easier than ever for parents and children alike to enjoy going out to eat.

Gracing this year’s list are restaurants ranging from Manhattan’s Blue Smoke and Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor to America in Washington, D.C. and Chenery Park in San Francisco, proving that dining out with children doesn’t mean downscale fare. This list of winners confirms that some of the nation’s best restaurants are embracing diners of all ages, making foodies out of even four- and five-year-olds.

See the full list of winners here, and use it to help you make the most of your time together as a family this summer and beyond.

It’s Here: OpenTable Mobile App for the Palm Pre

palm pre6 It’s Here: OpenTable Mobile App for the Palm PreToday, we are happy to introduce the newest member of our OpenTable Mobile family — OpenTable for webOS. If you’re a proud owner of a Palm® Pre™, you can now take advantage of OpenTable on the sleek webOS interface, which enables you to search for available restaurants nearby and reserve tables instantly. In addition, we are adding the following features on mobile for the first time:

  • Reserve Bonus Point times – that’s right 1,000-Point reservations!
  • Access our “Special Requests for the Maitre ‘D” feature.
  • Read reviews from fellow OpenTable diners about the restaurant.
  • Add reservations to your Palm’s calendar.
  • Modify a reservation with an updated time or party size.

We really hope OpenTable diners enjoy this app. Please tell your friends about it using the “Share/Save” tool below, and read more about it here.

Josh Garnier is an OpenTable Product Manager.

OpenTable for iPhone 2.0: A Look Ahead (and Back)

img 199x300 OpenTable for iPhone 2.0: A Look Ahead (and Back)

In a few weeks, OpenTable will be launching our upgraded 2.0 application for the iPhone. We’ve got a sneak peek at what this upgrade will mean for diners below. But, I thought it would be a great time share with our foodie and techie fans how we got here from there.

By “there,” I mean 2001, when the mobile Internet consisted of a handful of WAP-enabled sites with pokey, stripped-down interfaces. Few, if any, were useful, let alone transactional. At that time, OpenTable was still in the early stages of building its network of restaurants in major U.S. cities, and yet, the allure of the mobile web was already there. My predecessors put a toe in the water with the logic that to beat the old way of making restaurant reservations — the telephone — you had to fight fire with fire.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and we all know that the mobile web in 2001 wasn’t ready for prime time – the UI was ugly, the input method cumbersome, and the speed of mobile networks was laughable. Eventually, six long years later, most of these issues had been worked out, but there was still one item missing to make it a killer platform and Apple capitalized on it: location.

By offering location access for free, Apple allowed developers to offer users context. What if I could quickly find restaurants around me and find out if I could snag a table? How about last-minute reservations on the weekends when I am out with friends and away from my laptop? OpenTable seized the opportunity, and in November 2008, we released OpenTable for iPhone 1.0. This time, the mobile stars aligned, and, to date, we’ve seated half a million diners through our iPhone app.

But OpenTable isn’t stopping there. We’re enhancing the online reservation experience on the iPhone with a new version. With OpenTable for iPhone 2.0, you’ll be able to:

  • Make 1,000-point restaurant reservations to earn free meals even faster.
  • Modify reservations to change the date or party size. No more cancelling and hoping you can quickly rebook.
  • Make “Special Requests for the Maitre ‘D” – such as, “Please seat me outside if a table is available,” or “We’ll be dining with a child and will require a high chair,” just as you can on
  • Read restaurants reviews from recent OpenTable diners for reliable recommendations.
  • Move the maps – Apple now supports moveable maps so you can see restaurants at any zoom level you like.

We hope you’ll enjoy this new app. Be on the lookout for it on your App Store application updates. And, for all of you non-iPhone smartphone users out there … Don’t worry! Your time is coming very soon, so stay tuned.

Josh Garnier is an OpenTable Product Manager.

Atlanta Restaurant Week: Dine on $25 Dinners Downtown

atlanta restaurant week1 Atlanta Restaurant Week: Dine on $25 Dinners DowntownAtlanta (aka “Hotlanta”), one of America’s hottest cities for dining out and stepping out, just got even hotter, thanks to the start of Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week. Now through August 9, you can enjoy $25 dinners at some of Atlanta’s top restaurants. Reserve a table today to take advantage of delicious meals at deep discounts in this city steeped in history.

Earn Free Meals with Dining Rewards Points

earn free meals1 Earn Free Meals with Dining Rewards PointsI saw an @OpenTable tweet yesterday that said, “Opentable is a convenient way to reserve at restaurants but does anyone really care about their “Dining Points”?” I was glad to hear that this diner clearly loves our service, but I’m also disappointed that he’d not been taking full advantage of every benefit that comes with using OpenTable — especially our Dining Rewards Program.

Simply put, Dining Rewards Points are like frequent flyer miles for foodies. When you make a restaurant reservation through OpenTable (and honor it), Dining Rewards Points are automatically awarded to your OpenTable account. Standard reservations earn 100 Dining Rewards Points each, but you can earn 1,000 points at a time at select restaurants at select times (look for the “Earn Free Meals Faster/See 1,000 Point Restaurants” link under “Offers and Events” on your OpenTable webpage).

Diners are eligible for a Dining Cheque (good at any restaurant in the OpenTable network) as soon as they earn 2,000 Dining Rewards Points (good for a $20 Dining Cheque) or more. In the U.S., Dining Cheques are available in three denominations: $20, $50 (5,000 points), and $100 (10,000 points). Dining Rewards Points are easily redeemed right on OpenTable.

Ready to start earning free meals? Simply join OpenTable. It’s free, simple, and quick. Still have questions? Read more about OpenTable’s Dining Rewards Program here and here.

The Kids Are Alright: Top 50 Places to Dine with Children

kid friendly restaurants1 The Kids Are Alright: Top 50 Places to Dine with ChildrenKids are people, too. And, just like their mature counterparts, they love to dine out. But, not every restaurant has mastered the art of catering to the smaller set. Some make it easier on the parents or adults accompanying them with mouth-watering menus especially designed with young palates in mind. Others make it easier on kids by having fun activities tucked away in the hostess stand. What they all have in common, though, is a welcoming attitude on the part of restaurateurs that makes both growing and grown-up diners feel at home when they walk through a restaurant’s doors.

Arriving while school is still out for the summer, OpenTable will be revealing the national winners of the OpenTable 2009 Diners’ Choice awards for “Top 50 Kid-Friendly Restaurants.” Check back next Wednesday to find out the very best establishments for sharing a great meal with the children in your life, wherever you live.