I love yelp.com, which I use as an application on my iPhone but is also available on the Web.
It uses GPS to show where you are in the world on a Google map, then you can search for nearby restaurants, bars, record stores, you name it, and pins that match your search land all over the map.
An example of why it's so great: It helped me realize there are three Laos restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin, where I am right now. (Strange. I don't think there are three Laos restaurants in all of Washington DC!)
By the look of the Vientiane Palace, I would have never ventured inside. But the customer reviews gave me reason to believe it was worth a try. And the customers were right about four things:
-- The customer service was non-existent and actually mean.
-- The steak salad and pad Lao (like pad Thai but subtly different in many ways) were not much to look at but were an amazing taste experience. (I had never had Laos food before and wanted to try it since that's all I'll be eating in about a week. Check back here for more on that later.)
-- These dishes are not American-caliber spicy. I ordered "medium" spice and it was sweat-inducing Vindaloo hot.
-- It affected my stomach, which was moving around and making funny noises within 30 minutes after finishing the meal.
Bottom line: The food was so good that it was easy to disregard the negatives of this restaurant. Can't wait to be in Laos. Thanks yelp.
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