On Mondays we focus on technology. Today we look at Web sites that bring hungry Web surfers together with their favorite foods. Plenty of sites on the Internet allow ordinary people to review restaurants. And good reviews on sites like Chowhound and Yelp can help a restaurant. Now tech-savvy food lovers are creating a new kind of culinary Web site that steers people towards smaller, harder to find eateries.
Cyrus Farivar reports.
CYRUS FARIVAR: It's a Friday evening in Sacramento, California, and Joshua Lurie-Terrell is setting out for an early dinner at one of his favorite taco trucks in the northern part of town.
Mr. JOSHUA LURIE-TERRELL (Creator, Yumtacos.com): (Unintelligible)
Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)
Mr. LURIE-TERRELL: Yeah. I'll have a bottle of water too.
FARIVAR: He's the creator of YumTacos.com, an online map of taco trucks in the United States. It's a great example of a new category of Web sites that alerts people to small restaurants that probably would never make it into a fancy food guide. It focuses primarily on California. Lurie-Terrell lives here in Sacramento.
Mr. LURIE-TERRELL: You know, I was keeping a list. I carry a little notebook usually around with me. I don't have it right now. I was keeping a list, and as soon as a couple of friends of mine knew I had this list, people were calling me all the time saying, you know, I'm in the south area, I'm really hungry, it's like 10:00 o'clock, I had (unintelligible) already this week, I need something different. I'd say, oh, taco truck at, you know, the corner of 65th and Stockton, and there they were.
FARIVAR: From there it was a short leap to compiling this information on an online map. He's a graphic designer by trade and loves maps. Plus, his wife is a cartographer. Once he had the map, people from around the country started writing in.
Mr. LURIE-TERRELL: There's several in Baltimore, Maryland, which was kind of surprising to me. I've been to Baltimore many times, and it did not seem like the kind of place where you had any hope of finding authentic Mexican food.
FARIVAR: Lurie-Terrell is turning people onto small businesses that they might not otherwise find. One of the earliest food maps was made by Adam Kuban, the founder of SliceNY.com, a blog devoted to pizza, and specifically New York pizza.
Mr. ADAM KUBAN (SliceNY.com): I could just as easily put the pizzerias in a list, say, in the sidebar or some such, but the advantage of having it on a map is that it's visual and people can click on it. They can zoom into their neighborhood and see, like, hey, there's five pizza slices here, which is what I use on the map - pizza slices - for my pinpoints. That means there's good stuff around me. And then they can go and look and see where it is.
FARIVAR: But what if your neighborhood is the entire country? That was the problem for Brian Hui(ph), a graduate student at the University of Southern California, who splits his time between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Wey is like a lot of Chinese immigrants who don't cook. They comprise a large market of people nationwide who want a little taste of home.
That's how Chinesefoodmap.com was born, an entirely Chinese language site with reviews plotted in major metro areas around the country, including Houston, Seattle and Atlanta. But chances are your favorite local Chinese restaurant isn't on the list.
Mr. BRIAN HUI (Chinesefoodmap.com): And the Chinese restaurant for Chinese here, and the Chinese restaurant for non-Chinese, is kind of totally different. That's why Chinese people need a Web site for themselves.
FARIVAR: If you can't read Chinese and feel like you're missing out on the good stuff, fear not. Wey wants to help his favorite Chinese restaurants get new non-Chinese customers. He plans on completing an English version of the site by the end of the summer.
For NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar.
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