The latest in a wave of personal assistant-style apps is Alfred. The app, which supports iPhone and iPod Touch, is a foodie-centered personal robot that tells you where to get grub, based on your provided preferences.
You can teach Alfred from the start, but how much information you give at the beginning is up to you. The more you teach Alfred, the more specific to your tastes its recommendations will be. Upon launch, Alfred asks a series of questions, such as: What’s your favorite restaurant? What establishments you frequent for lunch, brunch or Saturday night out. After you type in the answers, Alfred will prompt you with restaurants it thinks you would like. If the app is right, tap the entry to check it — this is the info Alfred will use when you ask for suggestions later on. Alfred did struggle with duplicate entries here, and often when searching chain information, the locations it suggested would be miles away — sometimes even out of state.
Once Alfred has some info to work on, he’ll give you suggestions based on your selected category: quick picks, dessert, coffee & tea, lunch, dinner, drinks, nightlife, breakfast or brunch. Above each listing, Alfred will tell you why he’s recommending it. If you like the suggestion, give it a thumbs-up. If not, tap thumbs-down. Alfred will use the ratings to retool its suggestions immediately. You can use the pop-up menu to call the establishment, add it to your places, or view it on an in-line map. Tap directly on a listing to view the menu, photos or places fans like. Alfred will also share what he’s learned, based on reading available reviews, such as how many dubbed a location best brunch or noted that it has great pastries. There’s also a filter that can narrow your results by distance, price, cuisine or feature such as free Wi-Fi or similarity to another venue.
I found Alfred to be a pretty slick app and its recommendations to be plentiful and mostly accurate — at least in a restaurant-laden town such as Chicago. I’m not sure where Alfred pulls its information from, but the selections provided for a smaller Midwestern ZIP code were less diverse. That said, Alfred is free, so the only thing you’ll lose by giving the app a try is the few minutes you spend teaching it your prefs.