You’re looking for a restaurant and you want advice from people who really pay attention to the food scene? Welcome to CurEat, a free app that lets users build lists of their favorite places that they can share.
Raleigh entrepreneur Steve Mangano – who travels a lot – started the app because of his own frustration finding reliable restaurant recommendations that weren’t dominated by negative comments, according to Triangle-based marketer Jennifer Noble Kelly, who’s working with the startup.
“It’s really about recommending restaurants, having a positive approach, instead of reviewing,” she says. “How do we cut through all that?”
Kelly says the app, which is available in the iTunes App Store, will focus on independently owned local businesses, not chains.
CurEat lines up “CurEaters” in every city who are visible and add their own favorites. Most are chefs or owners of local businesses who are plugged in about the food world. Since the app launched in Raleigh in January, there are a lot of Triangle-based food names, such as James Beard Award winner Ashley Christensen.
They aren’t paid, and Kelly said none will be members of the media, including bloggers or publicists.
So far, Charlotte only has two official CurEaters: pastry chef Ashley Bivens Boyd of 300 East and Heritage and executive chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom. But more are coming, Kelly said. Jason Alexander of Free Range Brewing, Paul Verica of Heritage and Kris Reid of the Piedmont Culinary Guild are expected to be added soon. She expects there to eventually be 20 in Charlotte.
Asheville also has been added to the app, and Charleston is expected by April. The app has lists for 60 cities so far, although the information is still being updated. For instance, in Charlotte, Nan & Byron’s is still listed even though it closed in the fall.
Official “CurEaters” aren’t the only lists you can see, though. Any user can create and share lists, including lists in other cities that they visit or for particular kinds of places, and you can follow people who have tastes similar to yours. For instance, one chef in Raleigh has a list about family-friendly places where he goes with his kids.
“It’s not a best-restaurants-in-Raleigh list,” Kelly says. “A list can be anything. People are getting creative with it. You’re going to follow people who have tastes like you.”
The lists can react to your location, she says. So, for instance, if you’re in New York near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can look and see places someone has listed nearby. Or if you’re in Asheville and know you’re going to be in a particular neighborhood around lunch, the app could show you what Rhubarb chef John Fleer likes in that neighborhood.
Until Feb. 26, they’re donating $1 to Greenville, S.C.’s Harvest Hope Food Bank for every app download and for every food image posted on social media with the tags @cureatapp and #CurEat.
In the Triangle, Mangano is known for helping to bring the 21c Museum Hotel to Durham. He also was a partner in Greenfire Development, a real estate firm that helped a number of small food businesses find spaces in older buildings in downtown Durham. Mangano will be in Charlotte for the Piedmont Culinary Guild’s symposium March 11-12 at the Art Institute of Charlotte.
“He sees it as a great story for this area, where food and tech sort of meet,” Kelly says.