LAKE TAHOE — The evolution of smartphones coupled with a multitude of website forums allowing people to write restaurant reviews and criticisms before they take their final bite is making the decision on where to eat more difficult than ever before.But what base do these visiting critics have to stand on, and what would their local counterparts have to say about their hometown watering holes and favorite hotspots?A new online, Tahoe-based restaurant guide has been established to take on just that.TahoeDine.com, launched in January this year, is putting more than 300 Tahoe/Truckee restaurants together on one site where customers can access complete menus, connect with other restaurant review pages, make reservations and find out where the locals like to dine. Founded by local foodie Trent Jones, owner of the Incline Village-based Tahoe Deliver, TahoeDine.com aims to be a one-stop site providing the area's largest restaurant directory under one web page.“We're not trying to beat Yelp — we want to let them handle the reviews, let Open Table handle the reservations, let the delivery restaurants handle their deliveries,” Jones said. “We just want to connect all of them and put all the local restaurants together on one map.”The idea for Tahoe Dine came about when Jones was driving around North Lake Tahoe, searching for a restaurant to fill his empty stomach. Without a lot of online options to browse local menus, Jones drove from his hometown of Incline Village all the way to Truckee in pursuit of a dish to quell whatever it was he was craving.“... I thought how cool would it be if we could get every restaurant online and put them all in one place without them having to pay for it,” Jones said. “With the help of big name advertisers, we're able to put small taqueras and hot dog stands online.”For restaurants like Austin's Restaurant in Incline Village, the menu was already available on its website, but having an additional outlet to expose its homemade cuisine has already provided a boost in business. “The website is really impressive, and the scope of it is huge, and we've already gotten quite a few calls from people finding us on Tahoe Dine that maybe we wouldn't have gotten before,” said John Brimm, owner of Austin's.“We even use Tahoe Dine when we're at home and don't know what we feel like eating,” added Ashley Brimm, John's wife and co-owner of Austin's. Customers can write reviews on Tahoe Dine and find links to their favorite restaurants, but Jones intends to keep everything food-related, with less emphasis on factors like location and service.“A lot of times, a restaurant doesn't have a choice on location, so it could be the worst view, but the best food you've ever had, so if we can take that equation out and keep it about the food, maybe more people will try places they normally wouldn't go to,” Jones said. “Let's be like Switzerland and let the people decide.” Although Yelp is based in San Francisco, Jones foresees a future expansion of Tahoe Dine to the Bay Area as a way to supplement the Yelp community with a menu-based, food-emphasized website. “I have some friends in San Francisco who are excited about what we're doing up here with Tahoe Dine, so I can definitely see a possible expansion to the Bay Area and even a Hawaii Dine,” Jones said.Jones is also preparing to launch a text message service this summer, which would alert Tahoe Dine subscribers of happy hour deals and specials at their favorite restaurants. “If a coupon is available and out there, it should be advertised through Tahoe Dine — it doesn't make sense for a restaurant to have a special and not tell anybody about it,” Jones said. “For now, we're looking for a title sponsor, someone who wants to advertise with this type of media outlet like the Ritz or the Hyatt, so that we can keep moving forward.”
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