Just as Twitter has made everyone a news source with their respective followers, Yelp has made everyone a Zagat reviewer (without the prestige of actually being one). This idea isn’t new, and neither is the app, or service, but I’ve always relied on Google maps and its Google reviews as a barometer for whether or not a place was worthy of a stop.

Yelp combines Google Maps-style location with Zagat style reviews and Instagram-style pictures to give you a complete and deep understanding of a restaurant before you even step through the door. If you’re a food lover like me, seeing actual pictures of your meal and user accounts of the service is an invaluable tool to have, especially in an area you’ve never been to before.

One of the coolest aspects of the app is the “monocle,” which uses your camera and overlays the restaurant’s name, star rating, type, price range, and distance so your phone becomes an augmented reality window into information. It’s quite useful if you’re wondering “what’s that place over there like?,” getting rid of the need to open up a maps app and go a few layers deep to get the information you actually want.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of Yelp, but when all three friends look at you like you’ve been living under a rock, it’s amazing how quickly an app can be added to your repertoire.

[ Julian Blunt works for Lakeland-based DSM Technology Consultants. ]