Food & Drink

New restaurant tool puts health inspections, reviews at your fingertips

Consider: It’s almost lunchtime. You want to hit up somewhere close to the office. Some place that gets decent reviews and clean health inspections. What do you do?

You fire up Google, and you map around looking for what’s nearby. Find something appealing, so you open a new tab and search for reviews on, say, or Yelp. OK, but how to be sure the place wasn’t shut down last week for a rodent infestation in the walk-in fridge? Open another tab and try to navigate the state’s inspection database.

By the time you gather all the information you want, you are frustrated, hangry and liable to just go get a Publix sub. Again.

It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. The new Dining Adviser — live this week after months of behind-the-scenes development — harnesses all of that information and puts it in the palm of your hand.

Go to from your smartphone, tablet or desktop, and have immediate access to:

▪ Health Inspections: Dining Adviser pulls inspection data from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website, letting you see up-to-the-minute information like inspectors’ notes and specific violations. With one click, find out what South Florida restaurants have had to temporarily shut down due to failed inspections, what restaurants have perfect bills of health, and what has been flagged for recent roach or rodent activity.

▪ Restaurant Reviews: Pull up our critics’ latest reviews, search by star rating or scan archived reviews dating to 2008. You can also quickly see what a restaurant’s aggregate Yelp and Google ratings are, or click to read customer reviews.

▪ Directions, Hours, Prices: Search for restaurants by name, location, cuisine, price, or ones that have been recently reviewed or inspected. Dining Adviser also can figure out your specific location and show you what’s in that area. Select a restaurant, and up comes everything you need to know: hours, a website link, a number to call for reservations, a map to click for directions, plus latest health inspections and reviews.

While Dining Adviser is great Web-based tool to use from a desktop or laptop, as in our opening hypothetical, our design team worked to ensure its usefulness on-the-go. Dining Adviser responds to whatever device you’re using, be it a smartphone or tablet, adapting to fit the screen and reduce clutter or unnecessary scrolling.

It even works like an app — when you visit from a smartphone or tablet, you’ll see an icon appear at the bottom of the screen asking if you’d like to save Dining Adviser to your homescreen. Choose yes, and you’ll have one-touch access whenever you need it.

Evan S. Benn is Miami Herald food editor and restaurants editor. Follow him on Twitter: @EvanBenn.