The concept behind UrbanBuddy is pretty ingenious: enter a question about a particular city into an iPhone app, then have it promptly answered by a real-live resident of the city in question. It’s like a hyper-local ChaCha or KGB Answers (remember those guys?), or a more personable alternative to the old JFGI method. Find yourself in say, London, text UrbanBuddy, and a Londoner will offer advice on where to grab beers. And it’s free.
To test the app, we, as real-live residents of New York, decided to give it some questions that went beyond the typical “How do I get to Brooklyn? What’s the best comedy club in Times Square?” type of fare a tourist might throw at it. It did pretty good.
First, as a product of a conversation we were having in the office, we asked where we could find a few of New York’s most beguiling creatures: black squirrels. UrbanBuddy’s response went far beyond our meager knowledge (“There are lots in Stuy-Town,” “I think I’ve seen one in Riverdale”).
Hello! I recommend entering Central Park around the Strawberry Fields area (Central Park West between 71st and 74th Streets) There’s a family of dark Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) living in the southwest area of the park. Also, you could hang out in Ft. Tryon Park a bit more uptown where they’ve been known to hang out. As long as you’re up there head to Bette Midler’s restaurant ‘New Leaf’ for one of the most old school New York meals in the city. Thank you for using UrbanBuddy, enjoy!
Okay, possibly a little product placement for Bette Midler at the end there, but otherwise, not bad! Even a scientific name! And a quick Google search reveals black squirrels do turn up in both Ft. Tryon and Strawberry fields. This answer took about ten minutes to arrive.
Next: Is the G Train really as bad as my friends say it is?
Yes…However in all honestly they’ve gotten much better over the last couple of years. Just give yourself some extra time and make sure to pick up the AMNY to distract yourself with just in case you’re waiting a while. Once you’re on the train it’s smooth sailing, it’s more of it’s infrequent schedule that makes it so annoying. With that being said, In my personal opinion it makes Greenpoint that much more of a hot spot to hang out in because it loses the negative nelly’s from coming to the hood :) Thank you for using UrbanBuddy, go explore!
Okay, I definitely won’t be picking up AM New York on my way, but I appreciate the sentiment. And the writer’s assessment of the train–pain in the ass to wait for, not bad at all once you’re actually on it–is spot-on.
After a few more questions on Cronuts, Carlos Danger, and Red Hook restaurants, we decided to try and throw UrbanBuddy a loop. How do you get to Mars Bar, the (years-closed) grimy East Village institution?
Hello! Sadly Mars Bar is closed, it used to be at 25 East 1st Street in the East Village. If you’re looking for something similar I would suggest Rudy’s on 9th and 44. It’s a classic NYC dive bar and I’ve always left with a smile on my face. They have cheap drinks, chill vibes, a nice outdoor patio and you get FREE HOT DOGS with your order! I can’t not mention the fact that my all time favorite surf bar in the city is also just across the street, Reunions Surf Bar. If you’re still hungry stop in for their amazing fish tacos. Thank you for using UrbanBuddy, have fun!
At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised that the app knew it was closed. What is notable, though, is that UrbanBuddy recommended Rudy’s, a (much less divey) bar just blocks away from my office. Is that what that location permission was about? Anyway, I don’t love Rudy’s–the few times I’ve been in there it was clogged to the gills with business-y happy-hour types, but Reunion, the bar UrbanBuddy mentions is across the street, with its so-schticky-it’s-great west-coast surf aesthetic, is one of the best bars in the neighborhood. I’ll take it.
The verdict: as long as you don’t mind waiting a few minutes for answers and the occasional possibly paid-for plug (still scratching my head over the AMNY thing), you could do a lot worse than UrbanBuddy.