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UrbanDaddy's iPhone 'concierge': Nice start, not there yet

Using a Mad-Libs format, the app promises to find you the right dining or nightlife fit. Cool, but can we at least get an indication of how much money it'll set us back?

I ended up spending the Memorial Day holiday weekend in Las Vegas, a city in which I do not set foot particularly often. When I wasn't partaking in my preferred activity of lounging by the hotel pool with a good book and a pina colada (yes, that's right, I don't gamble), I decided to test-drive a new iPhone app. Namely, it's the free app from lifestyle e-newsletter UrbanDaddy, which hit the iTunes App Store earlier this week.

UrbanDaddy--which operates city-specific newsletters for New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, and Los Angeles, as well as a "national" edition and a weekly travel guide--targets the young, louche, and well-moneyed, or at least those who want to be. Its newsletters frequently cover high-end restaurant and bar openings, as well as exotic vacation destinations. For its iPhone app, the company opted to build an automated "concierge" that will suggest activities for you if you fill in what you're looking for.

The interface and concept are very, very cool. It's like playing a Mad-Libs game to find out what you can do that day or night: the app will fill in your time and location, and then you specify what you're looking for (dinner, drinks, dancing, etc.) and who you're with (parents, friends, boss, ex) and then a few options for the situation. When I was looking for a Sunday brunch in Vegas, for example, the options included "and we want great bacon," "and we want champagne," or "and we're hung over." Like I said, very cool setup.

The results, however, were lacking. UrbanDaddy CEO Lance Broumand told me that the directory has been curated to only include establishments that fit the tastes of the newsletter's discerning target audience, which meant that my "and we want great bacon" brunch selection would not be bringing up the local Denny's. That said, the app only brings up very basic contact information for the restaurant or bar it's chosen for you--no hints at prices, no reviews from users, no tips like "the drink menu is really girly," "crowd is full of d-bags on Friday nights," or "vegetarians need not apply."

I realize that both the serendipity factor and the "money's not an issue" overtones are part of UrbanDaddy's carefully constructed image (complete with a Lexus sponsorship), but it certainly puts a damper on how helpful it can be when you're in an unfamiliar city.

These things, obviously, can come in version 2.0. But for now--especially in Vegas, where things can be alternately rock-bottom-cheap or unexpectedly expensive--it was too much of a gamble (ha, ha) for my tastes. After an unsuccessful quest to find great bacon, I went right back to the lounge chair by the pool.

This post was updated at 3:50 p.m. PT to correct the list of cities for which UrbanDaddy publishes newsletters.