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9 best food delivery apps and how to choose among them

You'll probably be surprised to realize how many options there are to use your phone to get a meal delivered from a restaurant nearby.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When you're stuck in your pajamas and there's no food in the fridge, you don't have to settle for pizza delivery anymore. Whether you love piping hot Texas barbecue, savory Szechuan beef or a fresh acai bowl, you can now get it delivered to your door with a few taps on an app -- and in roughly the same time as the average pizza delivery.

You're missing out if you haven't explored the wide variety of cuisines that the best restaurant delivery apps have to offer for iOS and Android. They make it easy to order guilty pleasures from fast-food joints (like Burger King, McDonald's or Taco Bell), everyday favorites from popular chains (including BJ's Restaurants and Brewhouse, California Pizza Kitchen and TGI Fridays), or local ethnic favorites -- from Afghani to Burmese to Zimbabwean food.

You can even get a fine dining experience since some of the Android and iOS apps we're going to tell you about provide delivery service from premium restaurants. Others will raise your spirits further with wine, beer and mixed drinks.

Most of these food delivery services entice users with free delivery on their first order and special coupons you'll find in the app or your email box, so they make it pretty enticing to give them a try.

caviar

Top of the chart: Caviar

Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

The creme de la creme: Caviar

Available in 21 major cities and markets, Caviar (Android, iOS) lets you order menu items from a wide variety of restaurants, quickly and efficiently. You can also order for pickup.

To create an account, add your name, email, password and phone number. Then share your location with the app, so it can find restaurants near you. Add your address for delivery and then save your address for future orders. 

Beautifully designed, Caviar is easy to get around. The address field is up top, so you can set your delivery location and delivery time or skip the delivery fee and make arrangements for pickup. Underneath is a search field to search for items or restaurants, which incorporate 20 unique cuisines. Or you can scroll down to see eateries that serve your area. 

You can browse all the restaurants near you or perform a keyword search or search by curated collections, including Staff Picks, Only Available on Caviar, Free Delivery, Delivery Under 30 Minutes, Trending Dishes, New, Healthy, or Can't Get a Reservation. Here you'll also find sections organized around items, such as Chicken, Pizza, or Thai, as well as magazine-curated collections. Swipe left to right under any of these options to see more choices in the carousel.

Unlike some competing apps that seem to focus more on fast-food chains, Caviar, as its name implies, includes fancier restaurants in its roster along with some more affordable eateries.

Browse mouthwatering photo-driven menus from restaurants near you, so you know precisely what you're getting. In contrast to other apps, every item we saw here had a picture, so you know precisely what to expect from your dish.

To order, just tap any item or restaurant (and then any item) to add it to your cart. You can also add any special requests for the restaurant here, such as the all-important "Extra Ranch Dressing." Then tap View Cart and see a breakdown of your bill, which includes a delivery fee, based on travel time from the restaurant, along with a service fee of 18 percent, and add your payment info (and a promo code, if you have one) and then tap the Schedule Delivery Order tab.

If you allow push notifications, then you'll get updates about your delivery. But if you're too impatient to wait, then you can track the location of your meal with real-time GPS.

doordash
Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For the most cities: DoorDash

Available in over 1,200 cities in the US and Canada, DoorDash (Android, iOS) boasts the widest selection of both local eateries and national chains, with over 110,000 restaurant menus.

Register with your first name, last name, email address, phone number and password. Then input your physical address and any special instructions, such as where to park.

Launch the DoorDash app's default food page, and you'll be greeted with a nice UI that's easy to traverse and beautiful to look at. You'll find curated collections of restaurants, such as Featured Partners, Try Me Free and Free Delivery, boasting mouthwatering food photos. Scroll down further to check out all restaurant partners, from fast food chains to sit-down restaurants, encompassing 30 cuisines. There aren't, however, any premium restaurants represented on the food delivery app.

Open any restaurant page and see a swipeable carousel of popular items to choose from with a full menu underneath. Tap the Drinks button on the bottom rail to get beer, wine, spirit and mixer delivery from wine and liquor stores. Some of these liquor establishments also offer food delivery -- mostly snacks.

Tap any items to add them to your order. When you're done, tap the View Cart button, and if everything looks good, tap the Checkout button. Add a tip, select your payment info, whether you want to pay by card or Apple Pay (on iPhone), and then tap Place Order to complete the ordering process.

While DoorDash does not force order minimums, the service's sometimes pricey delivery fees often include an extra service fee and even surge pricing during busy times. That may be cost-prohibitive for some. But when you're hungry, DoorDash's wide variety of casual fare and drinks, real-time order tracking and fast delivery speed, exceeding expectations in testing, are priceless.

uber-eats

UberEats is a different app from Uber.

Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For Uber fans: UberEats

Available in major cities around the world, UberEats (Android, iOS) brings you the food you're craving from a variety of restaurants, or grocery stores. Sign up with your Uber account, allow the app access to your location, and you'll see participating restaurants nearby.

UberEats' easy-to-navigate homepage defaults to fast-food, chain and local restaurants near you that are available for delivery or pickup ASAP. Or scroll down to view restaurants under headings like Popular Near You, New on UberEats and More Restaurants or from among 70-plus cuisine categories, divided by ethnicity, food category, or dietary restrictions. Or search for a specific eatery, item, or cuisine type in the top search bar if you already know exactly what you want. Tap any appealing options, and you'll see a menu with recommended items up top. Drool-inducing food photos and reviews will help you make your final decision.

Tap to add an item or items to your cart. Then tap View Cart, and you'll view and confirm your delivery address, an estimated delivery time and your final order price, including tax and delivery fee, which is $5 to start, but can go up when UberEats drivers are busier.

Tap Place Order to conveniently pay with your Uber account, or add a credit card. Then track your meal with real-time tracking in the app.

grubhub

Grubhub connects you with restaurants.

Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For no added delivery fees: Grubhub

The Grubhub app (Android, iOS) can help you to restaurant pickup and delivery from local restaurants serving 50-plus cuisines. To start using Grubhub, just enter a delivery address, and you'll be served a list of restaurants that'll deliver to you, so you can see if it's worth signing up for the app before you're forced to "fork over" your personal information.

In Grubhub, you can just search for an item that appeals to you, pick the restaurant to get it from, select it off the menu and order. You can even search for restaurants with coupon discounts. Open any restaurant page to get a full menu, with Most Popular items up top. Tap the About tab to get address info and operating hours and Reviews to get customers' recommendations. You'll also get exclusive promos in the app.

Grubhub doesn't even charge you for delivery (any delivery fees are set by the restaurant) and accepts credit cards, gift cards and many of today's popular payment services, like Apple Pay, PayPal, Amex Express Checkout and now Venmo. Better yet, your last payment method is saved to be automatically used the next time you place an order.

Easily track your order with updates and alerts from the app.

eat24
Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For community-powered selections: Eat24

Owned by Grubhub and powered by Grubhub's engine, the Eat24 app (Android, iOS) brings you food delivery or pickup from local fast-food, fast casual and nicer sit-down restaurants. Like Grubhub, there are 50 cuisine types to choose from, so you'll be able to satisfy all your cravings or dietary restrictions. Exclusive promos (and no unexpected delivery fees) in the Eat24 app sweeten the deal. 

Still not sure what to order? Read customers' ratings and reviews of participating restaurants from Eat24's robust -- and vocal -- dining community. You'll also get recommendations of what to order at each restaurant.

But if you're already using Grubhub, you may find this app too much of a carbon copy to bother with after you get free delivery on that first order.

beyondmenu

You get delivery and resos in one app with BeyondMenu.

Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For eating in and out: BeyondMenu 

Available nationally and with no added delivery fees, BeyondMenu (Android, iOS) enables you to search restaurants, order pickup and delivery, and make reservations at restaurants near you. 

You'll have thousands of restaurants to choose from across over 40 cuisine types, organized around ethnicity, time of day, food items or dietary restrictions. Tap any restaurant, and you will see its menu. If you can't decide on a restaurant, a good review from customers or coupon may help, and BeyondMenu has plenty of both.

Ordering from BeyondMenu is easy. Simply add an item or items to your cart, and then choose pickup or delivery. Then choose your payment type (cash, credit card, or Apple Pay) and place your order. But if you choose to pay by credit card, you won't even have to input your credit card info. You can just scan it in with your phone's camera. 

Unlike most competing restaurant delivery apps, BeyondMenu allows you to make reservations for a sit-down meal should decide to eat out.

postmates
Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For 24/7 service: Postmates 

Place your order on the Postmates app (Android, iOS), available in most US cities and Mexico City, and it'll be delivered directly to your doorstep for a fee. Or you can skip the delivery fee and just order for pickup.

Postmates asks you to provide access to your location and sign up with Facebook or an email address and password.

Unlike competing apps, Postmates can deliver your restaurant meals from fast food, major chains and hip local eateries, but the service can also deliver groceries, alcohol, gifts and more.

Search by curated collections, organized around the newest restaurants, employee picks, and what's available quickly, or search by keyword. To add an item to your cart, just tap it, then View Order, confirm your address, add your payment info and confirm your order.

Unlike competing services, which often exclude top-drawer restaurants and make their last delivery before midnight, Postmates partners with some of the finest local restaurants and offers 24/7 service, which means it'll deliver as long as the restaurant or grocery or liquor store is still serving.

For all this convenience, Postmates charges a $3.99 to $9.99 delivery fee, plus a variable percentage-based service fee during busy times. Thankfully, Postmates offers great deals to help offset pricey delivery fees.

Or you can subscribe to the Postmates Unlimited program for $9.99 per month (or $83.99 per year) and get all orders over $20 with free delivery. If this sounds like a plan, then sign up under Settings, and then "Postmates Unlimited" in the menu.

seamless
Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For the Big Apple: Seamless

Also owned by Grubhub, Seamless (Android, iOS) operates the same way Grubhub does, bringing you delivery from some of the hottest chains and local restaurants. The easy search, exclusive promos, convenient payment options (now including Venmo), real-time order tracking and no added delivery fees are all there, but unlike Grubhub and Eat24, Seamless only offers 25 cuisine types, half of what's offered by its sister apps. But if you're already on Grubhub or Eat24 even, there's not much incentive to use Seamless, other than getting that first delivery free.

However, where Seamless is really focused is in New York City, where most restaurants use it. So if you live in NYC, or you're traveling there, then putting Seamless on your phone is a no-brainer.

delivery-com
Screenshots by Josh Rotter/Download

For more than just food: Delivery.com

Like Postmates, Delivery.com (Android, iOS), available in hundreds of cities across the US, brings you restaurant orders, groceries and spirits, and even wash-and-fold services or dry cleaning from your local cleaners. 

Delivery.com was designed to make it easy to navigate all of its many offerings on even the smallest of devices. Your address and delivery preference are on the top rail. Tap it to modify either or to toggle from delivery to pickup. Underneath you can switch among Food, Alcohol, Groceries and Laundry sections, depending on your need.

If you know what you're hungry for, you can search for places, cuisines and dishes in the top search bar under Food. But if you're not sure, Delivery.com will suggest popular restaurants, encompassing 39 cuisines, near you. Check Delivery.com ratings or toggle to Yelp ratings, so you can sift through the chaff.

With every order you place, you'll earn Delivery Points. You can redeem these points for credits on future orders and more. You'll also get exclusive app-only discounts and promotions.