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Zofari App is 'Pandora for Places' in Chicago Neighborhoods, Creator Says

By Kyla Gardner | December 16, 2013 6:46am
 The "Zofari" app is called the "Pandora for places."
The "Zofari" app is called the "Pandora for places."
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CHICAGO — Nate Weinstein is trying to figure out why you like your favorite restaurant.

Like maybe that Italian place around the corner — "You don’t love it because it has spaghetti, you love it because it's Bohemian and has fun beers and has spaghetti," Weinstein said.

Weinstein's free Zofari app tries to identify those aspects of user's favorite bars, restaurants and neighborhoods — and then tell them what else they might like.

He calls the app the "Pandora for places" after the music-streaming website.

"The idea was, we were really tired of spending all this time looking at our phones, reading reviews, and finding out where to go," he said. His goal is to make that process shorter: "Less time looking at your phone, more time exploring."

Weinstein and his team mined U.S. Census, public and commercial data to assign places tags and categories.

Lincoln Park, for example, garners the tags of "bar crawl" for its pubs and "vanilla" for "not the most diverse place in the world."

Other tags spotted while browsing places on the app include: "slooooooow," "tourist mecca," "sceney," "melting pot," "hipster's paradise" and "F-ing party time."

The 33-year-old founder chose to focus on Chicago for an initial market because it has a "richer data set," and four of his five team members have ties to the city. Weinstein lived in Wrigleyville and Logan Square before moving to San Francisco.

So far, the most popular Chicago places users have created stations from are Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square, and Violet Hour, 1520 N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park, he said.

Places can also be given a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to further customize a station.

So far, the app has data from 16 cities, so users can ask it for recommendations when traveling, too. For instance, asking the app to "show me the Wicker Park of San Francisco," Weinstein said.