4/06/2014

Table set for 18, purple linens and black chairs.Planning a birthday party is challenging, especially if you want to do something different and unique. Going out to dinner and drinks with friends is fun, but it adds up quickly, and if you have a big group, it can be hard to make it feel intimate.I love being able to tap my phone and get stuff, so when I heard about KitchenSurfing, I thought it would be awesome to plan a birthday party by not only using KS, but other on-demand, service oriented start-ups.

KitchenSurfing lets you find local chefs that will come to your home and cook for you. You can search for a chef by cuisine (Mexican, Thai, BBQ, etc), specialty (vegan, gluten-free, kosher, etc), or you can enter information about the meal you have in mind (including budget) and they'll match you up with a chef. The chefs even bring all the pots/pans/tools they need to make the meal for you. No dishes FTW!

Now that I knew what I wanted to do for my birthday, it was planning time. The guest list came to about 20 people, and I first needed to figure out how much money this birthday dinner party of mine would cost. What I really wanted to avoid is the old familiar situation where a big group goes out to a dinner party at a restaurant and you really have no idea how much you are going to spend until the check comes, then everyone usually ends up splitting the bill and someone always get shafted because they had a few less drinks than their fellow diners. 

Screenshot of my successful Crowdtilt campaign.
I also didn't want to start reserving and ordering things without knowing if everyone would be willing to commit. What if people didn't like me or didn't like me enough to spend $60 each (perhaps their love only extended to $40)? I also really wanted to avoid having all of my guests show up with cash because I didn't want everyone else to have to worry about remembering to bring money, and knowing that I would be drinking all night, I did not trust myself to carry around a wallet full of cash. This is where Crowdtilt came into play.

Crowdtilt is a website that lets you pool money from a group of people. Basically, I Kickstarted my birthday party. You set up an event or fundraiser and add details, then decide how much money you want to pool. You can either set a minimum amount that each person has to contribute, or you can just set an overall amount and let everyone contribute whatever amount they want. Then you pick how long you want the campaign to go. The best part about Crowdtilt: everyone is charged only if the campaign "tilts", meaning enough people contribute and the minimum amount is reached. If my campaign didn't tilt, this blog post would end right here, but good news: mine tilted! If you want to try it on your own here is a link for $20 towards your first campaign on Crowdtilt.

Luckily, my good friends were willing to host the party at their place since their apartment is big enough to hold 18 people. However, no one living in Boston has enough tables and chairs for an 18 person dinner party (well at least no one I know). It was incredibly hard to find a place that would let me rent a small number of tables and chairs and be able to deliver them where and when we needed. Unfortunately, there are no startups in the party supplies rental space. I got nervous for a little bit as most vendors had large minimums for delivery. This was actually the hardest part of the party to plan, but I eventually found Rental Depot Boston and they made it happen.

Drizly Liquor Order
Next, I needed to order the essentials (plates, napkins, silverware, etc.). I decided to use Instacart for this, since I've had such good experiences with them in the past. They are a grocery delivery service that lets you place an order online from grocery stores near you (Whole Foods, Market Basket, Shaw's, even Costco!) and they'll deliver everything to your door. If you want to know more about them, check out my blog post on comparing Instacart to Peapod and my review of the service.

Now the most important part: alcohol. I used Drizly, which is an app that lets you order booze and have it delivered from nearby liquor stores. They only took about 30 minutes to deliver, which is awesome. However, the app doesn't support multiple addresses, which was a little inconvenient as I drink in multiple places. I had to change all of the info on my profile in order to have everything delivered to my friends' place, and now I'll have to change everything back next time I want alcohol delivered to my apartment. You also can't sort by price or schedule a delivery in advance, which would be nice features to have. But all-in-all it's a great service, especially if you run out of booze halfway through a party (buzzkill literally) and don't want to have to run out to pick up more. Right now, Gilt City is offering a promo code for free Drizly delivery for a year ($20 minimum orders). 

Not actually Stephen Coe, his Sous Chef
Back to KitchenSurfing, I decided to go with Stephen Coe because I really liked his tasting menu, which offered five different courses. He also had a lot of positive reviews. I'm very hands-on and wanted to be very involved in the menu, which meant more work and many more emails to finalize everything, but if you're less picky, you could just select from the sample menus on their site or give the chef your price point and have him surprise you. Everything went pretty smooth. The chef arrived on time, was polite, gave a description of each course before serving it, and most importantly the food was tasty. However, about a week later one of my guests emailed me and questioned whether the chef we had was actually Stephen Coe. At first, I thought she was crazy, but after looking at pictures online, I realized that whoever had cooked for us was not the chef I had booked. I promptly contacted KS. They were very concerned and told me that they would investigate the situation. A day later, I got an email from the actual Stephen Coe, who told me a family emergency had come up and he had sent his sous chef as a replacement. I did feel a little bamboozled, and definitely felt that I should have been informed of the situation beforehand (neither Chef Coe nor the sous chef informed me of the change of plans). However, Chef Coe was very apologetic and has offered to cook a meal for me in order "to show that (his) character is as true as (his) reviews speak".

Even with the weird situation above occurring, I am still a huge advocate of Kitchensurfing. They’re available in Boston, NYC, Chicago, LA, Berlin and the Hamptons. They just closed a $15 million dollar round and will likely be expanding to new markets soon. Use this referral code for $50 off your first Kitchensurfing meal.

After dinner, we had a party bus pick us up and take us to Storyville for some dancing and more drinking. I really should have used Tablelist, which is an app that lets you book tables at some of the best Boston clubs, but didn't want to spend the extra money on bottles (which a friend ended up doing anyway). If you want to try it though, use promo code 'FC70C' for $50 in Tablelist credits

Overall, the night was incredibly successful. I had a great time and I think everyone else did too. Someone even asked me if this was my 30th birthday party, as it seemed a little over the top. It wasn't, my 30th will be bigger!

3/12/2014

Boston's Hidden Gems

One of the things I like most about Boston is that the city is very walkable and manageable. You can get pretty much anywhere in Greater Boston within 45 minutes. It's not very overwhelming, and a transplant can start to feel like a local much faster here than say NYC. However, a drawback of this is that after living in the city for a few years, you can feel like you've been everywhere. I'm constantly trying to find "new things to do over the weekend" or "things off the beaten path". My hope with the below list of Boston's Hidden Gems is that someone who has lived in the city for five years hasn't heard of, or at least hasn't been to, some of these.

It's always fun to drink and swim outside. Image Source 
Colonnade Pool
Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, this is the perfect place to get some sun and one of the few (if not only) rooftop pools in Boston. The pool is open 8:00 am until midnight, and after 7:00 pm it's adults only (you can still wear floaties though). In the past, it has been $40 per person per day to access the pool (unless you're a hotel guest, in which case it's free), but their website currently lists the daily rate as "TBA", so that may change this summer. Yes, it's a tad pricey, but try and make a day out of it. They also have a lot of concerts here during the summer and it's available to rent out for private events (someone please host a Vegas-style pool party and invite me). 

One barrel holds 53 gallons.
Bully Boy Distillers
I've done brewery tours before (maybe you could have classified Harpoon as a hidden gem a few years ago, but now that place is slammed every day of the week), but Bully Boy was my first distillery tour, and I have to say it was an awesome experience. Don't expect anything like Harpoon; it's a small craft distillery in Roxbury (there isn't even signage on the building).  It's only a four man operation, and the guy giving the tour was really fun. The tour starts out with a tasting of a mixed cocktail (when I went, it was some sort of delicious iced tea concoction) and a short video. He walked us through the distillery and explained the process of making rum, whiskey, and vodka. At the end of the tour, we got to taste about 1/2 shot worth of all six of their liquors (White Rum, Boston Rum, Vodka, White Whiskey, and American Straight Whiskey). The tours sell out far in advance and cost $10.

Actually sits on top of a parking garage. Image Source
Cambridge Center Roof Garden
Not many people know this secret garden exists. It's on the roof of the parking garage at 4 Cambridge Center. To get here you actually want to use the elevators at the entrance of 54 Broadway and head to the top floor. Once you get off the elevator, you are presented with an awesome oasis in the middle of Kendall Square. Some people say it gets busy during the M-F lunch hour, but when I went on a sunny Monday afternoon not a single soul was up there. There is barely any seating, so bring a blanket or be prepared for grass stains. There's not much of a view as you are pretty much surrounded by office buildings, but it would be great to grab some food at Bon Me nearby and have yourself a picnic. 

Cheese Cave at Formaggio Kitchen 
Look at all these aging cheeses. Image Source
First, Formaggio is a specialty cheese, wine, charcuterie, olive oil, chocolate, jam, and honey store (delicious, I know). They're located about a mile west of Harvard Square, so either a 20 minute walk or short bus ride on the 72 from the T. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but be careful because you can spend a lot of money here pretty quickly. However, what I want to tell you about are the classes and events they offer, particularly the Brave the Caves Tour. Formaggio stores hundreds of pounds of cheese beneath the store. They cave isn't a naturally occurring one, but still pretty cool (not Batcave cool, but cool). For $55 a ticket, you learn all about the process of aging and caring for cheese. The best part is while you're busy learning about cheese, you also get to eat the cheese and small plates of charcuterie, jam, and honey paired with wine and beer! Be warned: if you go in the summer, dress for cave-like conditions (e.g. jacket and shoes that can get wet).

So many treasures inside this hidden gem.
Cambridge Antique Market
If you're looking for an inside activity, this is your spot. You could spend hours in this place. It's a hoarders wet dream. Think SOWA Antique Market, but bigger and cheaper. There are 5 floors with dealer spaces offering everything from a variety of Christmas decorations to old Coca Cola memorabilia to clothing and jewelry. It's located pretty close to the Alewife T stop on the green line. They also have a huge selection of used bicycles in the basement. Practically everything in the place is 20% off. I've bought a bowl made out of a vinyl record and an antique wooden crate there.

Sailing at Piers Park opens April 15th. Image Source
If you're ever in Eastie, this is definitely a park to check out. It's right on the water and has one of the best views of the city. There's also a sailing center, which is open to the public and offers sailing lessons and harbor cruises. Probably one of the most underutilized parks in the city (likely due to the fact that it's in East Boston), but it's only a 1/2 mile from the Maverick T station on the Blue Line. The park also has this weird aerobics course/adult jungle gym area that I'm sure Richard Simmons would love. However, a huge bummer is that the park doesn't allow any "ball playing" or grills, but I'm no tattletale. Would also make a great place to take wedding or engagement pictures. 

Burger and a beer please! Image Source
Tasty Burger 
OK, Tasty Burger itself is not a hidden gem. Boston Magazine just ranked it the 3rd best burger in Harvard Square, and at only $5.25 I think it's a steal (especially compared to Bartley's). However, what most people don't know about this particular location is that the basement has a bar complete with a jukebox and pool table, and it's open until 4 am (although they stop serving alcohol at 2). They do trivia night on Thursdays. The drinks are very reasonably priced and they even sell pitchers. If beer isn't your thing, they also have wine. And get this: they also have champagne! It might be in a can and called sparkling wine, but it is bubbly nonetheless in my book. 

"Charlie and Sheba" by Anonymous Image Source
MOBA (Museum of Bad Art)
It's exactly what it sounds like: a museum filled with bad art (their tagline is actually "Art Too Bad To Be Ignored"). There are 3 physical locations: Somerville Theatre (free admission with the purchase of a movie ticket), Brookline Access Television (free admission), and Dedham Community Theatre (this location is currently closed for renovations). Each has 20-40 pieces for your viewing pleasure. They also sell a book that contains 40 images and I think would make an amazing coffee table book for anyone (except for hipsters, they might actually appreciate the art). 

3/05/2014

Screenshot of Instacart's Website
Instacart even delivers alcohol. 
I've always been fascinated by companies that are taking something that has been traditionally done offline and bringing it online. We live in an on-demand economy, and companies are making peoples’ daily lives easier with a few taps on your phone, whether it’s a ride home (Lyft), a place to crash for the night (Hotel Tonight), or your home professionally cleaned (Home Joy). So why should grocery shopping be any different? I'm excited to say it doesn't have to be. 

When I moved up to Boston from Florida and sold my car, one of the things I wondered how I would accomplish is grocery shop. Back in Florida, I would go shopping about every two to three weeks and bulk up. How could we possibly carry $100 worth of food on the subway?! (We actually tried this a few times...miserable experience.) Then I decided to rent a ZipCar, which made things easier but it felt like I was in an episode of Supermarket Sweep trying to get the car back in time before the clock ran out. 




Then someone told me about Peapod, an online grocery delivery service from the folks behind Stop & Shop and Giant. I used Peapod for about four years, ordering at least once a month. We would supplement our orders by going to the Trader Joe's down the street in Coolidge Corner or the Johnnie's Fresh Market in St. Mary's, but the majority of our grocery shopping was on Peapod. However, in 2014 things changed. A competitor from San Francisco named InstaCart came to town. Now I had two choices and, after trying both, here is my opinion. 

Why you should order your groceries online

First, I think if you are still doing your grocery shopping in person and live in a city where Instacart is offered, you're crazy. Sure, my grandmother will never buy groceries online (she doesn't even have the internet), but you my friend are reading this blog and clearly have access to the internet. I guess if you like going to the grocery store, finding parking, figuring out what aisle Srichari is in, waiting in the checkout line behind a woman who could be on TLC's Extreme Couponing, and carrying your groceries up multiple flights of stairs, then by all means stop reading now. However, if you want a (most of the time) seamless process to avoid all of the above and shop from the comfort of your home, then read on. 

Peapod in a Nutshell

I think I'm one of the few people in Boston that never had major issues with Peapod, or perhaps I just had some pretty low expectations. I learned quickly to never order produce or fruit from them, because it never seemed fresh. They also were consistently out of stock on certain items. We love to make pizza at home and they would never have whole wheat crust, so they always substituted original. The website seemed glitchy (maybe it's because I was using Chrome). The delivery minimum was $60 and you had to put your order in a day in advance, often times two days in advance to get a delivery slot that wasn't during normal work hours. However, they never missed a delivery window for us (some of my friends have had different experiences), they always knew where my building was and would come right up the stairs without asking for directions or where to park. Also, they always have a variety of sale items online. However, I always thought the process could be improved upon, and Instacart came along and did just that. It's not that Peapod is bad, it's just that Instacart is better. 

Benefits that InstaCart has over Peapod:
Instacart Shopping Bag
Just look at this beautiful bag.
  • Delivery available in under an hour
  • Delivery minimum is only $10 
  • Ability to order from multiple stores, even on the same order (for me this is Shaw's, Market Basket, Whole Foods, and Costco - no membership required) 
  • Booze available for purchase
  • Ability to add specific items if not listed online (called a special request)
  • Excellent customer service (it is almost impossible to find a Peapod phone number or email address; on the other hand, I was once charged for an item I didn't receive from Instacart and after I sent a quick email, I received a refund within an hour)
  • You can actually pick your substitution if an item is out of stock, and most of the time the shoppers will confirm this with you (Peapod has substitutions, but it is whatever they deem appropriate, or sometimes you don't get the item at all)
  • The same person who is buying your groceries is delivering them
  • Awesome eco-friendly grocery bags (my wife thought they were so nice that she asked if we needed to return them)
  • Ability to rate the shoppers
The Instacart Personal Shopper

The other great thing about Instacart is the shoppers. They are everyday people like you and me just trying to make some extra cash. If you have a car and can find your way around the produce section, you can sign up to become a personal shopper. Instacart says that the personal shoppers make an average of about $20 an hour (based on the number of orders they handle and the size of the orders). I still remember my first Instacart personal shopper's name, Chris (he also handled my second order). He called me from Shaw's saying they were out of a certain type of bacon I had selected and asked if a different brand was ok. I then remembered I had forgotten to order a sub roll, so I shot him a text and asked for one, and sure enough it made the cut. The service definitely had a different feel than Peapod. At first I thought it was a little amateur-like, but then I realized I was confusing amateur with friendly.

Why Instacart Isn't Perfect

A lot of items from stores are not yet listed online. Right now, when I look for cereal from Costco on Instacart only one item comes up and it's a Nutri-Grain bar. Yes, I could add a special request for Cap'n Crunch, but I don't know if Costco carries Cap'n Crunch or what size it's going to be. Also, units of measurement need improvement. For example, when I ordered three pounds of chicken breast for around $10 from Costco, seven pounds showed up costing $20. Another example is when I wanted to buy a jalapeno, it wanted to know how many pounds I wanted. Who buys jalapenos by the pound? I only needed two, so I had to put in a special request. I can only imagine what it's like to add an entire grocery store's stock online, but from a user's perspective, it needs improvement. I believe they will get there eventually, and keep in mind the company isn't even two years old yet. Here is a story about how the founder of Instacart hacked his way into Y-Combinator (a startup accelerator in San Francisco), where it all began. To be fair, Instacart does not have any formal partnerships with grocery chains, they just send in shoppers and pick up what you ordered.

Instacart & Peapod Pricing

Peapod charges $6.95 for orders over $100, and $9.95 for orders under $100 (order minimum is $60). Instacart charges a $3.99 fee for orders over $35, and $7.99 for orders under $35 (order minimum is $10 and check out the link below for $10 off). Also, for $99 a year you could get Instacart Express, where you can get your apples, steaks (or tofu if that's your thing), and ice cream delivered for "free" as long as the order exceeds $35. However, Instacart does price their own items, meaning what you pay can vary from the in-store price (likely based on some complicated algorithm). To be honest, I haven't really noticed much of a price difference compared to the actual store price. Some items cost the same, others a little more. Remember, this is how Instacart generates revenue and pays for their wonderful shoppers. Plus, you need to factor in the convenience cost. 

Instacart is currently operating in: Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and D.C. (Los Angeles & NYC are next). This post wasn't meant to be a Peapod vs. InstaCart, but I guess it sort of turned out like that. 

Give Instacart a shot! Click the referral link for $10 off your first Instacart order!

3/02/2014


A white audi with a pink Lyft mustache on the front.
The company with the pink stache gets its picture featured.
I took my first Uber ride about a year ago. It was 2am, the T had long been closed, and there were no cabs in sight. I wondered how I was going to get from the South End to my comfortable bed in Cambridge. Even though Uber had been in Boston for a while I hadn't tried it just yet, as I heard the pricing was unpredictable. However, things had changed. UberX had just launched in Boston, a service promising lower fares than the "traditional" black car option. I was eager to try it. That first ride was 3.08 miles and cost $23.48 (well, really it was free because I had a credit for my first trip). I've never looked back and haven't ridden in a cab since. However, Uber is no longer the only show in town. The ridesharing market has exploded and consumers have a plethora of on-demand transportation options. But who is better: Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar? I'm by no means an expert, but here is how they compare using four key factors.

Availability of Drivers
Winner: Uber and it's not even close. Loser: Sidecar

Uber consistently seems to have more drivers on the road (at least in Boston). I was out in the Seaport area a few weeks ago and it was approaching last call. Neither Lyft nor Sidecar had any drivers available, and none became available for the next 30 minutes. Uber, however, had multiple drivers ready to pick me up and one fairly close by. This was not an isolated incident. This has happened to me many times, and I am just using UberX as a reference point. If I were to take into account the available black cars or SUV's on Uber, this factor would be even more of a land slide for Uber. On the other hand, Sidecar seems to have the least amount of drivers on the road (even though they were in Boston before Lyft). One time, Sidecar suggested I hail a ride from a driver who was in Lynn, MA. I was in Charlestown, over 12 miles and at least 25 minutes away. I would have been able to use a razor scooter to get home faster. 

Usefulness of the App 
Winner: Sidecar Loser: Uber

iOs Screenshot of all three apps
My mom would have a hard time telling the difference between any of these apps. They all have very similar interfaces and essentially do the same thing, so using one can feel very similar to using another. However, Sidecar has some excellent features that most users might not even know about. First, Sidecar is the only service that will tell you the cost of your ride upfront. It's actually the only service that even asks for your destination. It also lets you pick the exact driver and see a picture of the car before you book. Countless times with Uber, the app has told me that the closest driver is only 5 minutes away, but after booking that particular driver wasn't available and I had to wait much longer than anticipated. With Sidecar, this doesn't happen because you are actually selecting which driver you want. You can favorite drivers, meaning if you become BFFs with your driver on the way home from downing Scorpion Bowls at the Hong Kong, next time you request a ride, if that driver is available, he would show up first. Sidecar also lets you easily block drivers, so if you have an unpleasant experience with a particular driver, *POOF* they are gone from your system (I have heard if you rate a driver less than 3 stars on Uber or Lyft you won't get them again). Uber tells you the model of the car but doesn't even show you a picture of the car or tell you the color (they do give you the license plate #, but most people can't read that without binoculars). So if you can't tell the difference between a Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry, you might just have to guess which car is yours. I actually had a friend who accidentally got into someone else's Uber thinking it was his. There is no mistaking which ride is your Lyft, because there is a giant, pink, furry mustache slapped on the grill. One thing to note though, is that Uber is the only service which lets you specifically request a vehicle capable of carrying more than 4 people - the SUV option (although this could change with Sidecar's new options). However, I think one SUV would end up costing more than taking two separate UberX's, but it comes in handy when you want to travel with your friends or have a ton of luggage to take to the airport.  

Cost
Winner: Lyft, Sidecar & Uber (three-way tie) 

People are always asking me who is cheaper, and to be honest, I haven't noticed much of a difference in price between the three. They are, after all, competing for your business and want to stay competitive with one another. The one caveat is surge pricing. Surge pricing occurs when demand far exceeds supply. To compensate for this, Uber's rates can go as high as 7 times the base fare and the company has been in hot water about it lately (although personally, I have never seen it go higher than 4x). Lyft calls their surge pricing "Prime Time" but it is essentially the same thing (the one difference is that all of Lyft's surcharge goes to the driver as an additional tip, which I guess is supposed to make you feel slightly better about paying it). Sidecar will tell you they have no surcharge pricing, but with their new model, drivers can set their own rates. So any savvy Sidecar driver will up their rate when demand gets high (i.e. if it is snowing/raining or the T is closed). Also, theoretically the nicer the car on Sidecar the more the driver will/can charge. It does seem that Uber's surcharge pricing is always a little higher or stays in effect a little longer than the others, but perhaps this is why they have the most drivers on the road. Also, for those of you who complain about surge pricing, it's simple supply and demand. Higher prices encourage more supply to come online to meet the increased demand. At least you know upfront (and very clearly might I add) before booking the ride that surge or prime time pricing is in effect.

Ride Experience
Winner: Lyft Loser: Uber

I'll be honest, Lyft is my go-to app. You might not have realized that by now, but the reason why is the experience during the ride. Lyft seems to attract the friendliest drivers. When I first heard that Lyft encourages you to sit in the front seat, I thought it was incredibly strange. I was used to jumping in the back of a cab, divided by plexiglass, telling the cabbie my address, and playing on my iPhone while making sure he wasn't taking me the long way home. How would I do this from the front seat of a Lyft? I would be forced to interact with the driver! Turns out that wasn't so terrible; it was actual pleasant. Lyft tries to brand itself as a community-focused company, and they are. Sure, the required fist-bump when you first get in is sort of cheesy, but it also feels like a secret hand shake. The service really does have more of a "call a friend for a ride" feel, especially when compared to either Uber or Sidecar. Many times when getting into a Lyft, I'm asked if I need to charge a phone, if I would like to change the radio station, if I would like some of the bottled water they have conveniently in the back seat, or how about some gum? My favorite burrito place wasn't delivering one night and my Lyft driver actually offered to make a pit stop so I could run inside and order one (I took him up on it). There have been times when I'm taking a Lyft and I'm not in the mood to talk or I need to prep for a meeting, and the drivers totally get that. They won't talk your ear off if they see you're preoccupied with something. To be fair, Sidecar also encourages its users to sit in the front seat, but it just doesn't feel the same, and to be honest maybe I just haven't had enough interactions with Sidecar drivers (but trust me it's not for lack of trying, there just aren't enough of them on the road). UberX still feels at times like a cab - although a much more convenient cab, there isn't that special X factor that Lyft offers.

Verdict

I really do like all of these companies and each one of them, in my opinion, is much better than a cab, and not just for consumers, but for the drivers as well. Some folks say these services aren't as safe as a cab; I think these people are crazy. Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar all do background and vehicle checks. Further, you have no idea who the driver is when a cab picks you up. Unless you pay attention to a cab's medallion number or the driver's name on his operating license, you have no record of the ride. With all of the companies mentioned above there is detailed history stored on servers of your driver's name, where he picked you up, what time he picked you up, where he took you, and how long it took him to get you there. You're practically being watched your entire trip.

By no means is this a complete guide or full-on comparison. I'm sure I missed some pros and cons of each company. However, I encourage everyone to try each service on their own (I list referral codes below). Eventually, a personal favorite will emerge. My favorite is Lyft, but if a Lyft is 25 minutes away and a Sidecar or Uber is down the street, I will choose one of those in a heartbeat. 

Promo Codes

Lyft: use code ryan1353 or this link for $25 off your first ride.
Uber: use code uberrkelly or this link for $20 off your first ride.
Sidecar: no personal promo codes, but a Google search should turn up the most recent code.