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(Credit: iordani, Shutterstock / iordani)

Andrew Armenante had a "mini mental breakdown" as he puts it, several years back. He was working as a software engineer for UClass, an EdTech startup, in San Francisco's SOMA district, and needed to refuel with a quick cup of coffee. So he went to Blue Bottle Coffee, the trendy, go-to spot across the street, to get his caffeine fix.

"I asked for an espresso to go, and the guy goes, 'Sir, I can't give you an espresso to go, because we don't do that,''' he recalled. "And when I asked why, he said, 'Sir, it would break the crema.' And I was like 'Fuck you, man, get me a cup of coffee and let me get out of here.'"

After Armenante got out, he stayed out, too, and ended up making a more neighborhoodsy mom-and-pop coffee shop around the corner his new go-to. It didn't have the world's best coffee, he admitted, but it did have a charm that's missing from a lot of the more sterile corporate places he'd been going to.

It's these older, lesser-known businesses, which neighborhoods typically take their character from, along with the more trendy and iconic ones, that Armenante is championing in his new travel discovery and trip-planning app, Dorsia (download for iOS).

SEE: Best travel apps of 2018 for trip planning and flights

Armenante began developing the software that would become Dorsia after moving to New York City a few years back. He was new to town and had no clue which restaurants and bars to check out. Since he wasn't trusting enough to fall for what he read on aggregated review sites and didn't have the patience to sift through guidebooks, he knew he needed to create an entirely new concept for food and drink discovery to help others like him.

After working on the project for a year, he brought on Dimitris Psaropoulos, an engineer at Shopify (download for Android and iOS), who was also very interested in travel and figuring out interesting places to go, as co-founder and CTO. The two have been building on the original concept for the last year and a half.

Although his app takes its name from the very exclusive restaurant in the "American Psycho" movie that the murderous Patrick Bateman goes mad trying to get a reservation at, Armenante promised that Dorsia is not about getting users into the highest-rated spots on Yelp (download for Android and iOS) or TripAdvisor (download for Android and iOS), or the ones that have the greatest number of check-ins on Foursquare (download for Android and iOS) or fill everyone's Instagram (download for Android and iOS) feed.

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Dorsia is about exposing people to a highly curated and regularly updated list of bars, eateries, boutiques and attractions in an ever-growing number of cities around the world. The app currently focuses on 16 across the US and Europe.

In the app, travelers can find unique spots, recommended by critics and vetted by editors; save favorites to city collections that they can keep referring back to and, most importantly, use the interactive map on the go to find cool places to check out in their immediate vicinity.

When they have more time for research, they can check out "The Corner," a magazine-like blog providing longer-form stories, itineraries and guides on Dorsia's companion website.

Should users be researching cafes to hit up in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York City, they will find plenty of both proletarian and more bourgeois options. Even Blue Bottle Coffee is included.

"We'll still feature locations like Blue Bottle Coffee because they make a good cup of coffee," Armenante said. "But we want to break up the tourist trail and even expose locals to places outside their comfort zone -- like this little Mexican restaurant around the corner from my building in Brooklyn. It's not the world's greatest place, but I love it because it has great charm. And it doesn't need a five-star rating or to be Instagram worthy. There are things you just can't sum up with the number of Foursquare check-ins."

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Takeaways

  • Dorsia is a new travel discovery and trip-planning app, founded by Andrew Armenante and Dimitris Psaropoulos.
  • In the app, travelers can find unique spots, recommended by critics and vetted by editors; save favorites to city collections that they can keep referring back to and, most importantly, use the interactive map on the go to find places to go in their immediate vicinity.

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Joshua is an editor for CNET's Download.com. He covers the mobile tech and apps that power our lives and interviews celebrities about their favorite apps. Previously, he worked as an editor at Healthline and Gay.com and as a contributing writer for Mac Directory, MacAddict, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, and SF Chronicle.