Hotel Online  Special Report

Zagat Survey 2005 NYC Restaurants;
Average Check Now at $37.45, 
Only Four Restaurants Left Requiring Jackets and Ties,
Gramercy Tavern Rated Most Popular Restaurant in NYC


NEW YORK, Oct. 18, 2004 - It's Zagat time of year -- the Zagat Survey 2005 New York City Restaurant Guide has just been released. The results of the guide show the New York dining scene in its most revolutionary year since the Survey began in 1979. Despite the demise of many of the city's oldest and most renowned classic French restaurants, the industry has greatly improved and diversified. This year, 226 restaurants opened compared to only 93 closings, representing a 30% increase over last year's openings. Forty-five percent of surveyors say they are spending more on dining out than last year.  This is reinforced by the fact that 59% of all meals are now eaten, or prepared, outside the home.

"This is undoubtedly the single most important year in dining since the Survey began in 1979," said Zagat Survey co-publisher Tim Zagat.  "With the closing of old-guard and once indomitable French restaurants like La Caravelle, La Cote Basque and Lutece, New York City is embracing a new generation of eateries. It's fair to say that many of the new entrants, particularly the Asian eateries, are more interesting, innovative and beautiful, while also more fun, than the established places that preceded them."

The 26th edition of the guide covers 1,945 restaurants in New York City including 236 in the surrounding boroughs. These restaurants were tested and tasted by a record 30,277 avid local restaurant-goers who used Zagat Survey's signature 30-point scale to rate Food, Decor and Service.  The guide also reflects the estimated cost for a meal including beverage and tip.

Key Findings and Trends:

  • Marginal Inflation - According to the new Survey, New Yorkers dine out an average of 3.3 times per week. Meanwhile, the cost per meal increased a mere 1%, with the average check now at $37.45.  This conforms to a quarter century trend of average meal costs remaining below the inflation rate of the Consumer Price Index. NYC is still the price leader in the U.S., well above the national average of $31.51.  However, New Yorkers should be relieved to know that their hometown is still a bargain compared to Paris ($62), London ($64) and Tokyo ($71).
  • The $300 Tab - Despite the cost per meal remaining relatively flat, a growing contingent of NY restaurants report averages well above $100 per person including Daniel, Kuruma Zushi, per se, Alain Ducasse (now at $191) and the city's new undisputed cost leader, Masa, the 26-seat sushi den in the Time Warner Center, where the prix fixe starts at $300.
  • Rating the Scene - For the first time, Zagat Survey asked reviewers to rate New York City's dining scene as a whole.  Participants said the city deserved a top-notch 27 out of 30 for Choice/Diversity and a solid 23 for Creativity.  As for Hospitality, NYC's restaurants rated a mediocre 14, more proof that service continues to lag behind food quality, while Table Availability was given a paltry 13.  In short, New Yorkers report that they love their restaurants, if they could only get in and get served.
  • Grocery Shopping? - A year ago, The Grocery, a spare storefront in Brooklyn, earned a Food rating of 28 placing it among eateries like Bouley and Jean Georges. As for this year's rising star, Colin Alevras' Tasting Room, an unpretentious, off-the-beaten-path East Village American, received a 27 for Food, putting it ahead of Veritas, Cafe Boulud and Aureole. Showing the growing strength of the outer boroughs, places such as Blue Ribbon Sushi, Di Fara, Garden Cafe, Grimaldi's, Roberto's, Saul and Trattoria L'incontro all earned enviable Food ratings of 26 or higher. For the 21st consecutive year, Williamsburg's Peter Luger has been crowned #1 for steak.
  • Vertical Dining - The most exciting restaurant destination comes as no surprise to foodies. Drawing such standouts as Asiate, Bar Masa, Cafe Gray, Masa, per se, V Steakhouse and the shop-out, take-in Whole Foods Cafe, the Time Warner Center sets a new standard for vertical culinary real estate. Still to come are Chicago's Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery.
  • Carb-Counting Carnivores - NYC steakhouses are having a banner year with 36% of surveyors saying they are currently on or have tried an Atkins-like low-carb diet. This may account for the jump in Popularity of Peter Luger and Sparks, which leapt from #9 and #45 in 2004 respectively to #6 and #26, while BLT Steak and Wolfgang's Steakhouse appear among this year's Top 10 Newcomers.
  • Phone First - While the Internet has made restaurant browsing far easier, most diners have yet to rely on the Web for booking a table.  Nearly five years after the introduction of several major e-reservation systems, only 7% of surveyors say they make their reservations online.  A majority (80%) still book first by phone and 13% throw caution to the wind heading out without a reservation.
  • Credit Card Hostage - It may be common practice, but New Yorkers still balk at having to provide a credit card number for the privilege of making a dinner reservation.  Forty-nine percent of surveyors say they give their card "begrudgingly," while 20% say the policy makes them change their mind about eating in a restaurant that requires it.

2005 Top Rated Restaurants:
     [ ] = 2004 Survey's position
                ( ) = 2005 Rating - Based on Zagat
   Survey's 30-point scale

Most Popular

Restaurants making impressive moves in popularity this year include Bouley, jumping four spots to #8, and Tom Colicchio's Craft, up eight to #15.  Among new faces in the Top 50:  Fiamma Osteria (#50), Pastis (#48), Saigon Grill (#45), L'Impero (#35) and 'Cesca (#33).  Among those losing their hold among diners: Nobu, slipped five notches to #10, Picholine, down 11 to #29, and Le Cirque 2000, fell from #28 to #37.

1.  Gramercy Tavern [2]
2.  Union Square Cafe [1]
3.  Daniel [3]
4.  Gotham Bar & Grill [4] 
5.  Blue Water Grill [6] 
6.  Peter Luger [9]
7.  Babbo [8]
8.  Bouley [12]
9.  Jean Georges [7]
10.  Nobu [5]

Top Food

Lest anyone think that the sun has set on French food, consider that five of this year's Top 10 are French, including the three frontrunners sharing power 28's for cuisine.  Returning as #1 is Le Bernardin, the "transcendent seafood" temple in the hands of chef Eric Ripert and co-owner Maguy LeCoze.  Meanwhile, Bouley, which dominated Zagat Survey's Food ratings from 1991 to 1996, has charged back to #2. Although too new to qualify for Zagat Survey's Top lists, per se earned 29 ratings for Food, Decor and Service, the only restaurant to receive a triple 29 in the history of the NYC Survey.

1.  Le Bernardin (28)
2.  Bouley (28)
3.  Daniel (28)
4.  Gramercy Tavern (28) 
5.  Sushi Yasuda (28)
6.  Nobu, Next Door (28)
7.  Nobu (28)
8.  Jean Georges (27)
9.  Peter Luger (27)
10.  Alain Ducasse (27)

Top Decor

Curiously, as New York dining continues to trend more informal, the restaurants themselves are dressing up. Three newcomers made the Survey's Top 10 for Decor:  Asiate, Matsuri and Spice Market (overtaking Four Seasons). Had they opened earlier, two other rookies would surely have muscled into the Top 10:  per se, featuring the $15 million handiwork of Adam Tihany, and Megu, a multi-level Japanese in TriBeCa centered around a five-foot Buddha ice sculpture that is replaced daily. In contrast to the past, there are only four restaurants left that require jackets and ties (Alain Ducasse, La Grenouille, Rainbow Room and 21 Club).

1.  River Cafe (28) 
2.  Danube (28)
3.  Daniel (28) 
4.  Spice Market (27) 
5.  Four Seasons (27) 
6.  Asiate (27)
7.  Alain Ducasse (27)
8.  La Grenouille (27)
9.  One if by Land (27)
10.  Matsuri (27)

Top Service

A new name ascended to #1 for Service - Alain Ducasse, the "sumptuous" French showplace in the Essex House Hotel. Surveyors describe its wait staff as meticulous but "unpretentious," and like knowing that the table they get is "yours for the night."

1.  Alain Ducasse (28) 
2.  Le Bernardin (27) 
3.  Daniel (27) 
4.  Gramercy Tavern (27)
5.  Chanterelle (27) 
6.  Four Seasons (27)
7.  Bouley (26) 
8.  Jean Georges (26)
9.  March (26)
10.  La Grenouille (26)

Top Newcomers

After dipping in the wake of 9/11, restaurant openings are significantly up.  In contrast to last year's count of 174 noteworthy newcomers, this year's 226 marks a dynamic 30% gain.

1.  Biltmore Room (25) 
2.  davidburke/donatella (25) 
3.  Hearth (24)
4.  Casa Mono (24)
5.  Sumile (24)
6.  Wolfgang's Steakhouse (24)
7.  BLT Steak (24)
8.  Megu (23)
9.  Matsuri (23)
10.  Public (23)

Best Buys

Lest anyone think that NYC is only made up of pricey, high-end restaurants, the 2005 guide lists 100 of the best values and over 100 prix fixe deals. There are a number of top places where you can enjoy a three-course lunch for $20, including Aureole, Jean-Georges, L'Ecole, San Domenico, Sushi Yasuda and Vice Versa among others.

1.  Mama's Food 
2.  New Bo-Ky
3.  Zaytoons
4.  teany
5.  Big Wong
6.  Joya
7.  Penelope
8.  Pump
9.  Bereket
10.  La Taza de Oro

The Zagat Survey 2005 New York City Restaurant Guide was edited by Curt Gathje and Carol Diuguid and coordinated by Larry Cohn.  The 286-page book ($13.95) is available at bookstores and other retail outlets, through or by calling toll free at 888-371-5440.

About Zagat Survey, LLC

Zagat Survey is the world's leading provider of consumer survey-based leisure content. With more than 250,000 surveyors, Zagat Survey rates and reviews restaurants, hotels, nightlife, movies, music, golf, shopping and a range of other entertainment categories.  Zagat content is available in print, on the Web, on the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems, on mobile phones, and on TV and radio.  For more information, visit

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Also See: Zagat's Consumer Survey Rates Amanresorts and Four Seasons Best Hotel Chains in the World; Surveyors Found Hospitality in Hotels, Resorts Outside the United States Better than Those Within the U.S. / April 2004
Brooklyn's 30 seat Restaurant, 'The Grocery', Voted New York City's Best American Restaurant / October 2003
Eight A-list Restaurants and Bars Opening Almost at Once in New York's Time Warner Center; Reinforces New York as Capital of Gastronomy / January 2004
Four Seasons a Runaway Favorite - Wins seven of the eleven top hotel rankings in 2001 Zagat Survey / Nov 2000

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