Reed Travel Features
NEW YORK -- Despite a dip in menu prices, people here ate out
less and spent less money in restaurants last year than in 1995,
according to "The 1997 Zagat New York City Restaurant Survey."
In its 18th year, the Zagat Surveys use volunteers to review
restaurants in 40 major cities.
In New York, about 18,000 volunteers participated in last year's
survey, a jump of 13% from 15,997 a year earlier.
According to the survey, the average restaurant meal in the Big
Apple cost $29.28 last year, a 1.8% drop from $29.81 in 1995.
In fact, discounting 1995's 1.5% increase in meal prices, the
cost of eating out in New York has fallen more than 13% since 1991,
the survey said.
One reason for the drop in prices is the opening of restaurants
charging "moderate prices."
In addition, the city's 20 most expensive eateries shaved 1.2%
off their average tab, down to $65.08 from $65.86.
Also, whereas in 1995 six restaurants charged $70 or more, only
three -- Les Celebrites, Lespinasse and Nadaman Hakubai -- charged
$70 or more last year.
Nadaman Hakubai, the Kitano Hotel's Japanese restaurant, was the
city's most expensive dining establishment, charging $150 for a
private 10-course dinner.
However, despite the rise in participants, the pace of eating
out last year declined to 3.2 meals a week, a 16% drop from 3.8
meals a week in 1995.
In fact, in contrast to the other major cities surveyed, New
Yorkers fell to the bottom third in dining-out frequency.
Surveyors in Houston, Chi-cago, Dallas and Los Angeles said they
dined out more than four times per week, and volunteers in
Washington, San Francisco, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., ate out
more than their counterparts in New York.
However, no other urbanites eat as much take-out food as New
Yorkers, who confessed that in a week, 59% of their lunches and
dinners are from take-out places.
Not surprisingly, New Yorkers prepared fewer meals at home --
4.7 per week -- than did the participants in 16 other cities.
With the closing of Bouley, this city's most popular restaurant
for the past six years, top honors for favorite restaurant went to
the Union Square Cafe, the American-Italian eatery at 16th Street
on the square.
"Union Square operates on all cylinders at the highest level,
from a superbly trained service staff to a strong social conscience
to delivering outstand-ing value to the customer," said survey
copublisher Tim Zagat.
Among the comments from Union Square Cafe's 4,500
reviewers were "dazzling," "good value" and "unpretentious
The second-most-popular restaurant was Aureole ("desserts to put
in the Museum of Modern Art"), with third place going to the Gotham
Bar and Grill ("perennial favorite").
Rounding out the top 10 favorites were Gramercy Tavern, fourth;
Cafe des Artistes, fifth; Four Seasons, sixth; Le Bernardin,
seventh; Daniel, eighth; Peter Luger, ninth, and Chanterelle,
A new category last year compared business and leisure
According to the survey, only 26% of dining in New York is for
business, indicating that eating out remains a primary pastime in
the Big Apple.
"The 1997 Zagat New York City Restaurant Survey" is available at
bookstores and newsstands for $11.95.