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New Orleans is the most affordable and generous dining city in US

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Written by editor

NEW YORK – Zagat Survey released the results of its latest New Orleans Restaurants survey today, with detailed local information, ratings and reviews available on ZAGAT.com, ZAGAT.mobi and ZAGAT TO GO

NEW YORK – Zagat Survey released the results of its latest New Orleans Restaurants survey today, with detailed local information, ratings and reviews available on ZAGAT.com, ZAGAT.mobi and ZAGAT TO GO for smartphones. The exclusively-digital results include coverage of 577 restaurants in the New Orleans area, based on feedback from over 3,000 local diners.

Counting Cost: The average cost of a meal in New Orleans has dropped for the first time in a decade, from $28.52 in the last survey to $28.36 this year. This marginal decrease in cost now ranks the Crescent City as the nation’s most affordable dining out locale, well below cities like New York ($41.76), Chicago ($36.97) and Los Angeles ($34.85) and below the national average of $35.37.

Southern Hospitality: Though the region is known for its warm hospitality, service remains the main irritant for 75% of surveyors. Following far behind are noise and food, with 9% and 5% of the vote, respectively. Despite service complaints, diners’ generosity hasn’t slowed. In fact, they are the best tippers, leaving an average of 19.7%, compared to the 19.2% national average.

Tim’s Take: “New Orleans is one of the nations most culturally and gastronomically diverse cities with strong traditions and cuisines that are unique to the area,” said Tim Zagat, CEO and Co-Founder of Zagat Survey. “According to surveyors, it is not only rich culturally, but with affordability as well – something we hope local diners and interested travelers will take advantage of this year.”

Newcomers: This year’s newcomers range not only in price point and cuisine, but by location as well. Elevated small plates and pub grub at Eiffel Society (Garden District), Sylvain in the French Quarter and the new Bouligny Tavern (Uptown) provide comfortable cuisine for diners, while upscale arrivals include Creole-French eats at the latest location of Dominique’s on Magazine, and nose-to-tail dining at Feast (Convention Center). Susan Spicer (Bayona) presented inexpensive fare at Mondo, echoing the affordable-offshoot trend started by Scott Boswell with the unique variety of po’ boys at Stanley – the “less-refined husband” of Stella! Chef Cora Benson (ex-Muriel’s) is presenting inexpensive eats at Tartine.

Tweets & Eats: While 50% of surveyors agree that it is “rude and inappropriate” to text, tweet, talk and e-mail on a mobile phone at a restaurant, 86% feel it is acceptable to take pictures of their food (only 6% object). This is decidedly good news for the 12% of surveyors who admit to using their smartphones to take pictures of food plating.

Winners: The French Quarter’s Bayona wins for Top Food, followed by Stella! and Brigtsen’s, which also wins for Top Service. As ever, Commander’s Palace takes top honors for Decor and Overall Popularity. The three winning restaurants in each category are as follows:

Most Popular
Top Food
Top Decor
Top Service

1) Commander’s Palace
1) Bayona
1) Commander’s Palace
1) Brigtsen’s

2) Galatoire’s
2) Stella!
2) La Provence
2) Commander’s Palace

3) Bayona
3) Brigtsen’s
3) Carousel Bar
3) Jamila’s Cafe

Health-Conscious: Seafood is New Orleans surveyors’ favorite cuisine, earning 17% of the vote. And despite worries due to the BP crisis, 92% trust the safety of the Gulf’s seafood. New Orleans diners continue to focus on “green” eating practices, as 71% say it is important that the food they eat is locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised, and 53% say they are even willing to pay more for it.

Letter Grades: A full 69% of New Orleans surveyors say they agree that restaurants should be required to conspicuously post a letter grade reflecting the results of their health department inspection (as recently passed in New York City, taking a cue from Los Angeles).

Pet Peeves: When seated next to a noisy party, only 32% of surveyors say they would ask to be moved to another table, while 60% would try to ignore them. A 6% minority say they would ask management to talk to the party, and 2% would politely ask them to quiet down. For diners who choose to linger at their table on a laptop or with a friend, 52% of surveyors feel that restaurants should restrict how long these guests can remain during peak hours.