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Today Zagat is revealing the results of its first-ever Fast-Casual Chains Survey based on the thoughts and opinions of 6,671 fast-casual diners from around the country. The survey focuses on high-quality, counter-service restaurants that opened after 2005 with between two and fifty locations nationally.

The findings reveal that the majority of participants (80%) say they eat out at least a few times a month at a fast-casual restaurant. Of these respondents, 60% say eat fast-casual meals most often for lunch.

Chef-driven fast-casual restaurants have been popping up all over, like DC-based spots G By Mike Isabella and Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery, Art Smith’s LYFE Kitchen in the Bay Area and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera in Chicago. Having a big-name chef at the helm is important to diners. In fact, 65% say they are more likely to go to a place if it is gourmet or chef-driven. Additionally, 78% of folks say they would like to see more local chefs open fast-casual eateries.


Tortas Frontera, Chicago


But how popular is tipping at these counter-service spots? About one-third of participants report not tipping in fast-casual restaurants while another one-third opt to leave between $1 – $2.

Burgers are still a tried-and-true favorite, dominating as the most-consumed fast-casual cuisine. Following close behind are Mexican, American and Pizza.

When it comes to which qualities are most important in a fast-casual locale, diners say it’s Food/ingredient quality above all – followed by Cleanliness and Value. Interestingly, despite many of these spots being known for their fast-casual format, Convenience & speed fall behind in fourth place.

More than half (54%) of diners say that it is important to them that a fast-casual establishment be GMO-free. Another 59% feel that offering organic food is important.

Most diners enjoy their fast-casual meals with Family (40%), while others most frequently go it Alone (27%), with Friends (22%) or Colleagues (11%). Among those in their 20’s, the majority share their fast-casual meals with Friends most often, though this decreases with age. Eating with Family or Alone, however, increases with age.

To learn more about this year’s results, and find out where to enjoy your next fast-casual meal, check out our post.

Posted by: Charlotte Ames, Zagat

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Today, Zagat is out with all new ratings and reviews for 250 of Portland’s most notable restaurants. The results, available today at zagat.com/portland, are based on the combined opinions of 2,380 local diners who vote on the establishments they frequent throughout the year.

This year’s award for Best Food goes to Chef Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon, turning out “consistently spectacular”, “creative” cuisine. Following close behind are:
2. Andina
3. Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar 
4. Beast
5. Roe
6. Toro Bravo
7. RingSide Steakhouse
8. Laurelhurst Market
9. Little Bird
10. Ataula

Best Decor goes to Departure Restaurant + Lounge, with its “very cool”, “futuristic” setting featuring “killer views of the city”, while Best Service goes to Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar, a Northwest District "foodie paradise" with "personable" staff serving up "beautifully plated" cuisine.

While many of the city’s best restaurants may be on the pricier side, Zagat’s list of Best Cheap Eats offers places with high food scores with an average cost of $25 or less:
1. Dove Vivi
2. Baker & Spice
3. Ken's Artisan Pizza
4. Pambiche
5. Apizza Scholls

According to the Zagat National Dining Trends survey, Portland diners eat out 3.4 times per week for a combined lunch and dinner, less than the 4.5/week national average. The average spent per person for dinner out is $34.36, a relative bargain compared to the national average of $39.40. Once the meal ends, diners leave an 18.3% gratuity — the lowest reported tip among the U.S. cities Zagat covers — and below the 19.3% national average.

Locals say their favorite cuisine is Italian (29%), followed by Seafood (24%), American and French (both 7%), Mexican (6%), Japanese (5%), Thai (4%), Indian (3%), Spanish and Vegetarian (each 2%) and all others totaling 11%.

Whichever cuisine suits your palate, search and discover the best places to eat in Portland and beyond at zagat.com.

Posted by: Tiffany Herklots, Zagat

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With 4th of July right around the corner and cook-out season in full swing, Zagat is out with the results of its first-ever Summer Food survey. The findings reveal the preferences and divisive opinions of more than 1,000 avid diners around the U.S.

Whether you fire up the grill at home, or leave it to the professionals, food is a major part of warm weather months. America’s most quintessential summer food, according to more than half of respondents, is the hamburger, followed by hot dog, fried chicken and fish tacos. The New York Street Dog takes top honors as the the preferred style of hot dog, with the Chicago Dog and Coney Dog trailing close behind.


The majority of diners say that ice cream is their favorite summer sweet treat (51%) - and move over chocolate, because cookies ‘n’ cream takes top honors. The runners up are Vanilla and Mint chocolate chip, followed by Chocolate, and Coffee.

As for favorite summer coffee drinks, Frozen blended coffee drink top the list overall, followed by Iced latte and Regular iced coffee.


Lobster rolls have become a hotly contested category among diners. When asked which style they prefer, the Connecticut style lobster roll (warm with butter) wins out over Maine style (cold with mayo) by nearly two-to-one.

The perfect non-alcoholic drink refreshment to compliment these savory summer eats, according to 37% of voters, is Iced tea, with the proportion particularly high in the South compared to the other regions. The preferred alcoholic drink is Beer (35%). When broken down by gender, Beer is tops overall among Males, while Females favor Margaritas.

And what foods to diners avoid most in the summer? You won’t find Hot soup (38%), Hot coffee (18%), Fondue (13%), Ramen (11%), Meatloaf (11%) or Red wine (6%) on their dinner table any time in the next few months.


When cruising the boardwalk or local carnival, the most coveted delicacy, according to respondents, is a Funnel cake/Elephant ears, followed by Corn dogs, Popcorn, Cotton candy, Snow cone, and Fried Oreos. 

From best side dishes to favorite summer fruits, be sure to check out this year’s full results.

Posted by:
Tiffany Herklots, Zagat

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Whether you’re looking to explore the best new restaurants in your neighborhood or rediscover a classic favorite, Zagat is out with its latest Boston Restaurants results, serving up something for every palate. Based on the combined feedback of nearly 5,000 local diners, new ratings and reviews for more than 850 restaurants in Boston are available today on Zagat.com and via Google Search and Maps.

Boston’s No. 1 pick for both Food and Decor go to L’Espalier, Back Bay’s “elegant”, French “grande dame”. Taking top honors for Service is Barbara Lynch’s “fabulous” French-Italian Menton, thanks to an “impeccable” team that “accommodates individual preferences”, and snagging the top spot for Most Popular is the “classic” steakhouse Abe and Louie’s, serving up “tender and flavorful” “Flintstone-sized” cuts.

While a meal at several of the city’s best restaurants may be reserved for special occasions (or tax return season), Zagat’s list of “Best Cheap Eats” offers places with high food scores (read: insanely delicious bites) with a cost estimate of $25 or less. The top places are:
1. Za
2. Flatbread Company
3. Flour Bakery 
4. Petsi Pies 
5. Regina Pizzeria

And several top cheap eats by neighborhood include:

Allston/Brighton: Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Back Bay: Flour Bakery
Downtown Boston: Sam LaGrassa's
Near Fenway: Pho Basil 
Near Harvard Square: Pinocchio's Pizza & Subs

According to this year’s results, interesting, boundary-pushing restaurants like Japanese Yume Wo Katare, serving “comforting” bowls of “incredibly rich broth” and “tasty” noodles, and hotspots like Alden & Harlow, where “adventurous eaters” descend upon the “inventive” eats and “creative drinks” are popping up all over the city. Somerville has proven to be particularly buzzy this past year with top-rated restaurants including: 
1. Sarma Restaurant
2. Journeyman
3. Bergamot
4. Union Square Donuts
5.  CasaB 

According to the recent Zagat National Dining Trends survey, Boston diners eat out 4.1 times per week for a combined lunch and dinner, less than the 4.5/week national average. The average spend per person for dinner out is $42.24 which is above the national average of $39.40. Once the meal ends, diners leave a reported 19.6% gratuity (vs. 19.3% nationally).

Locals say their favorite cuisine is Italian -- followed by French, Seafood, American, and Japanese. This year’s Top Italian spot in Boston is Il Capriccio, followed by Giulia, Sorellina, La Campania and Rino’s Place.

A whopping 81% of Zagat’s avid Boston diners say they have sent a dish back to the kitchen. 82% admit to having eavesdropped on a conversation at the next table and 46% of diners say they have stiffed a server on the tip for bad service. 25% feel it’s rude and inappropriate for children to use tablets/phones at the table while 14% say it’s perfectly acceptable.

For more information, snack on the full list of Boston's 50 best restaurants here.

Posted by: Tiffany Herklots, Zagat

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From the upscale “almost like being in Italy” Houston staple, Da Marco, to eateries like Bernie’s Burger Bus that serves up “absolutely wonderful” burgers out of a retrofitted school bus, today Zagat celebrates over 450 of Houston’s best restaurants. Based on the opinions of 2,071 avid local diners, new ratings and reviews of Houston restaurants are available today at zagat.com/houston and on Google Search and Maps.

Big hits include chef Tyson Cole’s “music in your mouth” sushi outpost, Uchi (Best Food), and the long-time fine-dining favorite, Brennan’s (Best Service, Best Decor), boasting “knock you off your barstool” cocktails and a “holy trinity of turtle soup, eggs Benedict and bananas Foster."

Second on the Best Food list is Chama Gaúcha Brazilian Steakhouse, followed by Brennan’s, Da Marco, and Vic & Anthony’s.

When it comes to this year’s Most Popular restaurants, diners say their favorite eateries are:
1. Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill
2. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
3. Niko Niko’s
4. Vic & Anthony’s
5. Gaidos

While Italian and Seafood are tied as the favorite cuisine (both 18%), Houston restaurants can all agree that diners still love their meat. What they can’t agree on is how to spell barbecue. This year’s top five barbecue joints spell the word four different ways. Serving up brisket diners call “smoked to textbook perfection”, a “religious experience”, and “beautiful”, this year’s Best for BBQ restaurants are:
1. Gatlin’s BBQ (re-opening soon)
2. Killen’s Barbecue
3. CorkScrew Barbecue
4. Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue 
5. Goode Company Barbeque 

According to our National Dining Trends poll, Houston’s avid diners eat out a total of 4.8 times per week for a combined lunch and dinner, more than the national average, 4.5 times per week. The average spend per person for dinner out is $36.49, which is below the $39.40 national figure. After the meal, diners leave a reported 18.4% gratuity (vs. 19.3% nationally.)

Houston diners cited Service as the biggest dining irritant (30%), followed by Noise (17%) Prices (15%), Crowds (13%), Parking (10%), Food (7%), Traffic (4%), and Other (4%). The biggest service complaints were 1. Slow service 2. Inattentive staff and 3. Inadequate training. Feast on the entire list of Houston’s 50 Best Restaurants at www.zagat.com/best-restaurants/houston.

Posted by Jamie Tredwell, Zagat

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Today Zagat is revealing new ratings and reviews for nearly 400 of the best restaurants in San Diego - all based on the collective opinions of 2,157 avid local diners. New reviews are available today at zagat.com/san-diego and integrated throughout Google Search and Maps.

Photo: Mille Fleur

This year’s big winners include La Jolla’s Marine Room (Best Decor), boasting "magnificent" ocean views, the "classic" favorite In-N-Out Burger, sweeping the Most Popular category, and the “crème de la crème” of San Diego dining, Mille Fleurs, taking honors for both Best Food and Best Service. Following behind Mille Fleurs on the Best Food list are A.R. Valentien, Sushi Ota, MARKET Restaurant + Bar and Carnitas’ Snack Shack, proving that diners are just as excited about haute cuisine as they are for budget-friendly Triple-Threat Pork Sandwiches.

San Diego’s avid diners eat out 4.8 times per week (combined lunch and dinner), which is more than the 4.5 times per week nationally. The average spend per person for dinner out is $34.10, below the $39.40 national figure. And once the meal ends, diners leave a reported 18.5% gratuity (vs. 19.3% nationally).

Italian is the No.1 cuisine (according to 19%) and the recent openings of pizza places, spanning fast casual spots like the Irvine-based chain Blaze Pizza, to mid-priced restaurants like Double Standard and Stella Public House, show that locals are hungry for a slice. This year’s best pizza places are:
1. Buona Forchetta 
2. urbn 
3. Bronx Pizza 
4. Napizza
5. Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria

It’s no secret that tacos are another local staple. In score order, here are the restaurants serving up the best tacos in town:
1. TJ Oyster Bar
2. City Tacos 
3. El Indio 
4. El Zarape
5. Puesto

When asked about dining irritants, locals cited Service (31%), followed by Parking (19%), Noise (16%), Prices (15%), Crowds and Food (both 7%), Traffic (4%) and Other (1%). The biggest complaints relating to service were 1. Inattentive staff 2. Slow service and 3. Rude staff.

Restaurant habits: A whopping 93% of San Diego diners - the largest percentage nationally - say they have sent a dish back to the kitchen while 81% admit to having eavesdropped on a conversation at the next table. 47% of diners say they are less inclined to dine at a restaurant with a cash-only policy and 32% feel it’s rude and inappropriate for children to use tablets/phones at the table, while 19% say it’s perfectly acceptable.

For a look at this year’s 50 Best Restaurants in San Diego, be sure to check out www.zagat.com/best-restaurants/san-diego.

Posted by: Tiffany Herklots, Zagat

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Today we are revealing the results of Zagat’s latest Washington, D.C. restaurant survey. This year’s top restaurants are serving up “imagination, wit and brilliance”, in spaces with “wonderful ambiance”. Diners feast on food that “delivers flavor in every bite” through dishes that “aim to please”. If there’s ever been a time to get out in the D.C. restaurant scene, now is it.

Zagat covers more than 800 of the city’s most exciting restaurants, helping curious diners find the best places to eat. This year’s ratings and reviews are based on the combined opinions of 3,721 locals who separately rate a restaurant’s Food, Decor and Service and offer “witty comments” that our editors compile into short reviews.

This year, Washington, D.C.’s big winners are Fiola (Top Food), The Inn at Little Washington (Top Decor, Top Service), and Clyde’s (Most Popular). In addition to these highly rated favorites, Washington, D.C. welcomed hot newcomers including China Chilcano (Peruvian), Crane & Turtle (Japanese/French), Gypsy Soul (New American), Kapnos Taverna (Greek), Mango Tree (Thai), and Ocopa (Peruvian).

Whether it’s “hearty” sandwiches at Duke’s Grocery, “chewy, flavorful” pizzas at Pupatella, “high-quality” combos at SUNdeVICH, or “fresh-from-the-oven” biscuits from Cajun-Creole cafe Bayou Bakery, this year’s list of Best Cheap Eats proves that you don’t have to break the bank to satisfy your tastebuds in DC.

Here are a list of top winners by cuisine:

Burger - Ray’s To The Third                            
Chinese - Peking Gourmet Inn                          
Coffee - Northside Social Coffee & Wine        
Dim Sum - A&J Restaurant                              
French Bistro - Central Michel Richard            
Greek/Mediterranean - Zaytinya                        
Indian - Rasika                                                  
Italian - Fiola                                                    
Japanese - Sushi Taro                                        
Middle Eastern - Amsterdam Falafelshop
New French - Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier
Pizza - Pupatella
Seafood - Fiola Mare
Small Plates/Tapas - Rose’s Luxury
Spanish - Estadio
Steakhouse - Prime Rib
Thai - Little Serow
Vietnamese - Four Sisters Restaurant

According to this year’s National Dining Trends survey, Washington, D.C. diners eat out 4.5 times per week for a combined lunch and dinner, which is on par with the national average. The average reported spend per person for dinner out in Washington, D.C. is $38.19 - which is just below the national average of $39.40. When it comes to gratuity they leave a reported 19.5%, which is just about the national average of 19.3%.

Find all new ratings and reviews for Washington, D.C. restaurants on zagat.com, and across Google Search and Maps.

Cheers!

Posted by:
Tiffany Herklots, Zagat