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Survey says: Zagat unveils its 2011 L.A. restaurant guide

September 23, 2010 | 12:36 pm


Pizzeria Mozza and the Bazaar by Jose Andres are like the most popular kids in high school. Sushi Zo proves that it's what's on the inside -- not the outside -- that counts. It's getting cheaper to eat out in L.A. (although not by much). In-N-Out burgers reign supreme. It's hard to get good service these days.

And food trucks -- duh -- are hot.

Those are just a few of the highlights gleaned from the latest Zagat survey of more than 10,000 local diners, covering 2,016 restaurants in Los Angeles and other regions of Southern California and compiled into the Zagat 2011 dining guide. Tim and Nina Zagat -- the founders of the burgundy pocket guide that pioneered "user-generated content" before that term even existed -- were in town this week to chat about the new guide, as well as dining trends.

First up: How relevant is the Zagat guide in a world where everyone seems to be a restaurant critic with an online soap box? The Zagats say social media have been a boon for what they do, and the proliferation of online restaurant chatter only helps them stand out more in the crowded marketplace. "We have one of the highest-grossing apps for iPhone," Nina Zagat said, and more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.

"We don't just collect information and throw it" online, Nina said. "We always thought it was important for the content to be curated, to put the comments together in a way that is meaningful for the user. The core value of what we do is the editing of the comments and the quality of the content."

The survey includes several questions that reflect just how much the food world has changed. An overwhelming majority of diners think it's "acceptable in moderation" or "perfectly acceptable" to take pictures of their food or other diners' food. But 67% said "it's rude and inappropriate" to text, e-mail, tweet or talk on a cellphone during the meal.

Following the jump are just a few of the survey highlights (and click here for a survey PDF):

-- You love Asian food: Three of the five highest vote getters in the "top food" category are Asian, including Sushi Zo, Matsuhisa and Shiro. Sushi Zo -- known for it's strip-mall-esque setting as much as its food -- scored a near-perfect 29 out of a possible 30.  

-- But you still love pizza and burgers: Pizzeria Mozza was No. 1 in the "most popular" category, followed closely by the Bazaar by Jose Andres. In-N-Out is No. 1 in the "best buys" category.

-- Survey says: We know you're not average. But if you were, you'd eat out about 3.4 times per week, with an average meal cost of $34.85 (down 10 cents from last year).

-- It's the economy, stupid: The country's financial tailspin has taken its toll on you, with 44% of respondents saying they are more attentive to prices when ordering.

-- Some things never change: Italian is the favorite overall cuisine, more than 50% of you still make reservations the old-fashioned way -- by phone -- and 65% of you answered "no" to the question, "Do you think the formal fine-dining scene is dead?"

-- It's hard to get good service these days: 63% of those surveyed said poor service was the most irritating thing about eating out. 

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: Rene Lynch / Los Angeles Times