Zagat Releases First Statewide Texas Dining Guide Covering 1,176 Top Restaurants in Five Major Cities

Survey Finds Texans Dining Out More Than Residents Anywhere Else in the U.S.; Average Cost of a Texas Meal is Well Below the U.S. Average;

Epicurean Arrives in Austin; Dallas/Ft. Worth Finds New Glitter; Houston Has Huge Variety; San Antonio Spreads Out Into Loopland

DALLAS, April 7 /PRNewswire/ — Zagat Survey, the world’s leading provider of consumer survey-based leisure content, today released its first Texas Restaurants guide covering Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Based on roughly 1.05 million meals by over 5,000 Zagat surveyors from across the state, Texas Restaurants contains ratings and reviews for 1,176 area restaurants.

“The restaurant business in Texas is booming,” said Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey. “Texans are dining out more frequently than Americans anywhere else, and both customers and restaurateurs seem to be on a winning streak, thanks to improving quality and modest prices.”

Dining Out More, For Less: Perhaps the most impressive finding from Texas-area Zagat surveyors is the fact that Texans in Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston dine out more frequently than denizens of any other major U.S. city — and by a large margin. Zagat Survey results show diners in Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth average 4.0 meals out per week — 25% more than the national average of 3.2 meals per week — while diners in Houston (4.2 times per week) beat the national average by over 30%. By comparison, Bostonians dine out a mere 2.7 times per week and New Yorkers 3.4 times per week. In addition, the average cost of a Texas meal is $28.67, well below the national average of $32.06. But when it comes to tipping, Texans are right on par — matching the national average of 18.7%.

Diversity of Tastes: From sophisticated and swank to ethnic and eclectic, Texas has something for everyone when it comes to restaurants. The days of dominance for beef and Tex-Mex have waned as a cornucopia of cuisines have crossed the Lone Star State.

For example, in Austin, chef-driven eateries such as Mark Schmidt’s Cafe 909, Alan Lazarus and Ryan Samson’s Vespaio, Tristan White’s Fino, Tyson Cole’s Uchi and Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul’s Wink are incorporating both ethnic influences and a wide variety of local ingredients.

In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, not only are homegrown luminaries Stephan Pyles, Abraham Salum (Salum) and Peter Tarantino (Tarantino’s Deep Ellum) taking the town by storm, but they’ve been joined by noteworthy national stars like Nobu Matsuhisa of Los Angeles (Nobu) and Tom Colicchio of New York (Craft).

In Houston, an invigorated Downtown that includes Artista and Bank is being equaled as a destination point by the newly gentrified Midtown, boasting Gravitas and t’afia, and suburbs such as The Woodland, which is home to such jumping joints as Jasper’s and the Plano New American.

And in San Antonio, some of the most serious chefs are letting loose with more relaxed new places like Andrew Weissman’s Sandbar Fish House and Damien Watel’s La Frite Belgian Bistro. But perhaps the biggest local news is the arrival of the Center for Foods of the Americas, a culinary complex with a Culinary Institute of America-affiliated cooking school located at the old Pearl Brewery.

Austin — Most Popular and Top Food: When it comes to Most Popular, Austin’s top three restaurants include the “Elvis meets Tex-Mex” Chuy’s, the “classic” meat Mecca Salt Lick and the “upscale (but not uptight)” Eddie V’s Edgewater Grill. And on the Top Food front, the leaders include the “sublime” Vespaio, the “gourmet gem” Wink that’s “hidden in a strip mall” and the “inventive” Hudson’s on the Bend.

Dallas/Ft. Worth — Most Popular and Top Food: “The crown jewel of high- end, new-style dining” Abacus takes the top spot as Dallas/Ft. Worth’s Most Popular restaurant followed by Del Frisco’s “gut-busting a la carte menu” and the “very-good-all-around” Mi Cocina restaurants. Meanwhile, for Top Food there simply “aren’t enough superlatives to describe” the category leader, French Room. York Street Restaurant’s “showcase of fine dining” takes second place, and the aforementioned Abacus rounds out the top three.

Houston — Most Popular and Top Food: In Houston, “the cathedral to food” that is Mark’s American Cuisine takes the top spot in both the Most Popular and Top Food categories. The “incredibly delicious” Southwestern cuisine of Cafe Annie takes the second spot in the Most Popular category and the “still- family-owned” Carrabba’s Italian Grill group of restaurants comes in third. And filling out the top three Top Food category are the “amazing, sophisticated” Da Marco and Brennan’s of Houston which offers a “true taste of N’Awlins.”

San Antonio — Most Popular and Top Food: San Antonio’s Most Popular restaurants include the “large sit-down cocktail party” that takes place at Paesano’s, the “romantic,” “impeccable,” “gem” Le Reve (which is also the number one in both the Top Food and Top Service categories) and the “urbane” Biga on the Banks which boasts “fantastic River Walk views.” Rounding out the Top Food category in San Antonio are the “converted mansion” known as Lodge Restaurant which makes you feel like you’re eating “at a rich friend’s house” and the “very authentic” Korean B.B.Q. House.

Favorite Foods: Texans’ three favorite foods rank in a tight cluster that ranges from Italian (with 23% of the vote) to Mexican (20%) and American (17%). It’s not such an even race, however, when the subject turns to barbeque. Texas barbeque fans appear to strongly favor brisket (36%) over both ribs (27%) and pulled pork (11%). And fully 80% like their Q with sauce.

Smoking: Barbeque is the only thing that’s smoking in Texas, with 93% of surveyors saying they think smoking should not be permitted in restaurants. In fact, 64% of diners say they’d eat out less often if smoking were permitted, while only 2% say they would dine out more often.

Going the Distance: Texans enjoy dining out so much they’re even willing to make the long haul for a good meal. Nearly thirty-percent of those surveyed said they would drive more than an hour each way for a good dinner. And more than fifty-percent would drive 45 minutes or more in each direction.

Service — The Weak Link: As with most American cities, an overwhelming percentage of Texans found poor service to be the most irritating factor in the local dining scene. Seventy-eight percent of all dining-related complaints were about service, compared to only 8% about noise and 4% about prices.

Like all Zagat Survey guidebooks, the Texas Restaurants guide is made by consumers for consumers. In addition to Most Popular and Top Food, the guide also includes such useful categories as Celebrity Chefs, Child-Friendly, Business Dining, Outdoor Dining, Romantic Places and, of course, this being Texas, Game In Season. Restaurants are also broken out by cuisine, location, and dozens of other groupings.

The Texas Restaurants guide ($13.95) was edited by Caren Weiner Campbell, Daniel Simmons, Claudia Alarcon, Ron Bechtol, Gabrielle Cosgriff and Teresa Gubbins. The guide is available at bookstores and other retail outlets, through http://www.zagat.com/ or by calling 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 Windows Mobile operating systems, on BlackBerry, on mobile phones, and on TV. For more information, visit http://www.zagat.com/ .

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