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Zagat: New Yorkers cutting back on dining out

NEW YORK Citing the ongoing economic crisis, 38 percent of New Yorkers say they are eating out less, according to the latest Zagat Survey for the city's restaurants.

The survey, released Tuesday, indicated that diners also are saving money by eating in less-expensive restaurants, being more attentive to menu prices, skipping appetizers and desserts, and cutting back on alcohol. The 2009 survey, which marks the 30th annual guide for New York, covers 2,073 restaurants across the five boroughs and based its data on the responses of 38,128 consumers.

Restaurants openings in New York also were down, falling for the first time since 2003, Zagat said. This year 119 restaurants opened, compared with 163 a year ago.

In addition to diners cutting back, Zagat officials also pointed out that the failure of such Wall Street stalwarts as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, along with cost-cutting measures at other financial institutions, would hurt holiday party business at the end of the year.

“Restaurants are clearly feeling the pinch from the economic crisis,” said Tim Zagat, chief executive of Zagat Survey. “But in the long run they will weather this storm, just as they did after 1987’s Black Monday and 2001’s 9/11. While we foresee some hard times, New York is likely to remain the world’s leading restaurant city.”

The average cost of a meal in New York rose 3.3 percent to $40.78, which makes it the second most expensive city in the country for dining out. Only Las Vegas, with an average tab of $44.44, was more expensive. The national average is $34.09, Zagat said.

According to the survey, New York's top-ranked restaurant for food was Per Se, which also won in the category of service. Momofuku Ko was named best new restaurant, and Union Square Cafe was voted the city's most popular restaurant for the sixth time in 10 years.

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