How do you sell excellence, which is usually expensive, in a depression? Zagat, the famous restaurant guide, announced its 2009 New York best-of with a depressing survey finding that “New Yorkers Are Downsizing Dining Out.” With Wall Street in turmoil and the cost of dining up 3.3 percent over last year, Thirty-eight percent of New Yorkers tell Zagat they’re dining out less now. Many also say they’re “eating in less expensive places (38%), being more attentive to menu prices (35%), skipping appetizers or desserts…” and eating in such anti-glam establishments as “burger joints.”
This is a miserable drag. But Zagat’s toplist isn’t breathlessly exciting either — Per Se, Gramercy Tavern, Babbo, Le Bernardin, and Gotham Bar & Grill were the snoozy top five. (Momofuku Ko is the top newcomer.)
Fortunately the New York Daily News, like many of us, finds a little more fun in Brooklyn, where Carroll Gardens’ Lucali edged out pizza shrine DiFara for best tomato pie. DiFara’s fastidious pizzamaster, Dom De Marco, even showed some diva-like qualities: the News said “he’d never had a Lucali pizza, and was not particularly interested in trying one.” Roof-of-the-mouth burn!
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, Zagat found the city’s best burger at DuMont. (Hmmph.) To prove their people actually did some looking around, it also gave shouts to L & B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurt, the Mill Basin Deli, and the Roll-n-Roaster in Sheepshead Bay.
Returning to its hair-shirt economic theme, Zagat said that “pizzerias, burger joints and BBQ places” were “popping up” in New York “to give diners’ strained budgets a break.” We thought it was because jaded chefs and diners were already fucked-out on pan-everything haute cuisine and had retreated to cornbread and hamhocks, which were now as exotic to them as Kroger, Cracker Barrel, and rayon.