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.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 7, 2008