The 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Zagat Guide comes out today with 1,495 area restaurants covered in its pages, including all the usual suspects (and some new ones).
Gary Danko, the contemporary American restaurant near Fisherman's Wharf celebrating its 15th year, again topped the list as the most popular restaurant (and as the place with the best service and best food). Tartine Bakery was the favorite place under $25 and Sierra Mar, with impressive views in Big Sur, had the best decor -- in case you go to restaurants for the decor.
The Zagat Guide is compiled after surveying 17,505 people -- on the theory that a better understanding of restaurants will come from crowd-sourcing than from one high-end critic. Since Zagat was bought by Google in 2011 for $151 million there have been some small changes. Google revamped and relaunched the website and mobile app earlier this summer, which is free now. Zagat also is partially merged with Google Maps, so that Zagat suggestions come up in Google Maps when users search. In the age of so much information online, though, Zagat has also hinted that it may move more towards an editor-cultivated model (as opposed to the surveying crowd-sourcing model). The apps already include in some cities curated lists from editors of suggestions.
While most people use the Zagat Guide to get food suggestions, the 2014 survey also includes an overview of Bay Area residents' eating habits.
According to Zagat, in the Bay Area we're eating out an average of 4.2 times per week -- less than the national average of 4.4 times per week -- and ordering take-out 1.7 times per week, but we're spending more when we do go out ($41.87 per person on dinner, as opposed to $40.54 nationwide). Although we're paying more, we're tipping less -- just 18.4% v. the 19% national average. For shame!
We may not eat dinner and lunch out as much as people in other parts of the country, but we do brunch more. With just 7% of people nationally saying they go to brunch every weekend, 10% of Bay Area residents said they wouldn't miss the meal on the weekend, which may explain some of the long lines.
It also may not comes as a surprise that when we do make restaurant reservations, Bay Area residents are far more likely than others to make those reservations using the internet -- 68% of us reserve online and only 27% call the place directly, whereas nationally those numbers are 52% and 41%.
We also considered it more acceptable to take photos of your food than people in the rest of the country. Only 9% (as opposed to 12%) think that's rude or inappropriate, or just weird, whereas 86% of us think it's ok or totally acceptable -- otherwise what are we supposed to Instagram?
When it comes to our feelings about the restaurants, man are we picky. 26% of Bay Area residents said their biggest pet peeve eating out was inattentive staff, 16% said slow service, 12% said inadequately trained staff and 10% said rude staff. People nationwide were a bit more understanding -- or else the restaurant staff nationwide is better.
52% of San Franciscans said they won't wait longer than 30 minutes at a place that doesn't take reservations and 6% said, forget it, I skip those places.
We did have the same general tastes as the rest of the nation, with Italian as our favorite type of food. But, we're more diverse in our preferences. Nationally, 25% of people said Italian was their favorite cuisine, with American next at 13%. But, here, Italian got just 22% of the vote, then French had 14%, Japanese 13%, American 9%, all the way down the list through Thai, Indian, Vegetarian, German -- although 11% of Bay Area residents had to be different and said that their favorite was something else entirely. Of course it was.
When asked what we wanted to see more of, 15% of us said French restaurants. Maybe next year?
The top 20-rated restaurants in the Bay Area. Restaurants are given points on a scale of 0-30 based on surveyor's ratings. These restaurants received ratings of 27, 28 and 29.
Chez Panisse Cafe