Average meal spend in Atlanta falls 1.9% to US$30.15, down 15.2% from national average as Atlantans embrace new dining trends such as small plates, locavore-leaning restaurants, survey says

Nevin Barich

Nevin Barich

NEW YORK , May 2, 2012 (press release) – This morning Zagat released its 2012/13 Atlanta Restaurant Survey, covering 471 eateries in the metro Atlanta area, based on 2,899 avid local diners. The Survey shows that despite declining meal costs and dining out frequency, Atlanta residents are still eating out slightly more than the national average and are enjoying meal costs well below the national average. In addition, the Survey shows that Atlantans are embracing new dining trends such as small plates and locavore-leaning restaurants.

Show Me the Money: The average meal spend in Atlanta is $30.15, down an annualized 1.9% since the last Survey, but still a full five dollars lower than the national average of $35.57. As the meal costs stay down, locals report eating out on average 3.2 times per week, down from 3.3. Though a slight decline, Atlanta diners eat out more often than the national average of 3.1, as well as diners in New York (3.0), Chicago (2.8) and Boston (2.5).

Winners: Bacchanalia has taken home the award for Food in Atlanta for the 17th straight year, boasting a near-perfect 29 on Zagat's 30-point scale. It is also impressive that four restaurants — Antico Pizza (Pizza), Aria (American), Bone's Restaurant (Steak) and Valenza (Italian) — all earned 28s this year. Bacchanalia also took home honors for Popularity while Buckhead's Bones's Restaurant won for Service and Midtown's Nan Thai Fine Dining won for Decor.

Back to Basics: From top-rated restaurants like Bacchanalia and Kevin Gillespie's Woodfire Grill, to this year's Top Newcomer, Buckhead's Local Three, Atlanta diners continue to embrace the locavore dining trend. This year, a commanding 73% of surveyors say that "green" food items are important while 61% say they are willing to pay more for locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised food.

Newcomers: Besides Local Three, top newcomers include Heirloom Market BBQ, Chicken & The Egg (Southern), No. 246 (Italian) and Cibo e Beve (Italian). Many of this year's newcomers feature small-plate menus like Downtown's Alma Cocina (Mexican), Midtown's Cucina Asellina (Italian) and East Atlanta's Octopus Bar (Eclectic) while others are ultra-casual such as Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand and HD1 (Hot Dogs) as well as Inc. Street Food (Pan-Latin).

Letter Grades: A whopping 85% of surveyors believe that restaurants should be required to post a letter grade in the window reflecting the results of their Department of Health inspection, similar to other cities such as Los Angeles and New York, which already require this by law.

Minding Manners: When it comes to the use of mobile phones in restaurants, 49% consider it "rude and inappropriate" to talk, text, tweet or e-mail while at the table, while 66% say it is "ok" for diners to take photos of their food or dining companions as long as it's done in moderation. Service continues to be the top complaint for 66% of surveyors, followed distantly by Noise (12%), Prices (9%) and Food (5%).

Survey Details: The 2012/13 Atlanta Restaurants Survey ($6.95) was edited by Curt Gathje and Shelley Skiles Sawyer and is available in bookstores, online at zagat.com and via Zagat's mobile products. For news and updates, follow @Zagat on Twitter and add Zagat to your circles on Google+.

About Zagat Survey, LLC:
Known as the "burgundy bible," Zagat Survey is the world's most trusted source for consumer-generated survey information. With a worldwide network of surveyors, Zagat rates and reviews restaurants, hotels, nightlife, movies, music, golf, shopping and a range of other entertainment categories and is lauded as the "most up-to-date," "comprehensive" and "reliable" guide, published on all platforms. Zagat content is available to consumers wherever and whenever they need it: on zagat.com, on Zagat's mobile applications and in book form. In September of 2011, Zagat was acquired by Google Inc.

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