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Zagat:hioghest rating in Manhattan is 28 for food: does this make sense?

  • k

Who and where in US would be higher than 28?

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  1. Actually, there are. For example, Chicago has a "29". But does it really matter? Why get hung up on the numbers? Is a 28/29 "better" than a "25", a "20"? What's better? It's like the people who get hung up on wine ratings from certain magazines. The ratings appear to be objective, but at that level, the distinctions become a little vague.

    1 Reply
    1. I believe that Zagat survey participants rate food on a scale of 0 to 3, then the surveyors average everyone's rating and multiply by ten. So a place can get a 30 only if everyone, or almost everyone, gives them a 3. And they are always a few naysayers. I've always hesitated to kowtow to ratings of a herd of people whom I wouldn't want to talk to at a bar.

        1. french laundry in yountville "fell" from a 29 that it had a few years ago (now 28)... and Gary Danko (SF) has a 29 from the 2006 Zagats.

            1. New York City diners are the most priveleged in the world. There is no other city in the world with the breadth and quality of restaurants as there are in NYC. We are a finicky bunch and as a result our numbers are skewed as compared to other cities. Often times chain restaurants in other cities make into the top 50 by popularity and top food in other cities throughout America. A California Pizza Kitchen in NYC has a lower score than other cities throughout the nation even though the product they produce is virtually the same. La Bernadin would likely get a 29 or 30 if it were in any other city in the US.

              The point - NYC doesn't have a 29 because we're spoiled.

              3 Replies
              1. re: wazup1999

                Surely if NY diners were as spoiled as you suggest, we would have many 29s - and the California Pizza Kitchens et al. would have correspondingly lower scores.

                1. re: frenetica

                  No. The reason a 29 doesn't exist is because the bar is set higher in New York than elsewhere. With that many allegedly spoiled eaters, they have a tendency to be pickier about what is great, and are therefore more willing to give a place that would be a 3 anywhere else a 2 there.

                  However, trying to figure out how much better a 29 is over a 28 is like listening to people who read too much Wine Spectator gush lavishly about a 95 point wine while snubbing the 92 point wine just down the list. They're both terrific. Relax and enjoy.

                2. re: wazup1999

                  Spoiled, particular, demanding and, if I may, generally a more sophisticated type of diner. I recall a few years back that the highest Zagat rated deli in all their U.S. guides was somewhere in the midwest with a 28 or 29. New Yorkers were appalled but the reality is that we rarely give the best anything a 28 or 29. Did I think the midwest deli was really better than the best New York delis? No. It's all relative. My rule of thumb with Zagat outside NY is to see how high any areas diners rated the higher end chains (Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's, et al) and then gauge the rest of the ratings based on that. Thus, if Cheesecake gets mid to high twenties on food, I take everything else down several points to adjust for my NY perspective.

                3. How can anyone argue that NY'ers are lucky enough to have great choices within great ranges for food. Street vendors have great foods, restos have great food. Likewise NY has NY'ers, a highly demanding, critical, entitled group of people. And yes I can be one of them as I live outside the "city" and look for great street and resto food.

                  A 28 is a 28 and a 29 is a 29 (the Descarte Theory) but what's the diff, not huge in my book. Are the NY'ers upset because they did not get the highest score, probably a little. When I used to commute to Phoenix, there was a mexican resto in a strip mall that i went to all the time because of the food. it was as satisfying as any (well almost) meal i've eaten in NYC.

                  So if i could eat at a 28, yippee, a 29, also a yippee, likewise some "joint" with a "16" may get a "yippee."

                  Get over the nums and enjoy the food. It's not a contest but a guide.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    Zagat's just a popularity contest. The survey results get skewed by any number of factors. In the San Francisco area, a really popular but not great pizza place made the top 10 one year. This year, the French Laundry and Gary Danko tied for 29, but almost everyone who's been to both rates the FL higher.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      RL I agree with your popularity comment and add that many voters (me included in the 80's) would rate restos that they went to 3-4 years previously. But I would point out that if "almost everyone who's been to both rates the FL higher" then the popularity contest would give a higher rating to FL. I think that's how the math works.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Not necessarily. It could be that hundreds of voters have gone to Danko but not to FL, and they all give Danko the top rating, a 3. Or it could be that people who go to both think, Danko is clearly the second best restaurant in California so I'll give it a 3. FL is much better and if I could give it a 5 I would, but 3 is the highest rating allowed.

                        1. re: Brian S

                          I think more people have been to Gary Danko. They can turn some tables three times a night.

                          People who haven't been to either may well be voting on reputation.

                  2. Zagat clutching foodies.

                    ;)

                    1. Leaving aside the question of what, if anything, Zagat is good for, I want explicitly to point out the following fact to which other posters have alluded: Zagat ratings, sinofar as they measure anything, can only sesibly be compared within a city.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mhoffman

                        Yes. By analogy... Republican candidates get higher ratings in Oklahoma than they do in New York. But that's because the voters are different people.

                      2. Hell, here in Pittsburgh P.F. Chang's is on the top 3 of Best Chinese!

                        1 Reply
                        1. NYC has the most restaurants, and has some of the very best restaurants, but not necessarily "the best" restaurant. Much prefer the Inn at Little Washington when it is at it's best to Restaurant Daniel or Per Se, and The French Laundry is absolutely top notch.

                          Besides, as they say, "One man's meat . . .