Monday, May 11, 2009

New Jersey Restaurant Patrons Have Their Say

By Pat Tanner

The economy be damned: we New Jerseyans enjoy eating out as much as ever. But we are making some adjustments, according to the most recent survey by Zagat, which released its 2009/10 New Jersey Restaurants guide a few days ago. The 6,377 avid diners who shared their opinions (and numerical ratings) of 1,003 eateries statewide also responded to a series of questions on their dining habits. Forty percent said they are dining out less frequently and, when they do, many are trimming the tab by cutting back on alcohol and dessert. (Full disclosure: I served as an editor on the guide, as well as the 09/10 Jersey Shore Restaurants pocket guide. As always, the ratings and reviews are by consumers, for consumers.)

Congratulations go to top scorer Restaurant Nicholas, which came out number one (again) in the categories of Most Popular, Top Food, and Top Service. I was personally gratified to see that Ajihei – a tiny, modest, below-stairs Japanese b.y.o. in Princeton that’s notable for its pristine, classic sushi – is ranked fourth in the state for food, behind Lorena’s (Maplewood) and David Drake (Rahway). A word of caution, though, before you gather up all your foodie friends and descend on Ajihei: owner/chef Koji Kitamura does not take reservations and refuses to seat parties larger than four. (For a full explanation, look for my review of Ajihei in the September issue of New Jersey Life.)

In budget-conscious categories, DeLorenzo’s Pies on Hudson Street in Trenton (and now Robbinsville) is tops for pizza, and in the coffee shop/diner division Edison’s Skylark Diner leads the pack. My review of that, as well as the Summit Diner and East Brunswick’s Seville are featured in the June/July issue.

Something to think about as we head into summer: Almost one in three American adults got their first job in a restaurant. For many New Jerseyans, it was a summer job at the Shore that paid for a first car or college tuition. That’s still true today - and just one more reason to continue patronizing local restaurants during down times.

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