Chicagoans are dining out less and keeping more of an eye on how much they're spending in restaurants, the new Zagat survey of Chicago restaurants says.
Forty-one percent of diners say they are eating out less -- 2.8 meals a week on average -- and a third say they're going to less expensive restaurants, according to the survey of 5,701 diners, released today. One in five diners is passing up appetizers or dessert to keep their tab down.
Prices at those expensive restaurants, meanwhile, just keep going up. The average meal price at Chicago's 20 most expensive restaurants -- $104.95 -- ranks just behind those of New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
And here's something restaurants can learn from the survey, which is updated every two years: The Internet counts. The majority of eaters (83 percent) check out a restaurant's website and try to find out more about the menu before heading out for the evening. As for making reservations, just under half of diners do that on the Internet; 44 percent use that phone thingamabob.
On the restaurant rankings side, most of the names are familiar. Surveyors ranked the accolade-laden Alinea top for service, though Les Nomades, the tres Francais restaurant in Streeterville, was voted No. 1 for food. Xoco, Rick Bayless' torta-and-churro outpost with its everpresent lunch line, was the top newcomer; casual neighborhood joints Browntrout, Belly Shack and Nightwood also were recognized in that category.
The most popular restaurant in Chicago? Bayless' Frontera Grill.