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It’s Cheaper To Dine Out In San Diego

The dining room at Cucina Urbana on Fifth Avenue in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Yelp!
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Above: The dining room at Cucina Urbana on Fifth Avenue in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Yelp!

Are you spending less money dining out? According to Zagat, you should be.

A survey conducted by Zagat (sounds like za cat!), the creators of the popular Zagat dining guides, found that it was slightly cheaper to dine out at San Diego restaurants this year.

The average cost of a meal decreased from $35.78 to $34.45, according to the survey of 533 local restaurants. It's also cheaper to dine out here compared with Los Angeles ($34.85) or San Francisco ($38.78), and below the national average ($35.32).

Zagat surveyed 2,294 San Diegans about the local restaurant scene and found that, even though it's been more affordable, people are dining out less than they did in 2008. I can only imagine that's because of the prolonged economic downturn, or the recession, or whatever we're calling it these days.

The San Diegans surveyed by Zagat were a cranky bunch when it came to rating our dining scene and gave the industry some harsh scores.

In the category of "culinary creativity," San Diego received a score of 15 out of a possible 30 on the Zagat scale, while "choice/diversity" got a 17. San Diegans were much more critical than Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and New Orleans.

The local restaurant industry has responded to fewer customers by offering more casual fare and increasing dining options that are less formal, like food trucks.

This is what the Zagat folks had to say about the new kids to the San Diego restaurant scene:

This year's crop of 30 San Diego newcomers tends to be inexpensive and casual. For example, Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant, Avenue 5 and Cucina Urbana have adopted a cap of $20 on all entrees. Mexican newcomer Funky Garcia's appeals to young diners with "fun atmosphere" and "quick taco fixes." Top Chef alum Brian Malarkey has opened Searsucker, a modestly pricey New American with “creative cocktails,” and North Park's El Take it Easy fits the same model. Carlos De Narvaez's Soho, also located in North Park, matches its "funky location" with "interesting Southern-accented fare" and an affordable price tag to appeal to diners, while anticipated Italian newcomers Bencotto (Guido Nistri) in Little Italy and Sapori (Rafaele and Laura Petrazzuolo) in Coronado are also offering Italian fare for the 19% of San Diego surveyors who vote Italian their favorite cuisine.

And if you snap a photo of your caprese salad at Cucina Urbana to post on Facebook, note that 88% of the San Diegans surveyed think snapping the photo is fine. But, if you starting posting, texting, and emailing from the table, 64% of them will think you are rude.

For the restaurants voted most popular and with the best food (no real surprises here), click here.

Does it bother you when people text at the dinner table? Does it bother you when fellow diners take pictures in the restaurant?

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