Survey reveals thrifty, healthy eating habits

Zagat survey shows surge in Philly BYOBs and online reviewing, endurring popularity of Italian food.

Zagat survey shows surge in Philly BYOBs and online reviewing, endurring popularity of Italian food.

Creator of the burgundy bibles of restaurant reviews, Zagat recently released a survey that weighs in on Philadelphian’s latest in dining habits.

Photo Illustration COLIN KERRIGAN TTN

After collecting feedback from more than 5,500 frequent diners, the “2011 Philadelphia Restaurants” survey shows Philadelphians are making healthier decisions when it comes to dining out, not only through their menu choices, but also through their interest in the way their food is grown and produced.

Other emerging trends are forming out of the prevalence of the Internet, especially as review sites and food blogs invade the world of restaurants and food culture.

There has been a huge jump from past years in the number of Philadelphia diners making reservations online, with 41 percent now taking part.

An even larger portion – 86 percent – regularly checks out a restaurant online before dining there.

Max Marin, a junior English major, is one of many who check out any restaurant online before they try it.

“[I’ve found my] favorite off-campus restaurants from online reviews,” he said.

When it comes to on-campus eating, though, it’s a different, less technical story.

“I eat out a few times a month, usually looking for quality foreign food or well-priced American [food],” Marin said.

The survey found that 67 percent said they considered it important to have locally-grown/organic/sustainable menu items, and 63 percent said they were willing to pay more for such “green food.”

The eating habits described by Rachel Maddaluna, a junior environmental science major, fit with the trends recorded by Zagat.

Maddaluna said she eats less than usual when she’s on Main Campus due to fewer healthy and affordable options available.

“Right now, I’m in a junk-food phase since I’m at home less [often] to cook,” Maddaluna said. “But I also do go crazy on the veggies and make sure I’m eating them at home. Now that school is back in session, I eat out a ton because I’m always in class or on campus.”

But while the Zagat survey indicates people care more than ever about where their food comes from and how healthy it is, it can be difficult to find make healthy, environmentally conscience decisions about on-campus dining.

Kevin Douglas, a manager at the Qdoba at the Shops at Avenue North, said orders are “pretty much the same.” People are still ordering the standard gamut of burritos, quesadillas and taco salads.

While some students seem to take advantage of the slim pickings of healthy food options, the general attitude toward eating seems to remain: Typical fare like pizza, burgers and sandwiches seem to be the most popular contenders.

Another recent trend Zagat found seems to have a lot to do with recession worries: BYOB establishments, such as Logan Square’s Doma, Fond in South Philly, Narbeth’s Gemelli and Jose Garces’ Garces Trading Co. in Washington Square West, have experienced an upswing in popularity, with 81 percent of diners preferring those to others.

When it comes to Philadelphians’ favorites in the Zagat survey, Italian food is shaping up to be a timeless standby in the region. For the past seven years, it has been Philadelphia’s most popular; this year, 27 percent of survey respondents answered “Italian” when asked their favorite. American, Japanese, French and Mexican followed at 16 percent, 11 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Kirsten Stamn can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. I just have a tasty shake in the morning with a banana or some other fruit and it gives me everything I need and keeps me full for a few hours and is under 190 calories. I save money and stay healthy. Lost 5 pounds my first week too! Can’t beat that!

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