NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Yorkers are eating out more often than a year ago, reversing a trend as confidence in the economy grows, according to the Zagat 2014 restaurant survey released on Tuesday.
Restaurant patrons, led by younger casual diners, ate out or bought 58 percent of their lunches or dinners, up from 49 percent a year ago, the survey showed.
New Yorkers remain far more likely to dine out or order in than the average American, who opts for restaurant food just 47 percent of the time, it said.
"People are feeling better and going out more and cooking less," said Tim Zagat, co-founder of the 35-year-old annual survey. "It was a decline that started and ended with the recession" that struck in 2008, he said.
"It's pure and simple - the economy is much better and people have more money in their pockets. And even businesses have become more relaxed about paying for employees' meals if they want them to work late," he added.
The average dinner in New York City, including entree, drink and tip, cost $48.56 - about 20 percent more than the national average, the survey of 48,114 regular restaurant patrons showed.
"Younger people are eating out more, but at less expensive, ethnic, more informal places," Zagat said. "Decor and service is not really their thing."
The highest-rated New York new restaurant was a barbecue joint, Mighty Quinn's, cited for its Texas- and Carolina-inspired menu. The survey said it offers "phenomenal prices," and young diners don't mind the "mob-scene" atmosphere.
Eric Ripert's French seafood palace Le Bernardin led food rankings for a fifth consecutive year, edging out Bouley.
Asian fusion restaurant Asiate was cited for best decor, while Per Se took the honors for best service, both repeating top rankings of a year ago.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Scott Malone and Richard Chang