Zagat-less burgh

I promised the infamous Amos-the-poker-cat that I would blog about one of the (supposed) great shortcomings of Pittsburgh, the lack of a Zagat-listed restaurant here. Amos has harped on this and implies it is indicative of some great failing in the local restaurant scene. Is that what it means?

Zagats is indeed a de facto standard for restaurant reviews around the country. It began in 1979 as the compiled review of a lawyer couple in New York. Since then they have expanded to 41 cities in the US and more internationally. The question is: why no restaurants in Pittsburgh? Do people think local restaurants are so far below par as to deserve being snubbed by Mr. And Mrs. Zagat (esquire et al by the way).

I am pretty sure that the lack of a Pittsburgh restaurant is not a sign of inferior restaurants. Many cities are not covered by Zagat’s and at this time Pittsburgh is one of those places. While it has recently closed, I doubt anyone would disagree that a local restaurant like Baum Vivant compared favorably with the 441 restaurants listed in just the city of Philadelphia. Why Pittsburgh is yet to be covered by Zagats may be a valid question, but it is certainly a different question.

So maybe we can start a letter writing campaign to prod Zagats into producing a Pittsburgh guide. If next year there is a Pittsburgh guide put out by Zagats, the inference would be that all of a sudden the local dining scene got better.. right? Lets all contact them!.


6 Responses to "Zagat-less burgh"

Anonymous said... 8/31/2006 2:16 PM

Presumably there is no Zagat Survey for Pittsburgh because Pittsburgh is not a tourist or business destination.

Sully said... 8/31/2006 2:59 PM

Let's remember that no city has "A Zagat-listed restaurant," they have a Zagat restaurant guide that presents the results of the Zagat survey. Unlike AAA or Michelin guide, there is no mystery reviewer applying a standard (Not that Pittsburgh does particularly well there either). Instead, listings are based on survey that samples the opinions of customers.

Perhaps as surprising as the fact that there is no Zagat restaurant guide for Pittsburgh is the fact that no one else has come up with a copy-cat survey guide for Pittburgh.

Maybe the Pittsburgh restaurant industry needs a mega-committee branding initiative funded by the Heinz Endowment to overcome its highly fossilized image of big boring portions and chain stores to lure the Zagat survey to Pittsburgh.

Cope said... 8/31/2006 3:23 PM

In line with what Sully said, Zagat also gives poor reviews, so being Zagat-listed doesn't necessarily mean a restaurant is good.

It comes down to simple economics -- they just can't sell enough Zagat guides in all but the 41 biggest U.S. cities (big by population as well as a travel destination). So bashing the restaurants themselves is a real cheap shot that should be directed at the city itself (and pretty much every other city in the country).

One of the things I miss most about Pittsburgh is its restaurants, and if there was a Zagat guide so many of them would be rated highly.

John Morris said... 8/31/2006 8:10 PM

Well, the answer to this one is right here. Cope is right, for now the simple economics don't support a printed guide for pittsburgh, but an online review thing would likely be well supported and could evolve into something if it worked. I know there are things like that here but they aren't on my radar yet.

I have an art gallery and the lack of any kind of printed guides hurts here tremendously. But, part of that is that the marginal galleries here cannot support an ongoing gallery guide. But an online guide or a blog would work great, I think.

In general the city has a very poor web presence and people planning trips here have very hard time knowing what's going on.

I think a number of top secret projects are in the works that may help.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 9/06/2006 11:46 PM

"Infmaous", eh. Well, I have been called worst, and that was family members, or at least they claimed to be. ;-) "Infamy" is good too. "grossly ... shocking", now there is something to shoot for.

As someone that does a fair amount of traveling to a number of different cities, I have found the online Zagat guide (originally free, now details are only available to subscribers) to be very helpful. I don't rely on it alone though, and check out a number of different sources, including the local alt-Urban free-be.

Given that PIT is the number 20th MSA, it would stand to reason that there should be enough of a market for people for Zagat to be interested in covering here. They review 28 restaurants in CLE, 34 in COL, and 433 in PHI. Other than BUF, I can not find another obvious city missing.

Another misimpression I gather from the comments, other than Zagat only being a printed guide, is that they only cover the ritzy high end places. I find lots of info about small ethnic places via Zagat's.

There are plenty of other nation-wide city guides that cover PIT, citysearch is the most obvious. Interesting factoid I learned from Alton Brown, is Duncan Hines was orginally a travelling salesman that keep notes of the various local eateries, with particular attention to cleanliness. Food poisining on the road being a very real issue back in the 20's.

Cope, what could you possible miss about PIT restaurants that you can not find, and find better in BOS? (Maybe not cheaper, but certainly better.) Are not lobster rolls, and fried oysters enough?

RichW said... 9/14/2006 12:53 AM

For the record, I've written Zagat each of the five years I've lived here.

And Cope - didn't know you were in BOS, but since you are, you can do something nobody here in Pittsburgh has ever done within County limits - eat at a Mexican restaurant. Head up to the Forest Cafe in Cambridge. And stop for coffee afterwards at Simon's in Porter Sq. You won't regret either.

Trust me, I moved here from Quincy. It's what I miss most, along with The Fours sirloin tip sandwich.

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