April 08, 2009

Top 100 Independent Restaurants

Here's Restaurants and Institutions' 2009 list of the Top 100 independent restaurant food and beverage sales. As usual, New York and Las Vegas establishments dominate the list.

I'm surprised how few of the top grossers I've been to (one in the top ten, Tavern on the Green, and 24 of the top 100), and how few have provided memorable meals. Two old favorites in New York City, Aureole and Grand Central Oyster Bar, are past their primes. Trattoria delle' Arte is reliable for the antipasto bar and thin-crust pizza. Cheesecake at Junior's (in Brooklyn or Manhattan) is always a treat, but not so much the rest of its offerings.

Even a brief glance indicates that if you are aiming for a home run, a steakhouse might be your best shot, unless you are located in Florida, where it helps to have "crab" or "fish" in your name. A few Japanese and Italian restaurants made the cut. True, Tao, a repeat number one, and Ruby Foo's offer pan-Asian fare (although Tao is as much a nightclub as a restaurant), you'd think that one Chinese or Mexican restaurant might make the Top 100.

If anything, the average dinner check listed seems suspiciously low, especially if alcohol is included. For example, the restaurant that serves the most covers per year, Frankenmuth Bavrian Inn is listed as having a $15 average check, and yet its specialty, an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner, costs $20.

And one other observation: Frankenmuth, Michigan has more entries in the Top 100 than Los Angeles does.