My nostalgia for the Zagat restaurant guide has come only in the form of missing the Chris Farley and Adam Sandler pair of SNL characters Beverly and Hank Gelfand, a long-married couple bickering as she reads from the guide and he wishes for an early grave. But for others, the long-running guide that launched in 1979 by Tim and Nina Zagat in New York City, was something of a Yelp before its time, using surveys to pool together the thoughts of diners on restaurants. At its 2005 peak, the guide covered 70 cities with the input of 105,000 people.
Then, in 2011, the company was sold to Google for $150 million, which turned it over to restaurant website The Infatuation in 2018 for an undisclosed sum. Since then, they’ve been toiling, and now, the guide is available both online and in bookstores around the city.
“The 2020 guide is driven by more than 200,000 ratings and reviews from New York City restaurant-goers who participated in a web-based survey,” they say. “The reviews represent 105 neighborhoods across NYC’s five boroughs and the book covers 57 different cuisines.” The top spot, which was also ranked as most popular, is Manhattan’s Le Bernardin, the lauded seafood-focused restaurant from chef Eric Ripert. The service award went to Daniel, and the decor award has gone to Majorelle.
But expect surprises in the guide, which, in a reflection of changing tastes and times, has delved more into the outer boroughs. Next summer, The Infatuation will launch a fully revamped digital presence for the guide that will allow diners to rate and review restaurants, to keep the guide true to its roots.