Ted Zagat, the entrepreneurial son of Zagat Survey founders Tim and Nina Zagat, breezed into town recently to promote the hit-the-stands-just-before-Super-Bowl 2002 New Orleans edition of the survey. It's the first year that the New Orleans survey has included a section on nightlife, one of Ted's pet causes, adding ratings of 58 bars and clubs to the 540 restaurants covered. Using a system similar to the democratic Zagat formula for rating restaurants, which tallied responses from more than 1,750 participants this year, each nightlife entry was rated for overall appeal, decor, service and estimated drink cost. The House of Blues, Mid-City Lanes Rock 'N' Bowl and the Columns Hotel Bar were voted the Most Popular nightlife spots; the winners for Top Appeal, Decor and Service went to the Windsor Court's Polo Lounge, the Ritz-Carlton's French Quarter Bar and le chat noir; and justice prevailed when the Mermaid Lounge scored highest for Best Buy. Speaking of good buys, Zagat reports that New Orleanians are practically stealing cocktails. Whereas the average cost of a cocktail (meaning beer, wine or a mixed drink) here is $4.99, suckers pay $6.70 in Los Angeles and $6.92 in New York City. As for eats, Commander's Palace, Galatoire's and Bayona are the top three Most Popular restaurants in this year's survey. And check this out: the top five Food Rankings, in order, went to Peristyle, Bayona, Brigtsen's, Lafitte's Landing and Hansen's Sno-Bliz. That's right, the Sno-Bliz beat out Galatoire's, Gabrielle, The Grill Room, La Provence and Commander's Palace (ranked 6 through 10)! I feel like I can retire now. The 2002 Zagat Survey costs $10.95 and can be found just about anyplace where books are sold.
There's a clear division in my memory separating the olive-eaters in my life from the non-olive-eaters. I purposely took one of the latter to Dino's Bar and Grill (1128 Tchoupitoulas St. 558-0900) for the fried olives, so that I could eat them all. Dino's is a newish bar near the I-10 overpass, one block over from the new Sun Ray Grill (1051 Annunciation St., 566-0021), in the space where Trenticosta's recently spent a short few months. They might not have the fixin's for a Sazerac behind the bar, or anything but Abita on tap, but the fried olives are stuffed with cheese and covered in breadcrumbs and testament that this town -- thank you very much -- can get away with frying anything it wants. -- Roahen