There's no denying that this country loves to grub. Google and Zagat teamed up to question over 9,000 diners across the U.S. to determine The State of American Dining in 2016. The national survey reveals some major insights into Houston's restaurant scene — and the diners themselves.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Houstonians consider themselves foodies. While 40 percent of local respondents confidently claim the title, another 38 percent say they secretly hate the term, and 20 percent completely reject the label.
It makes sense that most of us are foodies though, because locals also report dining out an average of 5.4 times per week.
Those meals are slightly easier on our wallets than other parts of the country. Houston's self-reported average for one dinner is $35.20, which is about $1 less than the national average of $36.30. When it comes to tipping, Houstonians just about matched the national average by leaving an 18.8 percent gratuity.
So what kind of food are we spending all that dough on? American cuisine led the pack with 19 percent of the vote. Italian food came in next with 16 percent, followed by Mexican (15 percent), seafood (14 percent), steakhouses (9 percent), and French (7 percent). Despite the ubiquity of restaurants serving the cuisine, only 1 percent of participants listed Vietnamese food as their favorite.
Forty-five percent of Houstonians claim they had their "best meal ever" at a high-end restaurant, while neighborhood joints and home kitchens almost tied for second (24 and 22 percent). Although we love going out, our dining deal breakers include communal tables (43 percent), cash-only policies (40 percent), and pre-fixe or tasting menus only (29 percent). On the other hand, we don't mind getting dressed up; only 22 percent said jackets required will prevent them from dining at a restaurant.
It may not be a deal breaker, but Houstonians are very concerned about the quality of service at local restaurants — 31 percent of respondents said that service was the No. 1 problem with dining experiences, slightly above the national average of 28 percent. Behind service, we're annoyed by noise (29 percent), parking (13 percent), crowds (9 percent), food quality (7 percent), prices (6 percent), and traffic (2 percent).
Surprisingly, phones aren't that annoying to Houston diners. Fifty-five percent report that using a phone at the table is okay in moderation, as opposed to 42 percent claiming that it's totally unacceptable. As far as food trends go, we're mostly over gluten-free dishes and green juice, but pretty evenly split on trendy ingredients like sea urchin and bone broth.
Chefs, take note: Houstonians still dig Sriracha — and we probably always will.