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Zagat Releases 2012 Guide

The latest Zagat survey says New York City restaurants are weathering the shaky economy just fine.

Survey founder Tim Zagat said things were tough for restaurant owners and diners when the economy tanked three years ago, but they've bounced back.

"This have stabilized since 2008 and people are eating out as much as ever," he said.

Zagat's 2012 survey of New York City restaurants and industry trend is the first guide published since Zagat Survey LLC was acquired by Google in September. But Zagat, who founded the company with his wife, Nina, said readers shouldn't notice a difference. "The survey was largely completed before the deal closed," he said.

Another first for the guide this time around is it includes the results of a poll about the health department's grading system. Zagat said 85 percent of respondents like knowing if a restaurant got an A, B, or C.

"So the pressure on a restaurant to maintain an A grade is enormous and that's exactly what the health department was hoping for," Zagat added.

According to the guide, 35 percent of survey respondents said they'd only dine at an "A restaurant, and only 1 percent said they'd patronize a "C." The city began requiring restaurants to post their health inspection grade in the summer of 2010.

The poll was included in the questionnaires that also asks restaurant-goers to rate their favorite — and least favorite — dining outlets.

The 2012 guide found that Southern food tops this year's trends, thanks to newcomers like Marcus Samuelsson's celebrity magnet Red Rooster and The Cardinal, an East Village eatery dishing up okra, smothered pork chops and fried green tomatoes. Another trend included on-site gardens providing roof-to-table ingredients.

And, a new restaurant topped the list — Eric Ripert's Frech seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin.

More than 41,000 local foodies participated in the annual survey of the city's restaurants.