March 7/New York/PRNewswire -- Zagat has released its “2012 Texas Restaurants Survey,” covering 1,431 eateries across the state as voted on by 3,542 area diners. The survey shows Texans lead the nation in dining out, with a statewide average of 3.8 meals per week, approximately 20% higher than the national average of 3.1. Topping the local list this year is Houston, with a reported average of 4.1 meals per week, followed in order by Dallas/Ft. Worth (3.8), San Antonio (3.6) and Austin (3.5).

When it comes to meal spending, 31% of Texans say their average outlay is up this year, while only 10% say that they are spending less. Nonetheless, the cost of a meal in Texas, at $32.17, remains a relative bargain compared to the $35.62 national average. In fact, meal costs declined in Austin and San Antonio since the Zagat 2010 Survey and increased by less than 1% annually in Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston.

Texas foodies are increasingly connected with restaurants, as 46% say they engage in group buying discounts, 36% have downloaded restaurant-related apps to their smartphones, and 27% follow eateries via social networking. Internet reservations have jumped to 39% this year, from 23% in 2010 and 11% in 2008.

This year's winners for Food in Texas represent an eclectic mix of dining options. In Dallas, the Cultural District's classic French Saint-Emilion earned a near-perfect 29 out of 30 on the Zagat rating scale, as did Austin's Uchi (Japanese) and Houston's Da Marco (Italian). In San Antonio, Food winner Bistro Vatel (French) topped the list with an also impressive 28 out of 30. The full list of winners is as follows:

Food trucks continue to see success in Texas, with 32% of surveyors visiting one at least occasionally. Austin has long been a leader in this trend, this year boasting trucks and trailers like Raymond Tatum's Asian-inspired Three Little Pigs, JMueller BBQ on South First Street and Chi'lantro, featuring Korean-Mexican fusion. Elsewhere in Austin, Mexican truck El Naranjo and Franklin Barbecue have both graduated from mobile offerings to become brick-and-mortar restaurants, with Franklin debuting in the top ten for Food in Austin. The mobile food scene in Houston blossomed in the past few years with Melange Creperie offering offbeat crepes and Modular Trailer serving up modified Asian fare, while Dallas welcomed grilled cheese, hot dogs and more from Jack's Chowhound and Vietnamese fare at Nammi Truck. In San Antonio, the pork-centric Rolling Pig debuted, despite a rocky road from local vending laws.

When it comes to the use of mobile phones in restaurants, 52% consider it "rude and inappropriate" to talk, text, tweet or e-mail while at the table, while 85% say it is "ok" for diners to take photos of their food or dining companions as long as it's done in moderation.

Service continues to be the top complaint for 72% of surveyors, followed distantly by noise (14%), food (6%) and prices (4%). As for sustainably raised, organic and locally grown ingredients, a full 64% say that they are important to their restaurant choice and 51% go so far as to say they will pay more for these items.

 From the March 8, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.