The latest Zagat guide to the USA's top restaurants has given three outlets in the relatively unfashionable city of Philadelphia a higher mark than any in New York City or Los Angeles.
Fountain, Le Bar Lyonnais and Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia all received a mark of 29 out of a possible 30 for their cooking in the 2003 guide. Only 12 restaurants nationwide received a 29 rating.
Philadelphia's success means that the guide rates its top restaurants more highly than celebrated venues such as Le Bernardin, Daniel and Alain Ducasse in New York, which is the city usually regarded as offering the best food in the USA.
However, the publishers of the guide were cautious about concluding that Philadelphia's trio of high scorers means their food is better, because the guide is based on reader surveys. It may just have been the result of loyal Philadelphia diners rating their own restaurants more generously.
Tim Zagat said: "With more top-rated restaurants to choose from, New York City and Los Angeles locals seem to set tougher standards."
The guide also noted the continuing trend for Americans generally to eat more in neighbourhood restaurants.
"This year the most important change has been that Americans are eating closer to home, both physically and psychologically. As a result, restaurants in residential areas and suburbs have enjoyed record business, while city centre and tourist-based restaurants have had a tough time. Also, comfort food has had a comeback, even in fine-dining restaurants."
Other zagat findings
Priciest city: New York (£22.65 for an average dinner with one drink and tip)
Cheapest: Houston (£12.86)
Average tip nationally: 17.75%
Frequency of eating out: 3.2 times per week
Percentage eating out less: 36%
Percentage eating at less expensive places: 27%
Percentage who say that the weak economy has made them look more closely at prices: 27%