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Which restaurants are worth your money?

Bundle: Find out where your neighbors spend their dining dollars.

By Janet Paskin Mar 11, 2010 1:55PM

For many, an empty restaurant is a suspicious restaurant. If it were good, the logic goes, people would be there. Eating. If it's desolate, there must be a reason. A critic's review has nothing on the reassurance delivered by a happily crowded dining room. So, where are the crowds?


Now there's a better way to find out: New data from Bundle, an MSN Money partner Web site, lets you see which restaurants truly command local dining dollars.

If people vote with their wallets, think of this as a true popularity contest. Sure, everyone eats their fair share of McDonald's, Subway and other chains, but Bellevue, Wash., residents also vote for John Howie when it's time to splurge on steak; Miamians are spending at Joe's Stone Crab; and on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the locals recommend PJ Bernstein's for pastrami. 


Don't want your dinner overrun by frat boys? Or maybe you're looking for a good time. In Austin, Texas, almost everyone eats at local Tex-Mex fave Chuy's, but you'll find more 25- to 35-year-olds at Sagra, an Italian spot voted Best Happy Hour on Citysearch. But by the time they're in their 40s, they'll be settling in for dinner at the Iron Cactus. 

And, surprise: Married couples with kids spend their dining-out dollars differently from married couples without kids, even holding age and income constant. In San Francisco, adult playground Dave & Buster's still has appeal for 36- to 49-year-old married couples without kids. But married couples with kids would rather sit down at seafood buffet Moonstar. Maybe they get enough flashing lights and mayhem at home. 

What makes a restaurant worth your money? (And for some new date-night ideas, visit

Related reading at Bundle:

Editor's note: Janet Paskin is Bundle's managing editor. She will report back regularly to MSN Money about spending trends and how America spends and saves. She can be reached at

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