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updated 6/8/2005 4:02:57 PM ET 2005-06-08T20:02:57

Few restaurants understand the power of the Zagat survey better than the Grocery in the city's Brooklyn borough.

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The neighborhood restaurant serving high-end American food received a rating of 28 out of 30 last year, launching it to seventh on the city's "best restaurants" list and placing it on the culinary map.

The rating "changed our lives dramatically," said Sharon Pachter, who owns the Grocery with Charles Kiely. Tables filled every night, the national media took notice and out-of-town diners lined up to dig in, she said.

Slideshow: The Big Apple Now with the 2005 guide, the Grocery may be facing a return to normal: The new edition gives the restaurant a 26 rating, dropping it to 36th on the top 50 list. Chef-owners Pachter and Kiely attribute the drop to the higher scrutiny and expectations diners brought to the restaurant and said they never expected to remain so near the top.

This year's guide includes ratings for 1,945 restaurants in all five boroughs, compiled by more than 30,000 frequent diners. In addition to the food rating, the diners rate each restaurant's service and decor.

While there are no surprises quite like the Grocery last year, chefs across New York will surely be checking this unofficial report card, which can make or break a restaurant.

With some minor jostling for position, the highest-rated restaurants maintained their places at the top of the heap. The French Le Bernardin, in midtown Manhattan, was rated the best with a 28 out of 30 for the second year in a row, followed by Bouley, in Tribeca, and Daniel, in Midtown.

Diners chose Gramercy Tavern as their favorite restaurant, beating out its sibling, Union Square Cafe. Both are owned by Danny Meyer.

While the restaurant world's center of gravity lies firmly in Manhattan, the survey includes more than 250 restaurants in the outer boroughs, most in Brooklyn.

The average dinner in the city costs $37.45 per person, according to the survey, a slight increase from last year.

The survey also covers the priciest restaurants in the city, with a growing number of high-end establishments charging well above $100 a head.

Masa, a 26-seat sushi den that opened this year in Manhattan's Time Warner Center, is the city's most expensive restaurant, with the prix fixe meal $300 _ before drinks, tax or tip. Another highly anticipated eatery in the building complex, Per Se, wasn't ranked this year since it didn't get enough reviews.

The low-carb craze seems to have altered the prospects for the city's steakhouses. Brooklyn's famed Peter Luger moved up from ninth place to sixth, while Sparks, in Manhattan, jumped from 45th to 26th. In addition, BLT Steak in Midtown and Wolfgang's Steak in Murray Hill made the top 10 newcomer's list.

On the Net:

Zagat: http://www.zagat.com

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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