Restaurant owners in Baltimore-D.C. area may have their work cut out for them. Diners in our market say they eat out an average of 2.6 times a week, which ranks 43rd among the 45 markets surveyed and far below the national average of 3.1 times a week. Only diners in Boston and Philadelphia say they dine out less frequently. The four top gourmandizing markets are all in Texas — Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
Baltimore and Washington were considered separately in the survey's meal-cost comparison. The national average meal cost was $35.65, and average meal in Baltimore was $34.29, just a buck and a half less than the $35.99 average D.C. meal. Las Vegas, at $47.53, was the highest.
But interestingly, when the survey included only the 20 most expensive restaurants in each city, the average in Baltimore was $62.02, well below the national average of $79.39 and staggeringly below the average very expensive meal in New York City, which was $163.34. In other words, Baltimoreans appear unwilling to go for broke at dinner time.
On the other hand, 63 percent of diners in the Baltimore-D.C. market say they'd pay more for food that is locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised. That's above the national average of 57 percent. The city where diners care most about "green" food was — you guessed it — Portland, Ore. And the city where the diners don't seem to care so much where there food comes from was Las Vegas, which makes perfect sense.
And as for tipping, diners in Baltimore-D.C. tip 19.2 percent, right at the national average of 19.3.
Why so serious? Michael Pollan, the author of the "Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" and "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto," is coming to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in January as part of the Baltimore Speaker Series, but you can see him Oct. 26 at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda. Pollan's talk, "In Defense of Food: The Omnivore's Solution," will explore food consumption and the industries that surround it. Tickets are $35-60. Call 301-581-5100 or go to strathmore.org
It's a new car The Restaurant Association of Maryland Education Foundation wants to put you in an Audi. The top prize in the 12th annual car raffle fundraiser is a 2012 Audi A3 from Valley Motors, with $10,000 and $5,000 as second and third prize, respectively.
Everyone purchasing a $300 raffle ticket gets $325 worth of restaurant gift certificates. The 13 participating restaurants include: Ruth's Chris Steak House and DaMimmo Finest Italian Cuisine in Baltimore; Brewer's Alley in Frederick; the Milton Inn in Sparks; Victoria Gastro Pub, The Melting Pot, Iron Bridge Wine Company and Second Chance Saloon in Columbia; Red Brick Station in White Marsh; Baldwin's Station in Sykesville; and Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille, Sunset Grille and Phillips Seafood in Ocean City.
The raffle will raise up to $50,000 for the association's ProStart school-to-career program. ProStart is a high school culinary and hospitality management curriculum that also requires 400 hours of paid industry work experience in order to receive a ProStart National Certificate of Achievement. There are currently over 4,000 high school students in the program in Maryland, according to RAM.
Tickets may be purchased online or by phone at 800-874-1313. The raffle winner will be announced Dec. 19 at the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Annual Holiday Reception in Columbia.
A dining candidate A new eatery named Manchurian Rice Co. opened Friday in the Harbor East spot where a fancy newsstand used to be. Alex Smith, who will be operating the restaurant with his partner, George Aligeorgas, describes Manchurian Rice Co. as a gourmet carryout, serving freshly prepared Chinese, Thai and Japanese food. Smith, who also owns the neighboring Harbor East Delicatessen & Pizzeria, said that food will be cooked to order by chefs at a six-wok station and at a Japanese teriyaki grill.
A mezzanine for limited on-premise dining has been constructed to enlarge the store's footprint, but the expectation at Manchurian Rice, which Smith hopes to parlay into a franchise, is that most people will carry the food out for a quick and healthy everyday meal.
Manchurian Rice, Smith says, will offer the same quality ingredients and focused menu as Chipotle does with Mexican food. Manchurian Rice Co. will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Manchurian Rice Co. is at 1010 Aliceanna St. Call 443-438-3528