For the second year in a row, Santa Monica has been named the best neighborhood/area for great restaurants in Southern California by the 2008 Zagat Los Angeles/Southern California Guide.

Santa Monica, with restaurants such as MÈlisse, Josie, Capo, Chinois on Main and Valentino, remains surveyors’ pick for the area with the best restaurants, according to Zagat. Los Angeles area restaurants — citing several from Santa Monica — were also honored by Forbes .com recently as being one of the top ten dining destinations in the world, named alongside cities such as Paris and New York City.

“[Santa Monica] is a hot neighborhood; it’s been a hot neighborhood,” said Michael Mahle, a spokesman for Zagat. “It’s got so many great restaurants in such a small area that you can’t go wrong, really. I think our surveyors believed that as well.”

The 2008 guide covers 2,187 restaurants and its ratings are based on the experiences of 8,859 area residents who eat out or take out more than half of their meals.

The survey found that Santa Monicans have access to the best restaurants in Southern California. The survey also found that many diners are willing to pay more for organic food/dishes, including 61 percent of those surveyed who said they prefer food that is locally grown or raised.

Santa Monica attracts chefs to open up shop and test their creations amongst the hardest critics, the locals, according to Zagat.

“Few cities offer more variety than Los Angeles’s [Santa Monica’s] dining scene,” said Tim Zagat, co-founder of Zagat Survey. “The people of Paris can only dream of having as many top-quality Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Cal-Med style restaurants from which to choose.”

Josiah Citrin owns and operates MÈlisse, which won the Four-Star Mobil Travel Guide Award and was honored by Zagat, earning the best American-French restaurant in Los Angeles award for the past five years and the number-one wine list for the past two years.

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