"Philadelphians are the most generous tippers in the nation," according to a news release from Zagat, announcing the official publication today of its 2009 guide to Philadelphia area restaurants.

Also deserving of major kudos is the Four Seasons Hotel's Fountain Restaurant, named tops in three categories: food, decor and service.

Stephen Starr's Buddakan, though, was named most popular, followed by Amada, Le Bec-Fin, Alma de Cuba and Capital Grille.

Top newcomers, in order, are Cochon, a Queen Village BYO; Azie, an Asian fusion spot in Media; Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia; Supper, which serves upscale American on South Street; and Bindi, a modern Indian BYO in Center City.

According to Zagat - or at least the 5,507 local diners who reported on their preferences and habits to Zagat - people in the Philadelphia area leave an average tip of 19.6 percent.

New Yorkers leave 19 percent - the national average - while folks in L.A. leave 18.4.

Last year, Denver was No. 1, adding 19.5 percent to bills for gratuities. Philadelphia and Detroit tied for second, at 19.4 percent.

The new slim burgundy guide, titled 2009 Philadelphia Restaurants, has thumbnail reports and ratings on more than 1,000 restaurants in the region, from South Jersey to Wilmington to Lancaster.

Respondents, who average 2.6 meals a week at restaurants, said their favorite cuisines were Italian (28 percent), American (14), Japanese (11), French (10), Mexican (10) and Thai (9).

About 25 percent of area diners make reservations online, compared to only 14 percent in L.A. and an impressive 43 percent in San Francisco.

The $14.95 guide was edited by Inquirer Table Talk and Inqlings columnist Michael Klein and Sharon Gintzler and coordinated by Marilyn Kleinberg.

The ratings and reviews are also available at www.zagat.com.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.