A couple of months into reviewing restaurants, I realized that I had a problem. Most restaurants are not amazing (though some are), and most restaurants aren’t bad (though that happens too). My reviews were clustering around 3 stars, which I intuitively thought of as “pretty good”.
Of course, the problem is that this doesn’t give readers much to go on. Of course most restaurants are decent; the hard part is differentiating among them, especially as to the vegetarian selections. With that in mind, around March 2012, I “re-graded” the prior reviews and used the scale below going forward.
The scale is not a rigid formula. But it gives substantial weight to two factors: the vegetarian selections on the menu, and the quality of that vegetarian food. Note, the vegetarian food must be on the menu. It’s nice if the chef can “whip something up”, but having on-menu options is important. And of course, quality matters. This is a food blog, after all.
These two factors make up the bulk of the rating; the balance is made up of the various intangibles that go into any restaurant review: service, decor, atmosphere, and so on.
Based on the above, this is how the star ratings work out:
5 Stars — Exceptional; fantastic selection, fantastic quality, impeccable intangibles.
4 Stars — Excellent; great selection and great quality, very good all-around.
3 Stars — Very good; good quality, or good vegetarian selection, but not necessarily both. Room for improvement.
2 Stars — Good; decent quality and vegetarian selection, but nothing especially noteworthy.
1 Stars — Poor; substandard quality and/or selection. Lacking in other respects as well.
I’ll also give half-stars; a restaurant with a “half” will be categorized, in the menu bar above, with other restaurants that got the same “base” score (so a 3.5 star restaurant will be grouped with the 3s). However, as I said, this isn’t a science. I will try very hard to group restaurants together based on quality, but it’s also very hard to compare, say, a great Indian restaurant to Jean-Georges. And I can’t compare anything to Eleven Madison Park!