Every time I've reviewed restaurants in print, on television or radio, or, now, online, I've always wrestled with the question of what rating system to use. There are so many ratings systems already in use it's hard to make sense of them all. The New York Times uses a four-star rating system for its upscale restaurant review, which makes some sense, but I've often found that the stars don't match the prose. Plus, where does that leave the places that appear in the "$25 and Under" column? Nowhere in fact, as those are done with no rating system at all. New York magazine has adopted a five-star system to allow more latitude, and it differentiates between fancy and nonfancy restaurants by using hollow stars for the cheaper restaurant rating. The red Michelin Guide uses a three-star system, but I don't find the Michelin guides to be all that relevant anymore.
I've been searching for a rating system that is easily recognizable that will enable serious eaters to know what to expect when they go to any kind of eatery, from a hot dog stand like Gray's Papaya to a fancy-pants restaurant extravaganza like Daniel or Per Se.
I would like our rating system to place each experience and each food in context. So yesterday someone here at the Serious Eats office suggested a report card–like rating system, A to F, with every plus and minus gradation included.
I thought about it and decided I really liked the idea. Doesn't a perfect natural-casing all-beef hot dog served on a toasted bun deserve an A just as much as a ten-course tasting menu at Daniel or Per Se? I think it does, though maybe not if there's no place to sit to eat that hot dog.
So that's what we're going to try starting tonight in about an hour or so. Thoughts, serious eaters?
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