THE RATINGS ARE NOT DIRECT COMPARISONS OF ONE RESTAURANT TO ANOTHER.
That wouldn't make sense, since so many different kinds of restaurants, from fast food to fine dining, are rated here using the same scale.
Each restaurant is rated on how well it does what it claims to do best, and how it succeeds in being what it claims to be.
For example, a perfectly prepared $3.99 burger at Wendy's might earn a 5 stars for food and 5 stars for value. A beautiful rack of lamb for $38 at the Blue Moon might earn the same ratings.
This does not mean that the two places are the same type of restaurant (duh!). It does mean that each did a good job making you happy and giving you what you paid for.
Ice cream stands, markets, walk-up windows, bakeries, most carryouts and snack bars are not star rated.
THE STAR RATING SCALE
Ratings are on a 1-5 star scale in half-star increments and should be interpreted as follows:
4.5 – 5 STARS = Excellent, with few flaws, at least during our visits.
3.5 – 4 STARS = Very Good, with minor issues that could change from visit to visit. Most definitely worth trying.
3 STARS = OK to less than average. Some flaws may or may not be correctable, but there are some redeeming features like a particularly good dish, etc.
2 – 2.5 STARS = Flaws are built-in and are not of the type that will change from visit to visit. Not recommended. AYOR
1 – 1.5 STARS = No redeeming features and does not, in fact, seem to be concerned about it. Don't worry, they won't be around for long. Don't bother.
STANDARDS APPLIED TO EACH RATING CATEGORY
Overall: General impression of the restaurant over several visits, including cleanliness, view, aroma, ambient temperature, general attitude of the staff and of course the food.
Food: Ingredients, preparation, consistency, presentation, creativity, portion size, mouth feel, and, of course, taste.
Service: Consistency of the service over several visits, and in particular, the attitude of the management and the individual server(s).
Noise: The fewer stars, the noisier. The rating is based entirely on annoying reflected noise caused by poor acoustics, not just the sound of a busy restaurant. Most acoustic issues can be solved. If a restaurant doesn't at least try to address ongoing issues, the rating will remain low. Outdoor venues and carryouts are not rated for noise.
Bathrooms: The way an eatery maintains its bathrooms is a reflection on the sanitation throughout. There is NO EXCUSE for dirty bathrooms. Is there hot water? Are the soap dispensers working? Is there enough light? Are the sinks and toilets clean? Are there towels and not just those annoying air dryers? (NOTE: the new high-velocity hand dryers like the XLERATOR, the Dyson Air Blade and the Bio Jet Dryer are fun, very effective, and do earn higher ratings.)
Value: The value of the entire experience vs. the price paid. Think of this as the “Will I Get What I Pay For and Leave Smiling?” rating.