How to Judge a Restaurant

I’ve been thinking about restaurants again for the first time in ages. Mostly this is due to the fact that I’ve been eating out far more of late than I have in the past few years. But I am also getting the urge to review them again. I’ve avoided restaurant reviewing for the longest time (with a brief departure for a piece for The Stranger, but that was what… Two years now?), because I didn’t think that:

a) Seattle restaurant reviews would appeal to anyone who did not live in Seattle.

& b) I’m still of the belief that one should know a bit about the restaurant business and its history, as well as food and its history, in order to provide a truly educated review.

I still believe in the first bit, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see any restaurant reviews on this site. But I did want to share my thoughts and get your perspective on how restaurants should be judged (and reviewed).

Each persons purposes for going to a restaurant may differ from individual to individual, so the most important thing is to note whether or not one’s expectations had been met or exceeded. The issue here is understanding that expectations should be different for different restaurants. One should not judge a pub by the same criteria that one judges a highly rated Michelin restaurant. The two places are vastly different and would be unfair to criticizing one for not being the same as the other.

That being said, there are universal traits that are shared from restaurant to restaurant – Cleanliness, service, knowledge of product, value of product. However, the context of these universal traits may change from location to location. One should expect different levels of service between a street vendor and a place that serves entrees that run one hundred dollars.

However, it does make sense to judge like restaurants. Comparing various pizza places against one another is not only correct, it should be encouraged.

Judging a restaurant after one visit is probably unfair if one is going to write about it, but perfectly reasonable if one is simply looking for a good place to eat. Life is too short for second or third chances, especially when there are known restaurants that reliably offer good food.

I’m still not buying the fact that a reviewer has to be anonymous. This might be a bigger deal in places where restaurants have more at stake financially (read – New York), but in smaller cities this is less likely the case.

What it comes down to, with any restaurant, is this – assuming realistic expectations, did you get what you came for? Was the food made well, served well, and priced reasonably? Was the restaurant clean, accessible, and pleasant to be in? Get these down, and a restaurant is on its way to being successful.