A publisher friend liked my recent criticism of The Courier-Journal’s restaurant grading star system, yet he added, “So what’s your solution? Don’t knock it unless you’ve got a better idea.”
So here’s how I’d craft the correct restaurant review.
1. No stars. Ever.
No handful of stars can express what several hundred words are required to explain. Even experienced critics who’ve mastered that discipline (and writing reviews is neither fun nor easy) find it impossible to squeeze all they want to say about a restaurant into their word count limits.
New York Times reviews range from 1,000-1,100 words, The Courier-Journal allots 800-900 and Louisville magazine gives about the same. Any Louisville mag or C-J reviewer who’s written within those parameters will tell you it’s extremely challenging based on all the info accumulated in two to three visits to the same restaurant. It’s positively nightmarish for the NYT critic who typically visits a restaurant five to six times!