My philosophy towards restaurants is that the food has to be good - with the price being an important consideration. I'm not a vegan, I don't have any special dietary restrictions, and I honestly don't even really care about the service or atmosphere.
For example, my favorite BBQ in Durham was Backyard BBQ - a hole-in-the-wall, run-down building where the owner told me to leave because she wanted to go home.
I brought all my friends.
So, with that in mind, here's how I approach a review. You can click a factor to jump to a detailed explanation:
Ranking Factor Weight
Understanding my point of view on food and taste
The food has to be good to earn a positive review. They can wipe my butt in the bathroom, but if the food is bland, the food is bland.
My palette is simple, and I like to taste the underlying main ingredient in the food. A pizza review will be about the crust, cheese, and sauce, but not so much the toppings. A steak review will be about the steak - if they put too much stuff on top, it will generally detract from the review.
I'm not a fish person. I like shrimp and mussels, but I won't typically order fish if anything else is available. I was in Greece on an island for a week and had a bite of everything, but I spent most of my hunger budget on vegetables and lamb.
I'm also a coffee ice cream person and not a salted caramel person - I've had past readers critique me as "baby tongue," which I wear as a badge of honor.
Get the basics right, and I'll enjoy the meal.
I will anchor food to a known reference point whenever possible. For example, french fries will be anchored to the quality of McDonald's fries - as will hamburgers.
And I will keep my ratings in somewhat of a power ranking - I will use other Saint Louis places to compare the meal against - on both quality and price.
Price is a significant consideration for me
There's a trade-off between price and food quality when deciding what to eat. If you only get to go out once a month, I want to make sure I'm giving you my honest assessment if it's worth spending the extra money on the place.
I've been to the French Laundry, Nobu, and Wolfgang's, among others. While The French Laundry may have been the best restaurant experience I've ever had, I would 100% recommend Wolfgang's $40 steak over the $1,000 experience every day of the week and twice on Thursday.
With that in mind, I will judge a place for the quality of the food against the price of a similar meal elsewhere. For example, I would take the $15 Cate Zone Chengdu chicken over the $39 Akar drunken noodles. Sure, the Akar drunken noodles were delicious with high-quality shrimp and ingredients, but that chicken wins 10 to 1 on a flavor-per-dollar basis.
I'm using Saint Louis pricing as the basis because I live in St. Louis. $39 for drunken noodles is typical in NYC - in Saint Louis, that's almost three Cate Zones.
Service will only tank a review if it interferes with the quality of the meal. For example, cold food can kill the review, but bringing the wrong meal won't. At Akar, the entree was wrong, but the main reason for the relatively low rating was the price-to-food ratio.
Atmosphere will never tank a review unless:
I can't see the food
There are flies
I don't drink alcohol regularly enough to comment on the quality of a selection or drink. I will do my best to mention what other people drink at a restaurant and their opinions on the matter, but it doesn't impact my star rankings.
My Best Review So Far
This is the best example of a review I've done so far, and will strive to get them all up to this quality.