Today Jon Watson and I both come out with one-star reviews — his of Yeah Burger and mine of Sip Wine. I’ve noticed that some of the comments so far are on the seemingly low grades of the new AJC dining review system. Why do we keep handing out ratings that seem so punitive when on sites like Yelp, decent restaurants often get three or four stars?
Well, for starters, our system is different: we want each star to designate a level of quality. We figure that readers need to know more about neighborhood restaurants and less about destination restaurants if they are to glean good, useful information from these reviews. We want to alert you to good places near where you may live and give you some suggestions on how to order and best appreciate the experience, but we’re never going to sugar coat it. Many restaurants are inconsistent.
We also think the wording in our star-rating system focuses attention solely on the user experience and less on the personal tastes and preferences of the reviewer. Restaurants are good alternatives for the neighborhood, or worth knowing about if you live in the area, or merit destination status on their own merits, and the stars should reflect that.
People have asked where are the four and five star restaurants. They surely exist, and you will hear about them in good time. You’ll also hear about places that don’t merit any stars at all.
However, I am always cognizant of our mission to explore the pretty good and sometimes great places that readers are talking about, curious about and can afford. I could thread more revisits of Atlanta greats like Bacchanalia or Sotto Sotto into my weekly reviews — and this may happen from time to time. But I’m guessing that I’m doing more of a reader service by telling people to check out Sip Wine for its great wine program and inconsistent but often tasty small plates.
So if the stars confuse you, just read the reviews. Our belief is that good restaurants are just as interesting and worthy of ink as superior ones.