What the Stars Mean
The categorical best
In the “Cheap Eats” world, restaurants aren’t assessed on the ply of their linen or the luster of their flatware (though we might take note of an egregiously stained fork). Even more than our peers on the fine-dining circuit, we’d venture to say, we focus on the food. Having said that, though, infinite intangibles come into play when you’re eating out, no matter how ambrosial the chow. Our star system is a measurement of the entire dining experience, from the greeting at the door (or lack thereof) to the care taken in assembling an interesting (and affordable) drink list, be it devoted to Italian soda or Australian beer, as the case may be. Places needn’t have an interior designer’s idea of atmosphere, but they do need to make one feel welcome, happy, and well fed. We have felt this way in the humblest taquería as much as in the poshest café. To the usual system of measures, we’re adding another, one we call the FWII Factor (For What It Is). Hereby, a frank is judged on its own terms, not against a USDA prime T-bone. Pizza can achieve perfection, and on our list, it has—twice. The FWII Factor recognizes that all food—even the cheapest—is capable of greatness.
Five stars is categorical perfection—the best in its class. (There’s no five-star hot-dog stand, but we’re still looking.) Four stars is reliably, consistently excellent. Three means you can be assured of a generally delicious meal. Two means very good all-around, and one, although not an endorsement of everything on the menu, is a reflection of a particular strength or point of interest. It’s a place that’s well worth visiting, that improves New York’s culinary landscape, and that deserves recognition. For what it is.