How many three- and four-star restaurants can one metro area have? Well, we have thirty-six, yep, thirty-six. What prompted my inquiry was Rick Nelson’s four-star review of Salty Tart Bakery at the Midtown Global Market in last week’s Strib.
According to The New York Times, New York City has just thirty-four restaurants of that rank. Now, I am not saying we don’t have a bevy of quality restaurants, I just think the star system that is used in many cities has been bastardized. Four-star restaurants in New York are exceptional, and I mean exceptional if not perfect. Team service; crystal stemware; polished silver; soothing ambiance; service in which your drink is magically refilled without notice; a service staff with incredible knowledge of menus, ingredients, and guest relations aplomb; a sommelier on staff; white linen tablecloths and napkins; you get the picture.
If you have not experienced this at our many three- and four-star restaurants then you have reason to complain, not to the restaurant or restaurateur, but to the reviewer. How can so many three- and four-star restaurants expect to meet expectations when they don’t even aspire to this level of experience?
There are, in my opinion, a very small handful of four-star caliber restaurants in the Twin Cities, but not thirty-six, and there should be no such entity as a four-star bakery rated on the same scale as restaurants. (Which is not to say a bakery cannot be great).
The San Francisco Chronicle uses a neat system in which it rates the major aspects of the dining experience separately: food, service, atmosphere, price, and noise level. I like this system much better than a ubiquitous star rating as it gives the reader a better idea of what to expect and a dissection of the areas in which that restaurant performs especially well or poorly—after all, some of us only care about the food.
The Twin Cities has a booming restaurant scene with more choices than ever. Please patronize our locally owned restaurants and don’t let a star rating be the deciding factor when picking a spot to eat.
Editor’s Note: We welcome local chef/caterer Philip Dorwart to mspmag.com’s Foodie File. He’ll be blogging roughly twice each week. The opinions expressed are entirely his own.