Star struck

Sharp-eyed SN&R readers will notice a small change in this issue. We’ve stopped using a star system for rating restaurants. If you want to know what the reviewer thinks of the place, you need to read the review.

I say it’s a small change, but in some ways it’s huge. For one, we’ve been using the stars for almost as long as the paper has existed. I dug up an issue from 1993 and found a review of Bob’s Butcher Block, a kosher deli in Carmichael. Bob’s (love the name) had garnered a respectable four stars. Sad to say, it’s no longer open.

I digress. From time to time over the years members of the SN&R editorial staff have questioned the value of the stars. What do they tell readers? Do the ratings convey the nuances of the restaurant? What impact do they have, especially on mom-and-pop shops? The questions and concerns were endless.

The discussion came to a head because of the restaurant review in this week’s issue (on page 30). Arts & Culture Editor Rebecca Huval pulls no punches. For her, dining at The Pier Lounge, Bar and Grill—thrice—was far from a pleasant experience.

“How many stars should we give The Pier?” we wondered. One seemed too kind, and a half-star just added insult to injury. That’s when we remembered how much we disliked the star system.

Good restaurant reviews do two things: They let you get to know the reviewer and decide whether he or she is a good judge of the restaurant under consideration, and they give you a detailed description of the restaurant, its food offerings and its service.

Then you can decide for yourself how many stars it deserves.