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'Los Angeles Times' Axes Starred Restaurant Reviews


Posted: 03/ 9/2012 11:15 am

The Los Angeles Times has decided to nix the star ratings that used to accompany restaurant reviews. The paper explains its decision:

First, star ratings are increasingly difficult to align with the reality of dining in Southern California -- where your dinner choices might include a food truck, a neighborhood ethnic restaurant, a one-time-only pop-up run by a famous chef, and a palace of fine dining. Clearly, you can’t fairly assess all these using the same rating system. Furthermore, the stars have never been popular with critics because they reduce a thoughtful and nuanced critique to a simple score. In its place, we’ll offer a short summary of the review.

This decision feels especially timely after a recent debate concerning a New York Times restaurant review in which critic Pete Wells gave popular burger joint Shake Shack one star. While some applauded Wells' decision to review a staple of the New York food scene, others felt that the burger joint was too casual to warrant a proper review. HuffPost Food blogger Andrew Friedman and editor of Toqueland, believes that the Shake Shake review is the perfect example of why a star system just doesn't work anymore. "Stars are simple. This era of dining is not. Whether it's a numerical score, letter grade, or some other innovation, it's time for a change that reflects the times. Things are only going to get more complicated from here," he argues.

Though stars have always been a controversial issue, getting rid of them doesn't always work. Eater points out that the New York Post dumped the star system in 2005 and then four years later, reinstated them because apparently readers and restaurant owners missed them.

For the food section of the Los Angeles Times, more changes might be afoot. Much-beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold recently left LA Weekly in favor of the LA Times, and his first piece muses on the past and present of the Los Angeles food scene.

LA Times critic S. Irene's Virbila's first restaurant review sans stars is of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Virbila finds it to be a "serious restaurant with some seriously good food" though she says that "not everything is spot-on."

Does the review suffer without stars, or are stars unnecessary? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed by Carey Polis  |  Report Corrections