Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Important Notice:
An update of this page is located at Steve's Food Blog , the new web site for Steve's Gastronomic Home Page.

And Cost Categories




(Per Person)
(Per Person)
$$$$ Over $24 Over $18
$$$ $16 to $23 $13 to $17
$$ $9 to $15 $8 to $12
$ $8 and under $7 and under

RATING OF INDIVIDUAL ITEMS.  Some entrées and other items are given star ratings in the restaurant reviews. While a restaurant's overall score is based on many factors (but primarily food rather than service or ambiance), the individual items served play an important part in the point rating. The restaurant's overall rating should be in line with the quality of individual items that are served, especially if they represent the restaurant's best items or specialty.



These are outstanding or very good restaurants, characterized by at least one of the following:
  • A world-class restaurant.
  • One of the best restaurants of its category in the country.
  • Has at least one outstanding dish worth trying.
  • In my opinion is very authentic for an ethnic restaurant, or very good for other cuisines.

The five-star rating system is based on the Zagat system of 1 to 30 points, with 21 or above earning a five-star rating. I really consider a score of 25 or higher to be restaurants that are outstanding in their category. I would probably give a score of 28 or higher to those I consider to be world class. Thus many restaurants are in the five-star category that do not meet these other criteria. The standard I use is to include any restaurant that I think should be rated 21 or higher on the Zagat scale.


Better than average for its category. Characterized by very flavorful and/or authentic food. One of the best in its category.
  • For Chinese restaurants, would probably not serve authentic Chinese soup and would not serve things from the "Chinese menu" of a typical "Chinatown" restaurant, but may have dishes I like such as home style tofu or kung pao tofu.
  • For Mexican restaurants, this is typically the highest score given to Americanized food, such as Tex-Mex, that I consider very good.
  • Has at least one outstanding dish worth trying, but other things may be inconsistent.

To earn a three-star rating it would have to be a place to which I could envision myself returning. This may not be my favorite restaurant in the world, but one in which I could find things I enjoy ordering on a routine or consistent basis. Generally these restaurants are free of any extremely negative experiences. These restaurants would be "average" if I took all eating places into account, including the national chains, fast food restaurants, Chinese buffet restaurants, truck stops, hospitals, school cafeterias, and any other type of place I could imagine. Although I have had my share of meals at all these types of places, my reviews are primarily for local independent restaurants (not chains). Thus an "average" score for all restaurants may appear at the bottom of the list of restaurants I review. I still consider 3 stars as a "good" score, however.


I'm using this category for restaurants that provide good freshness, quality, temperature, etc., and do not give me a bad experience (such as making me sick or giving me a MSG reaction). However, they are not restaurants I recommend in terms of having really flavorful, authentic, or interesting food. In rare cases they are rated fair because I may have ordered an item which they do not prepare well, although I do try to ask what dishes they recommend, and I do tend to rate higher if I at least liked the soup.


I'm reserving this category for places in which I had a bad experience. I will have to say that if I get sick to my stomach, it rarely happens on my first visit, but after such an experience it earns a one-star rating forever. Asian restaurants with a one-star rating are usually ones that use too much MSG, with almost no possibility of finding anything without MSG. I do not review fast food chains, but if I did I would almost certainly give a one-star rating to franchises such as KFC and Long John Silver, since I can find nothing in these restaurants worth ordering (either in terms of nutrition or flavor). Whataburger and Wendy's would probably earn two stars. Some fast food places, such as Sonic, might even be in the three star category. The ratings are based strictly on food quality.

AN EXPLANATION OF THE COST CATEGORIES.  The following table gives an explanation of cost categories used for this web site:

  • Prices are for each person, excluding tax and tip. The dinner menu is the primary rating factor, unless the restaurant does most of its business at lunch time. Usually I will use what I order as the basis of estimating the cost unless it is far out of range with most menu items.

  • Prices include a drink such as tea, but not an alcoholic beverage.

  • Prices do not include an appetizer or dessert, unless I think it is essential for the meal. Some examples might include sushi (two pieces) in a Japanese restaurant, a sopaipilla with spicy New Mexican food, or a salad with Italian food. I would not count the cost of an appetizer if I think the meal is sufficient by itself (this is all subjective, so if you are on a budget it is best not to take my word for it).

  • I order vegetarian meals frequently, and these tend to be less expensive than meat items. This will be reflected in my cost estimate.

  • At Mexican restaurants I tend to order enchiladas with beans and rice, and the price tends to be mid-range. If I "splurge" with an extra chile relleno, gordita, etc., it will only be included in the cost estimate if I needed an extra item to be full--not if I only wanted to splurge to have more items to sample.

  • Cost categories were defined in 2003. In 2007 prices were adjusted for inflation, and the new definitions may not always be an accurate reflection of the restaurants that were reviewed prior to 2007.