Review Star Ratings Defined

Readers will always debate whether critics got a restaurant’s star rating right, but we’re hoping to help ground those discussions by providing a better sense of what the stars mean to us.

A box defining our rating criteria will now run with every Post & Courier restaurant review. Eagle-eyed readers will notice the definitions have been very slightly tweaked to reflect the diversity of the local dining scene. Like most contemporary newspaper dining sections, we’ve removed any allusions to fine dining standards from our criteria: Nowadays, a restaurant can deliver a five-star wow without ever unfolding a white tablecloth.

Additionally, it’s Post & Courier policy to always award at least one star. Should you choose to dine at a one-star restaurant, Godspeed.

Two stars represent a pretty significant step up: If you told me you’d made plans to eat at a two-star restaurant, I wouldn’t try to stop you. I eat at my share of two-star restaurants, usually for convenience’s sake. If I learned you were headed to a three-star restaurant, I’d probably applaud your good taste. And if I knew you were going to a four-star restaurant, I might try to wrangle a seat at the table. But I wouldn’t dare intrude on your reservation at a five-star restaurant, since that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience worthy of respect. (For another critic’s take on stars, check out former New York Times’ critic Bill Grimes explaining his distinctions in a video posted by the paper this week.)

But the above is merely my interpretation of the ratings. Here are the exact definitions, as printed in today’s Charleston Scene:

5 STARS: Exceptional dining experience; Sets a standard for dining excellence.

4 STARS: Superior dining experience; Worth a trip beyond your neighborhood or culinary comfort zone

3 STARS: Solid example of this type of dining

2 STARS: Adequate if you’re in the neighborhood or seeking this type of dining

1 STAR:  Generally disappointing dining experience

Questions? Ask away in the comments section.

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