In 2009, we launched The Infatuation with one thing in mind - helping you sort through lots of different restaurant options, as effectively as possible.
Our intention was to bring a real, objective, simple, and maybe even somewhat entertaining approach to choosing a restaurant based on what it's situationally "Perfect For," rather than just who the chef is or judging by the quality of food alone. We also wanted to create a system that allowed for many restaurants to be ranked in order, like favorite children, or episodes of Arrested Development. And so The Infatuation way is to rank restaurants from 1-10, with a decimal to help create more room to differentiate one from the other if things are close. Trying to decide between two Date Night restaurants in the East Village? One has a 8.1 and one has an 8.7. You know what to do.
That said, we also realize that it can be tricky to decipher what the real difference is between a 7 something and an 8 something, so we've decided to lay it out for you here. It's actually very simple. Like science. And politics.
Breaking down the ratings
These are places that fit into a category called Perfect For: Wasting Your Time and Money. What does that mean? It means if you want to drop some dough on an epically terrible meal, these are the places you want to be. The natural question becomes, "Why don't all of these spots have a 0.0?" And the answer is that there must still be varying levels of terrible. If a restaurant has a 4.0, assume that it is extremely terrible, but also serves a palatable burrata.
These are places that are kind of awful but also probably have some qualities your least favorite friend might find appealing. These tend to be club restaurants that serve their desserts with sparklers in them, or that have sushi rolls on the menu regardless of the cuisine. Bad service can also put an otherwise solid restaurant in this range.
Will a 5.7 be the worst meal you've ever had? No, it won't. But you're a 10.0 human and you shouldn't be eating like this. You can do better.
These are restaurants that won't make you furiously angry, but will probably disappoint you a little. Often restaurants that get a rating in this range are places that have been highly hyped, and do not live up to said hype. You should not seek these places out, and you should absolutely dissuade your friends from eating in them. But you also probably won't pray for their demise.
These are your neighborhood standbys - the places that you'll happily hit for some pasta or a quick salad, but not a restaurant you are bringing your parents or (god forbid) a date to. The true embodiment of good but not great.
Now we're getting warmer. These are restaurants that are reliable, tasty, and particularly good for whatever we have deemed them "Perfect For." Hit up a 7.7 for Date Night with confidence, as long as you don't need the restaurant to be the most interesting thing that happens that night.
The best way to think about restaurants in the low to mid 8's is that these are the places you would absolutely go back to, anytime. These restaurants are ones that you want to bring a friend to, just so they can also experience the duck carnitas, or burger, or whatever dish the place is known for. That said, they aren't just situationally good - they're great for pretty much everything. These restaurants are also the first tier that we'd say are worth traveling across town or to another neighborhood or out of your comfort zone for. You're too comfortable.
Now we're in the range of absolutely excellent restaurants that you might go to more than once a year/lifetime. These restaurants tend to define a city, and make up the places that you absolutely cannot miss if you want to have any credibility as a restaurant-informed person in a major metropolis. Restaurants in this rating category are complete home runs, and should be urgently crossed off your Hit List.
If the 8.5-9.0s are the restaurants you'll frequent for more than just special occasions, the 9.0-9.8s are the all time great restaurants of their city. Restaurants that will be around 20 years from now, assuming the Earth is still around. And if it isn't, Elon Musk will figure out how to bring them to Mars so that we can all obsess over food there too. Food and oxygen.
Most of the fine dining restaurant in this range will also have many stars from other publications and accolades from tire companies. That said, we've also always been believers in the fact that a legendary French fine dining restaurant can have a 9.5, and so can the best burger or slice of pizza in town - as long as it too is truly legendary.
If you believe true perfection can be achieved, you would be a great Buddhist. You would also be someone who rates restaurants in this range. We have yet to do so.
A Note On Colors
You'll also notice that all of our ratings have slightly different colors, ranging from red (worst) to yellow (middle) to green (best). This is intended to help you quickly identify good from bad when looking at our app or restaurant finder. Hopefully you agree that green things are good. Like plants, and money.