Our Criteria for Restaurant Reviews

Way back in 1995 my wife and I used DougWeb to write about the restaurants we visited. You can read some of those old reviews archived for posterity at archive.org. It was fun doing it. As I recall, people in the SF Bay Area actually read the reviews and at least one restaurant taped a print out of their review on the restaurant’s front window. We still like to eat out on occasion so we thought we would try reviewing again. We moved to Maryland in 2001 thus we have lots of new places to try. Using WordPress to write the reviews means readers can leave their own comments. Reviews will be found in the blog in the Restaurant Review category.

Click here to thumb through the reviews and pick the one you would like.

Our restaurant review criteria uses a scale from zero to five. where Zero is unacceptable, never expect us to return. The food and the service was terrible. In rare cases the food might have been acceptable but the service or ambiance erased any pleasure we may have derived from pleasing our taste buds ; One is, if we are REAL hungry and nothing else is open we might remember how to get there but probably not; Two is, it counts as food so what the heck. Don’t expect us to make a special point of coming back. Maybe if nothing else is open. For whatever reason, we don’t think you really want us to anyway; Three is, the food is good but the folks here are having a bad day so we should try rating it again another time; Four is, we had a great time time and we plan to tell our friends and come back again ourselves; Five is, this is one of our absolute favorites!

We’ve grown to expect that many popular places don’t take reservations. We evaluate those that do, in part, on how well they honored their time commitment. Our over-all rating takes all of our criteria into account. We won’t weight each item, but where we think it helpful we will comment on our experience. Note that we are just typical consumers and not food experts. Not of these places knew we were coming or had a clue we evaluated our experience for a for this web page. Our experience may even differ from yours. This is our opinion and is offered solely for entertainment purposes. A (*) means not every rating category was considered for the final evaluation.

These things are important to us.

Table Service
Good customer service is essential in any business. If the business doesn’t treat me well I don’t feel good about spending my money there. One of the reasons we eat out is to be waited on! Good customer service starts as I enter the restaurant and continues the entire time I am there. We like the service to be attentive but not smothering. We do not appreciate snoots or indignant attitudes. A good sense of humor is appreciated. Syrupy sweet is not, and please don’t call me honey.
Food Quality & Freshness
Ever had really bad food? Marginal food? Wonder if your food was really cooked? It might even look like it was purchased from a grocery store in a plastic bag several days ago.
Noise, Volume, Ambiance
This is a real problematic area for me. I also know that some people are really drawn to loud places so I have to just mention that it might not be a big deal to everyone. When I go somewhere to eat and be with friends I like to hear myself and my friends speak without having to shout. When the background noise is too loud, all you can do is stare at your friends and hope the experience is over soon. Loud noise is devastating to a decent meal. Sitting underneath a loudspeaker is also excessively annoying. When a restaurant has a tacky music or a gnarly PA system it is well – not pleasant. Dark is OK as long as you can see your guest. Good ambiance DOES NOT make up for REALLY BAD food.
The seat must be more comfortable than a church pew especially if I have to wait for my food. I’ll do benches at a pizza place but not when sitting down to a GREAT meal.
The Wait for Food
We hate tapping our fingers. You can amuse yourself only so long.
Rest Room Cleanliness
This is self explanatory. And thanks for the health department reminder that employees should wash-up after using the rest room.
Real Food. Good Food. Lots of
I’m a meat and potatoes man. Good presentation is OK as long as there is enough food on the plate! A good restaurant knows what enough means.
Real Daily Specials
Not just the old food that hasn’t sold.
Getting there/Parking etc.
If I can’t find the place easily, it had better be good when I get there!
Coupons and Gift Cards
If they take coupons they are polite about it. We use an occasional gift card. We are bothered by expiring gift cards or gift cards that reduce in value over time. Pull that on us and you fail this category. It happened once at one of Calvert County’s fancy seafood places and that kept me away from that restaurant for a LONG time. You sell the gift card well you had better honor it.
I like it if they take American Express.
Restaurants that don’t are cutting corners somewhere else. I just know it. I have personally experienced the places that are too indignant not to take it. I am an American Express card holder for a reason. You don’t accept it you must not not like me much. We won’t come in! The ONLY card I have ever been told by a restaurant they wouldn’t accept was a Master Card in downtown Munich, Germany some years ago. Never again will I travel without American Express. As luck would have it, since I was out of Marks, the waiter took my American Express Card. I worked for a company once that insisted we carry a company Diner’s Club Card. I’ve seen waiters scratch their heads wondering what the heck it was! I never signed up for it thanks to my trusty American Express card. Oh and, when was the last time you called another card’s customer service center? We were not at all pleased with our own bank’s VISA check card when traveling to Canada. MasterCard’s telephone help wasn’t. Carrying anything else but AMEX when you dine out is a risk, IMHO.

Things that really annoy us in restaurants.

Not every place is a Chucky Cheese
Parents who allow their children to run amok in restaurants should be escorted to the door by managers. Restaurant managers that set up a face painting booth in a crowded establishment should also be escorted out. There is nothing worse than sitting down for a nice steak dinner and shortly finding yourself staring into the face of a smiling six year old who has wandered to your table to say hi.

Loud obnoxious patrons.
Learn manners or stay home!

Being seated in a draft or near other environmental meal-time catastrophe.
If we wanted to sit outside we would have!

Getting bumped by large parties with no reservations.
I think this sleazy practice happens a lot in the restaurant industry. We have been to restaurants (big chains) where large parties or families have gone ahead of the two of us. Those larger parties did NOT have reservations and came in after us. After you have waited 20 minutes, it is not a pleasant experience to get bumped when a party of six or more saunters in.

Personal conversations between employees.
We didn’t come to hear your troubles. You’re there to help make ours go away! When you see groups of employees standing around with elbows on counters, loitering in doorways, or looking anything but busy you have to wonder if the manager really cares how things are run. I want to see attentive folks having a great time at work. By the way, we go out of our way to find a manager when the waiter or waitress has been wonderful to us. Local managers might want to keep an eye on this blog.

Foul Odors
Self explanatory. This can sometimes speak to ambiance. Old musty carpets, dingy walls, or dirty kitchens contribute to an overall feeling of yuk.

Need we say more.

Badly cooked or under or over cooked food.
When you go to a better steak restaurant you EXPECT perfection the first time around. You don’t expect to have to send the food back.