Tom Sietsema's star ratings and decibel levels

For this season's guide, our critic revisited 20 local restaurants to answer one of the questions he's asked most often: How are these restaurants faring now? These shots offer a glimpse into dining rooms around the region. Dig in.
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ratings are based primarily on food quality but take into account service and ambiance. Restaurants that earn no stars are rated poor.

* Satisfactory

Restaurants that are useful to know about if you are nearby; they may have only a few dishes or a single quality, such as a view or atmosphere, to distinguish them.

** Good

Restaurants with generally appealing cooking, service and settings; they tend to be worth driving across town for.

*** Excellent

Rewarding destinations, no matter where you're coming from; they typically blend high-quality cooking with the environs.

**** Superlative

An unsurpassed dining experience; these restaurants do what they do extraordinarily well.

Decibels key

Quiet: Under 60 decibels.

Conversation is easy: 60-70 decibels.

Must speak with raised voice: 71-80 decibels.

Extremely loud: Over 80 decibels.

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