While the Los Angeles Times continues to bask under star-free skies, the Dallas Morning News and most other major daily publications continue to honor tradition anointing dining establishments with one to four, and sometimes five stars, to indicate the overall level of satisfaction a diner should expect when patronizing a restaurant.
I dig stars. While they may distract from the craft of well-written restaurant criticism, they make it easy to navigate a city's dining scene, when fairly awarded. My favorite trick, especially when visiting a town where I know very little about the restaurant culture, is to look for high star ratings and low dollar signs. The thought is these places will always give you the best bang for your buck. I did this for Restaurant Week last year.
So, when the DMN published a slide show listing Leslie Brenner's recent four star reviews I decided to parse out the additional information for each review, and look at how each restaurant will tax a diner's wallet. Here's what I found.
Stacked this way, Bambu becomes a very compelling dining option. Imagine eating four star food for half the cost. Sissy's too. Maybe that's why I dipped in for an extra plate of fried chicken on my own dime after I filed my review. Bolsa, Oak and Nonna round out what I think makes for a pretty compelling value dining checklist. The rest make you pay for their quality (or lack thereof).
I even went back and looked at my old reviews, and have nothing to add to this list. If I were dining with my own dollars, the top five on this list is where I'd spend some time.