Clearly the standards outlined for formal restaurants with fully equipped kitchens do not apply to mom and pop diners or to specialty restaurants. Regarding the latter, there are a number of restaurants throughout the world whose “raison d’etre” is to excel in the preparation of a traditional plate. In Spain, this plate may be a “paella”, a roasted “baby lamb or pork”; in Italy, we may be talking about a “porchetta stand”; in the US, we encounter “Southern barbecue joints” and “burger stands”; in the Middle East, we have “kebab houses” and “offal eateries”; in Japan, we have a hole in the wall “sushi” stores.

How do you compare a porchetta stand in Greve, Chianti with, say,  the French Laundry?

Secondly, there are the so called “informal” restaurants where sometimes one person labors in the kitchen. Traditional bistros in France, tapas bars in Andalucia and the Basque country, Mexican “fast food” places, some “osteria” in Italy fall in this category.

I accept that sometimes the dividing line in blurred between a formal and informal restaurant. For example, some high end bistros in France do have ambitions which supersede the preparation of simple traditional meals. Chefs such as CamdebordeFrechon (prior to overtaking Bristol) and many others often turn out dishes far superior to ones prepared even in some Michelin 3 stars kitchens. One then needs to make a judgment call when classifying these restaurants for the purposes of evaluation systems. On the other hand, no judgment call is needed if we are talking about an “asador” in Ribera del Duero or a traditional countryside bistro in rural France which prepares an “andouillette” with no concession to modern trends and fads. One may or may not like the taste (deliciousness is subjective) but one has to give credit to the chef when it is due.

For such specialty/informal places I offer the following point system of evaluation:

5: The best of its category.  A must go.

4:  A very good example of its category.  One of the best.

3:  Good.  If you are craving for that kind of food, you will not be disappointed.

2:  Fair.

  1:  Below average.

0:  Should be avoided at all cost. Cross the street and run away!