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The return of restaurant reviews

Paused during the pandemic, official reviews are back — with one change

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When the COVID pandemic closed restaurants, forcing the hospitality industry to pivot, restructure, rethink, and change in so many ways, The Boston Globe stopped running regular restaurant reviews. Now, more than two years later, it is time to bring them back.

The industry still faces so many challenges. There’s a serious shortage of labor. Prices are high. Ingredients and equipment can be unpredictable to procure and slow to arrive. The business model, with its slim margins, is less sustainable than ever. There are inequities everywhere, from wages to liquor license distribution. And, although President Biden recently declared the pandemic over, many public health officials beg to differ (and would really like you to get that booster).


But this is what I guess one might call the new normal (as if there were ever an old normal). People are going out to eat. New restaurants are opening apace. Where should you spend your money, and on what? What is truly worth celebrating right now?

That’s where we’ll begin — with a celebration. But one thing will be different from before. Literally: one. The Globe’s reviews have always utilized a four-star system, which ran from “poor” to “extraordinary.” We’re adding a fifth star to have a bit more room to maneuver. Like every critic in every discipline ever, I have an uneasy relationship with rankings, which reduce nuance to widgets but can also be useful and fun. Some outlets have jettisoned their ratings systems, most recently The Washington Post, with others soon to follow. But while stars aren’t writer-friendly, I believe they are largely user-friendly. And they are something to shoot for. So they’re staying, at least for now.

We’re kicking off this new five-star review system fittingly: with five 5-star reviews, one a week for five consecutive weeks. After that, we’ll return to regular monthly starred reviews. The restaurants featured here aren’t the only 5-star restaurants around, but in addition to offering suggestions for great places to eat, the collection tells a story about what excellence can mean in these parts circa 2022. Each restaurant does what it does exceptionally well.


Now come right this way. Your table is ready.

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.