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Bauer Says Starless Reviews Let Critics "Off the Hook"

Last week The LA Times got rid of its star-based restaurant rating system, saying it's become too difficult to rate food trucks and fancy restaurants on the same scale. Today Magic Eight Bauer jumps on the issue, as he's done in the past. He admits he has a "love-hate" relationship with the Chron's rating scale, then opens up the comments to see what the public has to say.

Of course, Bauer goes on to state his cases for the status quo: 1) "Without that rating burden, readers would be left completely on their own to decipher what a reviewer has to say." 2) Stars makes critics "distill what we think into a concise rating...Forgoing [them]...lets the critic off the hook."

Then he addresses the rationale behind the LA Times' decision, saying three star taco joints and two star fine dining destinations can co-exist in a world where readers learn to "overlay the stars with the price." Here in San Francisco, Jardiniere recently lost half a star for food because the prices were too high, while AQ notched 3.5 for food because Bauer thought the food was a steal. In that case, the "$$$" signs at the end of the review hold a lot more weight than one might think.

Meanwhile, Eater National has rounded up what other critics across the country have to say, which could probably be condensed into one statement: for better or worse, star ratings make critics think harder.

Still, what should a reader do when a review's writing and star rating are totally incongruous? Go to Yelp? And on that note, now that everyone from Joe on Chowhound to Susie on OpenTable are offering up "reviews," what role does an old-school restaurant critic play, anyway? What role should he or she play?

· Should the Chronicle Drop Star Ratings? [ISSF]
· Critics Weigh in on the Importance of Starred Reviews [-EN-]