Jonathan Gold on Restaurant Letter Grades


Jonathan Gold, a restaurant critic at our sister publication LA Weekly, is heavily quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about the Department of Health letter grades that will be posted on restaurants starting in July. Los Angeles has had a similar system since 1998.

Gold says that he was initially against the letter grades because they penalized restaurants making things like salami and Peking duck the old-fashioned way, without constant refrigeration. (Although so do health department regulations in general.)

But in the end, he thinks the overall effect has been positive, half-joking that, before the grades, he had constant low-level food poisoning. Gold says the system has forced most restaurants to become more sanitary.

His feeling is supported by the stats quoted in the article: At first, only 63 percent of L.A. restaurants got A grades, but now 83.3 percent do. New York’s situation might be even more extreme. Apparently only 30 percent of eateries here would get A grades based on the last round of inspections.

“You’re going to have some Bs and Cs at restaurants that people cannot believe are Bs and Cs, and then everything will stabilize in four or five months,” Gold predicts. “When one of the grand institutions of New York gets anything less than an A — if, God forbid, Le Bernadin or the Four Seasons or Jean Georges get a B — then suddenly people will be flee as if it has been infested with bedbugs.” … And should New Yorkers avoid eateries forced to bear the new culinary scarlet letter? “I would tell people not to panic,” Gold says of the dreaded C grade. “If a restaurant is really a danger to public health it will be closed.” He cites a joke told by foodies of L.A.’s Chinatown restaurants: A stands for American Chinese food, B is for Better Chinese, and C is for “Chinese” Chinese food.

So don’t fear the C, good eaters of New York.

[Via NY Eater]