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New Dallas Morning News Critic Revamps Star System for Restaurant Reviews

Michalene Busico announced the changes on Thursday

Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

Now settled in as the Dallas Morning News’ food critic, Michalene Busico has announced the paper’s new system for evaluating restaurants.

Busico debuted in the changes on Thursday, paired with a lengthy essay on the evolving nature of restaurant criticism. The critic will use a four-star rubric when reviewing restaurants, with one star meaning “good — has merit, but limited ambition or spotty execution” and four stars meaning “extraordinary — first-rate on every level; a benchmark dining experience.” Before resigning her post to work at Rebees, the restaurant group behind spots like Victory Park’s Billy Can Can, Brenner’s top rating was five stars.

Busico’s approach is arguably more egalitarian in terms of price point than Brenner’s, who only awarded five stars to restaurants that “define fine dining in the region.” Now, more casual restaurants are eligible for a five-star review, though time will tell how often that actually happens. She’ll also award half stars when merited, and a ranking of “zero stars” will only be merited when a restaurant is “not recommended.”

“We think the new system will be simple and flexible enough to recognize great restaurants of all kinds,” Busico writes of the four-star approach. “What it won’t do, though, is separate the taqueria from the temple of fine dining.” In addition to the overall review, Busico will include details on an establishment’s accessibility and noise levels, the latter of which will be measured on a “decibel-based” scale developed by a professor at UT-Dallas.

Busico has not yet filed an official review for the Morning News. Stay tuned for the first, and in the meantime, scope out the differences between the two review rubrics below.

Busico’s new rubric:

  • 4 stars: Extraordinary (First-rate on every level; a benchmark dining experience)
  • 3 stars: Excellent (A destination restaurant and leader on the D-FW food scene)
  • 2 stars: Very Good (Strong concept and generally strong execution)
  • 1 star: Good (Has merit, but limited ambition or spotty execution)
  • No stars: Poor (Not recommended)

Brenner’s old rubric:

  • 5 stars: Extraordinary (Defines fine dining in the region)
  • 4 stars: Excellent (One of the finest restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth)
  • 3 stars: Very good (A destination restaurant for this type of dining)
  • 2 stars: Good (Commendable effort, but experience can be uneven)
  • 1 star: Fair (Experience is generally disappointing)
  • No stars: Poor