New York City restaurant grades: would you eat at a place with mice?

I was in the East Village last night and encountered my first sighting of New York’s new restaurant grading system.

Starting last month, every New York City restaurant is now required to post a letter grade that corresponds to its health-inspection score. (Los Angeles has already successfully implemented the system.)

Based on the new system, a restaurant is awarded an A for scores between 0-13, a B for 14-27, and a C for 28 and higher. (Each health-code violation earns a certain number of points, so lower scores equal fewer violations.) Though all signs must be posted in a place that’s visible to people walking by, I found that the Department of Health also has a handy online tool that lets you look up restaurants by name.

So I started inputting a few of my favorite restaurants, and my stomach started turning when I saw the history of violations, including “evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.” Surprisingly, some of the affordable restaurants that I searched for did better than the fine-dining type of places. Though many of the restaurant inspections in my search were completed as recently as in May, most of the corresponding letter grades haven’t yet been posted so you can only see recent health-code violations.

Perhaps it’s better not to think about it, but I have the feeling that I’ll be periodically checking up on my favorite places as the final letter grades are awarded and publicly posted. Otherwise, I’m going to have to finally learn how to cook.

Of course, this makes me wonder if health-code violations will just become relative: If I really love a restaurant but it only gets a B, does that mean that I should find a new favorite? Or will B become the new standard?


[Photo by Amy Chen]