The ABC’s of Dining Out in New York City

Ever since restaurants and eateries throughout the city started posting their final grades from the health department on their windows I’ve been fixated on what letter grade a restaurant received from their unannounced inspector.

Whether I’m about to eat there or just happen to walk by, I tend to want to know which establishment got an A, B or C grade.

Department of Health Letter Grade

But tonight I took it to another level. I looked up restaurant inspection information online starting with restaurants in my zip code and then I picked restaurants I knew by name.

The daily updated health department website is so user-friendly you could search by cuisine, zip code, borough or restaurant name. Amazingly easy to find out information you aren’t 100% sure you really want to know. Yea, in some cases I wondered how much I really liked a certain dish served at a much loved restaurant after reading why they had certain violations.

Liz told me Le Bernardin, one of my favorite restaurants, was given a B a few weeks back so I went to look up why and found out they fixed enough things to now have an A. That was a nice surprise.

Le Bernardin Department of Health inspection record

Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter III on East 81st, my neighborhood go-to for scones with my Mother in Law, got creative (as you would expect from them!) and made a cute DIY frame to decorate their letter A grade since it has to be easily viewed when its posted in the window.

I explained to my guy how the letter grading works and now he’s pretty interested when he walks by a restaurant or establishment that serves food (Jamba Juice, Starbucks). He asked me to look up a few restaurants on the health department website and they were all “safe”, thankfully.

In case you didn’t know how the health department grades restaurants; an inspector checks for compliance with city and state food safety regulations and assigns points for any condition that violates the rules. The number of points assessed for violations depends on the risk that condition poses to public health. As you probably figured out, the lower the score given, the better.

Put it this way, a score of 13 and under allows a place to get an A letter grade. But if you have more than 28 points you get a C grade.

If you don’t want to post a B or C grade, you get a second visit and while working on the violations you can post a “Grade Pending” sign in your window. And restaurants can be closed immediately if the restaurant has persistent violations until its compliance with the regulations.

I keep reminding myself that letter grades don’t have anything to do with the taste or quality of the food so a restaurant that received a letter grade A could still be a dud. But in my mind, I’m more likely to try a clean dud.

You can search for the letter grades of restaurants in the five boroughs by visiting the Department of Health website.


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