Eating out is a privilege—one that I too often take for granted—but everyone should have access to both great food and the stories of where to find it. But eating out is expensive, and if the average income in Colorado is $39,000 (and the median house price just topped $600,000), there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room for $200 dinners. That’s why I want you to know what’s worth it.

Sure, you could rely on crowd-sourced review sites like Yelp—and I use those often myself. But there are benefits to having a professional take, like having someone try a bounty of Neapolitan-style pizzas to weigh in on the new RiNo pizzeria or spend money on disappointing bao buns so you don’t have to.

Another plus of a journalistic restaurant write-up over, say, a Google review is that a good food writer will approach their meal with objectivity. They will try to weigh and evaluate labor shortages, rising food costs, and the struggles of operation. They will rate their plate on taste, of course, but consider price, availability, and ethics, too. They will take ambience and hospitality into account. Everything is part of a bigger picture, and a good food writer knows that asking you to spend your hard-earned cash on something they recommended is a sacred responsibility.

When 5280 invited me to join their stable of rotating critics, I was thrilled. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert, but I’ve covered Colorado’s restaurant scene professionally for nearly two decades now, writing about classics and trends alike. I’ve scorched my taste buds looking for the city’s hottest hot chicken sandwich and gained a few pounds researching new bakeries. I’ve put tens of thousands of miles on my car driving to report on eateries in many corners of the state.

When I started writing for 5280 in 2010, though, the business of reviewing food and drink was a little different. The pandemic obviously changed a lot, but we’ve also evolved in our ideas about what sorts of restaurants, chefs, and cuisines we should cover.

This month, we brough back restaurant reviews—after a two-year break—with some adjustments. For starters, you won’t find any star ratings on our write-ups. Stars can offer a quick takeaway but also be misleading. The Washington Post recently made the same move, citing that star ratings deterred some people from reading the full review or trying the restaurant altogether. When you see two stars, you see a dud. When I see two stars, I see the best soup dumplings in town and mediocre service. There is no way to properly convey a restaurant’s true rating in stars.

Another change in 5280’s new-and-improved restaurant reviews is with respect to inclusivity. By now, everyone knows that great food isn’t relegated to fancy, white tablecloths. We are expanding our definition of fine dining to include vegan spots in the suburbs, elevated Thai food, and food trucks. We want to profile chefs who’ve been overlooked in the past. We hope our reviews will be approachable and less stuffy than before—and still make readers’ mouths water.

Our restaurant reviews are for you, after all. We don’t write for restaurants. We write for diners. We want to answer the most important question facing readers today: What’s for dinner?

Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.