The 50 Best Restaurants 2009

It's a simple question: "Where should we go for dinner?" Yet ask it and brace for a cacophony of opinions, as every magazine, newspaper, and user-generated-review website vies to serve as your gastronomic guru. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to pull it all together, to herd that surfeit of recommendations into one single, convenient, yet statistically meaningful index? To have a Metacritic, of sorts, for local grub? We thought so, too. Presenting the ultimate ranking of Hub dining, as determined by every major dining expert and amateur critic out there.

How We Did It

We started with a list of 117 fine-dining establishments within the Route 128 boundary. In order to merit consideration, a restaurant had to meet our basic quality standards and had to have been reviewed by most of the major outlets. We then collected the most recent reviews of those restaurants from four traditional-media reviewers: the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, and the Phantom Gourmet (the Improper Bostonian does not have searchable archives and was therefore not included). We also surveyed the two most popular audience-rated sources, Yelp and Zagat, and approached five of the most prolific and popular members of the local Chowhound community

(according to the site’s “People Reading Me” rankings) to weigh in on our list: Hiddenboston, Yumyum, Limster, MC Slim JB (also an occasional Boston and frequent Phoenix contributor), and StriperGuy. The ‘hounds ranked each restaurant from one to five stars, and we combined their scores and averaged them into a single overall Chowhound rating.

Finally, we added in Boston‘s vote, taking into account both critic Corby Kummer’s opinion and our own. We rated the restaurants on a scale of one to five stars, allowing ourselves quarter-point intervals as a tiebreaking measure.

We handed all this data off to I. Elaine Allen, a Babson College statistics professor and frequent Boston collaborator. She normalized the different ratings, then weighted the scores depending on, say, the age of the review (the older it was, the less it counted) and its source (as mentioned in the introduction, we weighted our opinion twice as heavily as everyone else’s). Allen used those calculations to come up with an overall rating (and from that, a ranking) for each of the restaurants on an adjusted scale of zero to 100, with 50 as the mean.