New York

7 Charts That Show How NYC Restaurants Have Changed Since Michelin Started Giving Them Stars

Way back in November 2005, French tire manufacturer Michelin introduced its famous Red Guide to high-end restaurants to the states for the first time at a glitzy party in the Guggeinheim Museum in New York. Culinary stars from Martha Stewart to Alain Ducasse drank champagne as the books, which highlight top-tier eateries with one, two and three stars, were delivered to guests on silver platters. Despite the high-profile launch, many New Yorkers were initially dubious of the guide. "We already have Zagat and the Times," they complained. "Why do we need some anonymous inspectors from France telling us where to eat?"

You could argue that that question has never been fully answered, but in an era when many newspapers are cutting restaurant review budgets, Michelin stars remain a mark of excellence for any restaurant. And their consistent standards across countries and years make them an useful benchmark for tracking changes in the culinary world.

Anyone who eats out in New York already knows that the restaurant scene in the city has changed tremendously since the Michelin Guide launched nine years ago. It's much more diverse, deep and exciting than ever before. But to get a sense of what that really looks like, and how exactly restaurants in the city have changed, I spent a little time crunching data from the Michelin Guides that have been released in New York so far. (Marc Shepard's excellent guide to the star ratings over time was a tremendous help in this process.) I then made the data into easy-to-digest graphs that, I think, illustrate some of the profound changes that have taken place in New York's restaurants since late 2005.

There are still many people who are dubious of the Michelin Guide's judgment, for many good reasons. And the charts below include only those restaurants that have been awarded stars, which reflect high-quality (and usually high prices). So there's plenty that's gone on in the past nine years that is not reflected at all in these charts. And, of course, the Michelin Guide is strictly subjective, so it's possible that the criteria used to award stars has changed at the same time that New York's restaurants have changed.

There Are A Lot More Michelin Stars In A Lot More Places
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
This chart shows all the Michelin stars in the city, broken down by neighborhood. It's sort of hard to tell what's happening in each one -- but it's very clear that the Red Guide has been awarding many more stars to New York restaurants in recent years than when it was first released in November 2005. Every year, the "neighborhood" with the most stars has been the six block radius around Columbus Circle, at the southwest corner of Central Park.
Brooklyn, Gramercy And Tribeca Are On The Rise
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
This chart breaks out the results from Brooklyn, Gramercy and Tribeca from the last chart. All have far more stars than they did in 2006, but Tribeca certainly has the strangest trajectory. It started out pretty high, then dipped to literally zero in 2009, only to rebound stronger than ever by 2014.
Brooklyn & Downtown Gain On Midtown & Uptown
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
This graph breaks total stars awarded each year into four broad geographic categories: the outer boroughs, below 14th Street in Manhattan, between 14th Street & 59th Street in Manhattan, and above 59th Street in Manhattan. As you can see, the first two have been steadily gaining on the latter two as the city's center of power and money shifts toward lower Manhattan and posh parts of Brooklyn.
New Cuisines Emerge As Contenders
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
Like the first graph, this one's a little hard to read, but one thing is clear: the Red Guide's starred restaurants are far more diverse in 2014 than they were in 2006. Chinese, Indian, Scandinavian and Korean restaurants are all forces to be reckoned with today, though they still trail the traditional four cuisines for high-end restaurants in New York...
French Food Declines While American, Japanese & Italian Food Surge
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
In 2006, French restaurants had a solid lead on the city's Michelin stars. But since then, American, Italian and Japanese restaurants have all surged, while French restaurants have lost favor. The cuisine of the Michelin Guide's home country is now in third place in the biggest city in America.
Asian Food Has Been Booming
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
Here's the most basic way of looking at changes in the city's culinary makeup of high-end restaurants -- divided into just three continental categories. The New World -- mostly American restaurants -- has been more or less steady, with about a third of the total stars. But European cuisines have tumbled from 57 percent of the city's stars in 2006 to 35 percent in 2014 -- while Asian restaurants have exploded from 8 percent to 28 percent. One important note, also: We know full well that this ignores Africa and Latin America. But the unfortunate truth is that, until now, the Michelin Guide has not given any stars to restaurants serving cuisines from either continent in New York.
Tasting Menus Dominate
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
This is a slightly different kind of trend from the rest, but it's still significant. Over the past nine years, an increasingly large share of the city's Michelin stars have gone to restaurants -- like Kajitsu, Blanca, Per Se and Momofuku Ko -- that require all patrons to participate in long, intricate tasting menus, and do not offer an a la carte option. This was a rarity in 2006, but it's now relatively common. Not everyone agrees with the Michelin inspectors, however, that it's a trend that deserves high praise.

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