Steve’s Five-and-a-Quarter-Flush Scale of [Mexican] Food Quality, or more simply, The Five-Flush Scale, got its starts in a Mexican restaurant in the eastern end of Henrico county, El Potrillo.  My ex and I were having dinner there in 2012, and I remember commenting on how amazing the food was.  I came up with a 5-flush scale on the spot, and it just kind of stuck.

A restaurant can earn either flushes or fancy flushes.  Fancy flushes are awarded if a restaurant is deemed sufficiently fancy, based on whatever criteria may be seen fit at that particular moment.  For example, patio seating, a bar of assorted salsas, or simply being the type of place you’d be inclined to wear something fancier than a polo shirt, all might qualify a place as fancy.  Either way, the rating scale is essentially the same.

Flushes are awarded subjectively and may be influenced by taste, creativity, service, atmosphere, noise level, menu availability, food quality, price, weather, my mood, any number of things.  In general, the better the experience, the higher the score.  Anywhere from five flushes down to negative one may be awarded.  It is unknown how the negative flushes work exactly, but it’s something like a sewage backup spilling out onto your nice kitchen tile.

Restaurants that truly hit it out of the park with amazing food, service, price, and all-around experience qualify for a bonus quarter-flush, for a maximum score of 5.25 flushes.

There are two noteworthy penalties that can apply.

Non-fancy restaurants will suffer a 1-point penalty if cloth napkins are used.  Cloth napkins are reserved for fancy restaurants.  The penalty is increased to 2 points if cloth napkins are used in a non-fancy restaurant and paper napkins are simultaneously being supplied at the table, because that’s just ridiculous.

Fancy restaurants will suffer a 1-point penalty if artificial candles are present.  Artificial candles are fine in non-fancy restaurants.  It has been determined that the presence of artificial candles solely in the restroom does not result in the artificial candle penalty.

The Five-Flush Scale got its start in a Mexican restaurant but it applies to all foodservice establishments.  It can also be applied to any other business, event, person, or situation.  “How was the tornado?”  “Oh, flattened the house and made a mess of the back yard, but did a good job dusting the blinds.  Three and a half flushes… would do it again.”  You get the idea.

The minimum score for something to be worthy of repeating is 2 flushes.  The worst possible experience, something straight out of an Americanized Gordon Ramsay show, would earn zero flushes.  If it was that awful and they had the audacity to put cloth napkins on the table, there’s your negative flushes.

Here’s a list of past flush scores.  First, though, a quick plug for that Mexican restaurant that started all of this.

On March 12, 2012, I discovered El Potrillo, inside the old Pizza Hut on the corner of Laburnum Avenue and Mechanicsville Turnpike in the east end of Richmond.  Since then, I have had probably hundreds of meals with owner Joaquin and his family.  At one point when I lived across the street I was at El Potrillo a few times a week.  I love their food because it’s different than the other stuff in town.  More flavor, less grease.  They’re not afraid to put some spicy dishes on the menu.

Unfortunately, they didn’t draw in a lot of traffic, being in a weird location not easily noticed from either of the two cross-streets, an outparcel in a shopping center that’s way past its prime.  Not long before closing El Potrillo, the family bought a restaurant in Petersburg.  El Potrillo had started closing on Sundays, but their other restaurant, Plaza Mexico, was open.

I made the hike down to Petersburg and Joaquin’s brother, who had served me a couple of times at El Potrillo, recognized me and made me feel right at home.  El Potrillo had this fantastic green salsa made fresh from jalapeño and poblano peppers, cilantro, and carrots, among other things.  This stuff is hot.  He happily made a batch for me.  So good.

Anyway, go check them out.  They’re on Crater Rd (US Rt 301) just south of Wagner Road, about 30 minutes south of Richmond.

Past Recipients and Scores

  • March 12, 2012 – El Potrillo – Henrico, VA: 5 flushes
  • January 12, 2013 – Pancho Villa – Rt 17 in Falmouth (north Fredericksburg), VA:  3 flushes
  • April 13, 2013 – Jalisco Mexican Restaurant – Front Royal, VA:  5 flushes
  • April 18, 2015 – El Rodeo – Plantation Rd – Roanoke, VA:  4.25 flushes
  • March 6, 2015 – El Azteca – Ashland, VA:  0.67 flushes
  • March 6, 2015 – Dairy Queen – Ashland, VA:  4.5 flushes
  • April 19, 2015 – Ruby Tuesday – Mt. Airy, NC – 4 flushes, “slightly undercooked fish.”
  • April 20, 2015 – Thai Café – Mt. Airy, NC:  1 flush
  • April 21, 2015 – Tlaquepaque Mexican Resturant & Grill – Mt. Airy, NC:  -1 flush, “charges $0.75 for hot sauce.”
  • June 6, 2015 – DoubleTree Hotel (Catering) – Williamsburg, VA:  “not even half a flush.”
  • July 16, 2015 – Thai Gourmet – Ashland, VA:  5 flushes.  Notable for the non-denominational soda lineup.  They’re canned, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the flush score.
  • August 1, 2015 – El Charro – East Market Street, Harrisonburg, VA: 1.5 flushes
  • August 2, 2015 – Carl’s Frozen Custard – Fredericksburg, VA:  0.25 flush, “it’s losing its appeal.”
  • August 8, 2015 – Alejandro’s – Williamson Rd, Roanoke, VA:  5 flushes
  • August 9, 2015 – El Paso Mexican Grille – Elkton, VA:  4.0 flushes
  • September 11, 2015 – Plaza Mexico – Petersburg, VA:  An off night with 4.5 flushes.  “Chicken was undercooked and they switched to cheaper toilet paper.”
  • September 7, 2015 – Jalisco Mexican Restaurant – Harrisonburg, VA:  5.25 flushes
  • October 17, 2015 – El Caporal – Henrico, VA:  4 flushes, “I’d come back.”
  • November 4, 2015 – Ruby Tuesday – Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA:  2.75 flushes.  “My server started off by telling me it’s his second day on the job. He has come back to confirm my order twice so far, and I’ve trained him on part of the menu.”
  • November 8, 2015 – Mi Jalisco – Ashland, VA:  4.5 flushes
  • November 24, 2015 – Black Bear – Evansdale – Morgantown, WV:  3.5 flushes.  No commentary, but I remember it being weird.
  • January 2, 2016 – Mi Jalisco – Ashland, VA:  4.33 flushes
  • March 17, 2016 – Jimmy John’s (Delivery) – Newport News, VA:  2.75 flushes.  “Satisfactory.”
  • March 26, 2016 – Taste of India – Harrisonburg, VA:  3 flushes
  • June 27, 2016 – Cafe Asia – Bonsack/Roanoke, VA:  5 flushes.  Missed out on the bonus quarter-flush by charging $1.75 per can for sodas, no free refills.  Still impressive enough for five flushes.
  • June 28, 2016 – Luke’s Café – Abingdon, VA:  4.5 flushes
  • June 29, 2016 – Bonefire Smokehouse – Abingdon, VA:  4 flushes.  Could’ve been 5 flushes, but all food arrived lukewarm
  • July 10, 2016 – Thai Gourmet – Ashland, VA:  2.5 flushes, “kind of unusual”
  • August 14, 2016 – Mill Street Grill – Staunton, VA:  4 flushes after 1-flush cloth napkin penalty
  • August 16, 2016 – Carter’s Pigpen BBQ – Mechanicsville, VA:  4.5 flushes, “one of my favorites.”
  • September 10, 2016 – “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline” performed at the Lee Playhouse, Fort Lee, VA:  5 flushes
  • October 1, 2016 – Taste of India – Staunton, VA:  2 flushes after 1-flush cloth napkin penalty
  • October 4, 2016 – Pho 79 – Henrico, VA:  4 flushes, “I’ll round up.”
  • October 19, 2016 – J.KOGI – Richmond, VA:  5 flushes
  • October 27, 2016 – Lehja – Richmond, VA:  4.5 flushes
  • October 28, 2016 – Alejandro’s – Hollins – Williamson Rd, Roanoke, VA:  4.75 flushes
  • October 30, 2016 – The Green Goat – Roanoke, VA:  1.5 flushes.  Notable for extremely slow service.  “For the food alone: 3 flushes; but the overall experience: 1.5 flushes. #skipit”
  • October 30, 2016 – Chipotle – Charlottesville, VA:  3.0 flushes.  My first Chipotle experience, by the way.  “This one’s complicated. For the food: 4.75 flushes. However, the needlessly complex ordering experience and confusingly fast pace knock the overall experience down to a mere 3.0 flushes.”
  • November 27, 2016 – Cheezilla Grilled Cheese – Regency Square Mall, Richmond, VA:  5 flushes
  • November 29, 2016 – Casa del Barco – Canal Walk – Richmond, VA:  4 Fancy Flushes
  • December 17, 2016 – Christian’s Pizza – Richmond, VA:  2 flushes, “exactly what I wanted and expected”
  • December 17, 2016 – The Daily Kitchen – Richmond, VA – 4 Fancy Flushes
  • December 17, 2016 – Shyndigz To Go – Richmond, VA:  4.5 flushes
  • January 2, 2017 – Taj of India – Harrisonburg, VA:  4.25 flushes after 1 flush cloth napkin penalty
  • January 2, 2017 – Bella Gelato & Pastries – Harrisonburg, VA:  5 flushes.  “Easy five flushes for the Brown Butter Cookie Dough gelato.”
  • January 17, 2017 – Zynodoa – Staunton, VA:  4.0 Fancy Flushes, after 1 flush artificial candle penalty
  • January 18, 2017 – Nu-Beginning Farm Restaurant – Staunton, VA:  5 flushes
  • January 18, 2017 – Graham’s chili – Graham & Steve’s Fruit Fly Hatchery, Richmond, VA:  10 flushes.  Graham says, “he is just saying that to get in my pants”
  • February 3, 2017 – Zzaam – Richmond, VA:  [Redacted]  (Graham declared “The flush count is a secret.”)
  • February 5, 2017 – Farm Fresh – 227 Fox Hill Rd, Hampton, VA:  5 flushes.  “It’s the one Graham grew up with, so I have to like this one.”
  • February 6, 2017 – Crossroads RVA – Richmond, VA:  5 flushes
  • February 11, 2017 – Subway – Ashland, VA:  4 flushes
  • February 20, 2017 – Yard House – Virginia Beach, VA:  3.5 flushes after 1-flush cloth napkin penalty.
  • March 15, 2017 – Vietnam One – Richmond, VA:  3.5625 flushes.  They left the tail on the shrimp.
  • April 13, 2017 – Casa del Barco – Canal Walk – Richmond, VA:  4.5 Fancy Flushes
  • July 8, 2017 – The Melting Pot – Richmond, VA:  5.25 Fancy Flushes
  • June 24, 2017 – Ben’s Chili Bowl – Washington, DC:  5.0 flushes, “OMFG YES”
  • July 27, 2017 – Athens Tavern – Richmond, VA:  0 flushes, “Bland appetizer, sad olives in my salad, extremely dry bread, overcooked shrimp in my pasta, and a one-flush cloth napkin penalty.”
  • June 23, 2017 – HipCityVeg – Washington, DC:  4.25 flushes
  • June 25, 2017 – Busboys and Poets – Mt. Vernon – Washington, DC:  5.25 flushes.  “We only had time to grab a couple of appetizers: the vegan nachos and shrimp & crab fritters. It is a perfect 5.25-flusher, and we will hit it again on our next trip when we have more time to dive into the menu.”
  • July 7, 2017 – Mrs. Renfro’s Gourmet Ghost Pepper Salsa:  4 flushes
  • July 8, 2017 – The Hard Shell – Downtown – Richmond, VA:  5.25 flushes
  • July 13, 2017 – Shuckers World Famous Raw Bar & Cafe, Woods Hole, MA – 1.5 flushes after 1-flush cloth napkin penalty.
  • August 19, 2017 – Pancho Villa Express – Spotsylvania Mall – Fredericksburg, VA:  5 flushes
  • August 26, 2017 – Which Wich – Willow Lawn – Richmond, VA:  3 flushes,  “would give them a second chance.”
  • October 14, 2017 – Red Lobster – Roanoke, VA:  2.9 flushes
  • November 30, 2017 – Urban Farmhouse – E Cary St – Richmond, VA:  2 flushes.  “Food is decent after I heated it up in the microwave, which shouldn’t be necessary. Portions are small for the price. The employees all seemed angry and unengaged.  I wanted to like this place.”
  • December 23, 2017 – Captain D’s Seafood – Jefferson Davis Hwy – Richmond, VA:  4 flushes.  “They’re tied with Hardee’s for my favorite fast food chicken tenders, and they’ve got my favorite sweet & sour sauce.”
  • January 5, 2018 – Olive Garden – Short Pump – Richmond, VA:  0.5 flushes after 1-flush cloth napkin penalty
  • February 22, 2018 – Casa del Barco – Canal Walk – Richmond, VA:  5.25 Fancy Flushes.  “We are giving them a pass on the artificial candle penalty.”  It was a special occasion.
  • March 6, 2018 – Burger King – New Kent, VA:  4.2 flushes
  • March 8, 2018 – Mellow Mushroom – Carytown – Richmond, VA:  4 flushes, a touch too greasy
  • April 3, 2018 – Feit Electric 600 lumen battery backup LED bulbs – 4.75 flushes
  • April 26, 2018 – Sheetz fish sandwich – Forest, VA: 5 flushes.  “None of the other fast food fish sandwiches matter anymore. Only this one. So big and so delicious.”
  • May 5, 2018 – Twisted Timbers roller coaster – Kings Dominion, Doswell, VA:  4 flushes
  • May 8, 2018 – Lemon Cuisine of India – Richmond, VA: 5 Fancy Flushes
  • July 1, 2018 – Secret Sandwich Society – Richmond, VA:  4.25 flushes
  • July 1, 2018 – Stoplight Gelato Cafe – Richmond, VA:  5.25 flushes