Here's a little story.
I used to split grade print quite a bit with what I thought were difficult prints. The 00-5 split grade. But then I kept reading how really it was the same thing as grade 2. So I made the best split grade print I could for one image, and then the best grade 2 print for the same image. In a blind print test, I discovered I liked the grade 2 print better -- the highlights and shadows were the same in both prints, but I liked the midtones better in the grade 2 print.
So... after reading articles by a lot of people I discovered that using split grade printing for dodging and burning was what I was really looking for. I might do an entire print at grade 2, but burn in the delicate highlights with a 0 or 1/2 or 1. Like you, I had a very high contrast scene of a woman feeding pigeons and I ended up printing the bulk of that image at 1/2, and then bumping up the contrast in other areas with a 2 or 3. I guess I've learned to think of my pictures like puzzles -- these corners get 10 seconds at grade 3, that section gets a one minute burn at 00, those trees at grade 1, etc... Now, don't get me wrong -- I don't do this for all my prints, but for certain ones I found that experimenting this way really helped me to improve the final product.
That being said, I'm far from being a master printer, and this is what works for me. There's another thread below about this very issue, and countless others in the APUG archive, so I'm sure in the end you'll have to discover what's best for you.