KFnet in T-Town

May. 28, 2008 at 7:56am

Ed Murrieta Goes Herban

When Ed Murrieta says "eat", do you say "where"? A recent review of 6th Ave's Herban Cafe reminded me that no single person can corner the market on food-related opinions. I understand that critics of food, movies, or whatever are just publishing subjective experiences, but my so-called beef doesn't lie there. It comes from the seeming lack of care taken with this review toward consistency. Murrieta first describes Herban Cafe as "casual and modest" then criticizes them for their sunny, homemade paint job and patio like seating and environment. He also rated the place out of 4 stars instead of the usual 5. Where'd that extra star go?

Though the gospel according the Ed Murrieta may be the only main steam published restaurant reviews in this town does that mean we have no other choices? Hardly. For one, at least one other published outlet in the Weekly Volcano offers up perspective on local food. But more than even that, don't forget the blogs. Any search for the likes of Herban Cafe, Matador, Friesenburgers, etc over on FeedTacoma will yield pages of perspectives on local eating from real people. No one view on a place should be taken as "it" especially when methods of publishing such opinions online make it as easy as "keyword and click" to find out what more than just one guy thinks.

We enjoyed a wonderful family style meal over at Herban Cafe last Friday. Host Gretchen Nogler (a.k.a. Pink Cookie Lady) brought us dish after dish of wonderful food. I was most impressed by the ravioli, steamed clams (those were the first I've ever had -- talk about setting the bar high!), and a chocolate cake with orange frosting for dessert. This is a great way to go at a place you've never tried 'cause if you're like me at all, once I find something I like I stick to it. Trying a bunch of different food last time, however, opened my eyes to some great options on the menu even in spite of my visiting Herban Cafe at least a half dozen times.

In light of Murrieta's review, however, Gretchen and everyone over at Herban Cafe would like to know what you think. Head on over here (or click the big button below) to drop your rating for Herban Cafe and leave comments below letting them know what you think. From there, keep June 21st open 'cause they'll be having an opening of their rating box as well as the christening and beer sampling from their new taps. Sounds like a good plan for Solstice, don't you think?

You Rate Them:
Herban Cafe

comments [20]  |  posted under ed murrieta, herban cafe, tacoma

Comments

by MsNarcissist on 5/28/2008 @ 9:38am
I've been to the Herban Cafe serveral times, and find the food quality to be inconsistant. Sometimes it's wonderful, other times not so great. I also think the prices are a bit high for lunch, especially when compared with my "go to" place The Rosewood.

by Erik on 5/28/2008 @ 9:40am
There has been a ton of restaurant reviews in the blogosphere but no central way they are all kept together.

He also rated the place out of 4 stars instead of the usual 5. Where'd that extra star go?

Sounds like a scriveners error.

by Erik Hanberg on 5/28/2008 @ 9:51am
I clicked over expecting the restaurant to be blasted, but it was not. Ed had some small criticisms at the end but still gave it 4 out of 5 stars, which is a very good review (ask a restaurant who got 1 or 2 stars). Why is 5 the "usual" amount of stars?

You describe Ed as if he's claimed to be the only source for food reviews in Tacoma, and you use "the gospel according to Ed" as if he's reigning from on high. I'm not sure I've seen that. He's writing his opinion, just like you are, and just like I do when I write up a restaurant.

I don't see what's so wrong with his review. You guys don't even really disagree--for him it's a 4 star restaurant, and for you it's a 5 star. Sounds like it's a pretty good restaurant.

by KevinFreitas on 5/28/2008 @ 10:38am
@MsNarcissist

Don't get me started about Rosewood.

@Erik
There has been a ton of restaurant reviews in the blogosphere but no central way they are all kept together.

See my links to search results embedded in my article above. It's extremely easy on FT and when using Google to just type in a name to see a wider range of perspectives on a place than just one review in the paper.


@Erik Hanberg

Ed had some small criticisms at the end but still gave it 4 out of 5 stars...

He actually gave it a 2 out of 4 stars (their web thing doesn't show the stars) and I didn't express how many stars I think they should get.

He's writing his opinion, just like you are, and just like I do when I write up a restaurant.

Very true, but as far as media outlets go he's perceived by many as the only game in town. I have nothing against him, just pointing out that inconsistencies like what I saw in his Herban Cafe review don't have to be tolerated. Likewise, I think the paper could benefit by having more than just one person review restaurants (and movies for that matter) to help spread things out and lend more perspectives to their readers.

I do disagree with his review and rating itself because I've had many great experiences at Herban Cafe. I'm taken aback with Ed's review because he doesn't shred them yet gives them a lowly 2 stars and he or someone there neglects to remain consistent with their rating restaurants out of 5 stars rather than the published out of 4 this time around.

I know the owners as well and they asked for help getting more feedback from the community which is why I hope more folks will comment here and rate them as well. They want to be a great place and will only get there with more feedback.

by jenyum on 5/28/2008 @ 11:08am
Glad you set this up!

The "discuss" link from the ratings poll goes to something having to do with red light cameras or bridge tolls or some such thing.

Gretchen also wanted to pass on Her notice about their party with a color in the missing star contest.

Erik: He definitely did give them two stars. Thankfully, I do not rate restaurants with stars (not even with my own ratings function) but if I had to I would reserve that rating for any of the many places in town which serve pre-fab food science grub. A few inconsistencies here and there do not warrant that kind of smackdown.


by KevinFreitas on 5/28/2008 @ 11:10am
@jen
Got that link fixed. Thanks!

by Erik Hanberg on 5/28/2008 @ 12:29pm
Note: I misread Kevin's "out of 4 stars" and thought he was referring to giving them 4 out of 5 stars rather than a change from a 5 star system to a 4 star system.

That said ... I still don't see what the big problem is. You and a food critic disagreed on a local restaurant. It happens.

In fact, Rosewood is a good example. A Google search for "Rosewood Cafe Tacoma" brings up Jenyum's post about it, which is a very good review. Below hers is a positive blurb by Ed Murrieta and below his is your review. You said they have "shoddy service and a paltry menu" and call it a "bad seed." I'm not complaining about your description of it--you're entitled to your opinion just like Jenyum and Ed--but I see no difference between Ed's negative review of one restaurant and your negative review of another.

by jcbetty on 5/28/2008 @ 12:55pm
The Rosewood's become my go-to place, of late; it's close to my home, I enjoy the food, the wines are great, and the kid loves it there. And I can see how the Herban Cafe can function in the same way for me in the future-- I've had a couple of good experiences there (and a brie and raspberry to die for, even though the service that day was a bit odd)(and no, as a matter of fact, I didn't hear the Beatles at either of my visits...).

I can see the point on the reviewers inconsistency front-- on the one hand, the reviewer makes many positive points about the food and the service. His interior description is of a casual, modest place, and yet his rating seems to be impacted by the fact that he doesn't like the tables, chairs, and paint color. Which seems weird, to me. I read restaurant reviews for what they say about the food, and make up my own mind about ambience (one man's heaven ambience is another man's hell, after all) --thing is, to rate a place either 2 out of 4 stars-- or worse, 2 out of five-- seems to indicate that something went horribly awry all five times he was there-- something his review fails to indicate.

I guess, to me the issue is, as much as we like to think we make up our own minds on what movies to see and where to eat, we do remember hearing about bad experiences and reviews, and tend to make dining choices based on those, rather than thoughts of "let's try it out anyway." And for a local business to have to sustain itself working against those odds is tough.

I think a little more fairness in the star tabulation might have been called for, in this case, is all I'm sayin'...

by KevinFreitas on 5/28/2008 @ 12:57pm
Definitely happens. That's my point. However, I think exposure to more opinions is what is lacking in the food-related work of the Trib and, frankly, most newspapers. Your Google approach is exactly what many people do or should do to get more of the story. My argument is that since this approach is a more powerful way for people to be informed I could see it being a benefit to the TNT's image for them to open up to a similar methodology when it comes to food and film. Comments on the articles and blog posts help but having paid staff with differing perspectives could add a real beneficial angle in their readers eyes.

by izenmania on 5/28/2008 @ 1:03pm
That said ... I still don't see what the big problem is. You and a food critic disagreed on a local restaurant. It happens.

Well, he did say multiple times that Murrieta's opinion of the place was not what he had a problem with...

by Erik Hanberg on 5/28/2008 @ 1:10pm
I like your new avatar, Izenman!

by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2008 @ 1:27pm
I think it depends on who's working that night. Our experience has varied when the owners weren't there.

by Mark Briggs on 5/28/2008 @ 4:43pm
Great post, Kevin. Over here at Mainstream HQ, we agree that our man Ed shouldn't have the only word on what and where to eat around here, which is why we launched our restaurant guide with a prominent user review feature. (Here's a link to the Herban's profile page, which has one review on it: tinyurl.com/6ffn8l.)

It would be great to aggregate all the local mentions of a restaurant into the guide, but sorting the actual comments and reviews from mere mentions would take some pretty serious programming (for us newspaper folk anyway).

- Mark Briggs

by KevinFreitas on 5/28/2008 @ 4:51pm
If that system could blast out RSS feeds of reviews I'd be happy to help pull them together here with all the other great blog-related perspectives on restaurants via the FeedTacoma search.

by AP on 5/30/2008 @ 3:22pm
What happened? It appears this conversation just sort of piddled away...

by herban on 6/18/2008 @ 10:41pm
Saturday is right around the corner. We are welcoming the summer with our tap christening, $2.00 tap beer and a free, that's right free, buffet of barbecue delights. Hope to see you all there.



by Heather on 6/19/2008 @ 10:27am
The Rosewood still rocks. Kevin, you are comparing dinners at Herban to trying to order sandwiches to go from the Rosewood. The Rosewood has a small menu, friendly staff, great wine, and a comfortable dining room. I can understand that there are folks that might not dig the Rosewood, because the service is slow and the menu limited, but it is the place I run (not walk) to when I need some comfort. It is one of the few small busy spots in town with consistantly yummy food where the staff does not rush you out of a table to keep the traffic moving - thus the slow service. OTOH, I have not been highly impressed with the Herban Cafe; I have definitely had mixed experiences. But you won't hear me bashing them. I've had several horrible experiences at another local spot but nothing health threatening, so I'm keeping quiet about it. If anything, I'll talk to the owners directly. I hope they get better; I want the local businesses to succeed.

Ed's column serves a purpose and serves it well. I will continue to read it religiously, and continue to take his opinions with a grain of salt. I think that very few Tacomans stay away from a new restaurant based on Ed's review, unless he writes that a place appears unsanitary and the staff was excessively rude. He draws attention to our local restaurants, makes folks curious, makes us think about eating out, and I think that is a good thing.

by KevinFreitas on 6/19/2008 @ 10:37am
Kevin, you are comparing dinners at Herban to trying to order sandwiches to go from the Rosewood.

I wasn't comparing but believe MsN before me made the comparison. I also have no problem with Rosewood other than the experiences we had trying to order food for a small office. I have no problem relaxing with food at a great place. I'm a notoriously slow eater by design because eating, more than almost anything else, should not be rushed.

Ed definitely has his place and I, for one, am thankful blogs and forums exist so that there's always more to a review than a single story in the paper.

by ensie on 6/20/2008 @ 1:43am
I have had several bad experiences with the Rosewood Cafe. I'm never able to get a reservation for four on a Friday night (and was told more than once "can you call back later?"). I honestly don't get what the attraction is, as their menu is relatively limited and they always seem to be out of what I want. I'll go to the Rosewood from time to time, but Herban Cafe definitely is better for my dollar.

by jenyum on 6/20/2008 @ 7:42am
I don't believe the Rosewood takes reservations? This is what they always tell me about holidays, anyway.

I like the Rosewood, but their menu is pretty bread-heavy and there's little a gluten free person can eat. Herban Cafe, Rosewood, and Babs are all roughly in the same category (which is a good category to be in) and I recommend them all the time.

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