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Bones to pick

Post by News Tribune Staff on May 22, 2007 at 12:31 pm | No Comments »
May 22, 2007 12:31 pm


I liked the barbecue I ate at Honey Bee. Several readers wrote and called to differ.

You should make another visit to the Honey Bee. We were delighted to hear, through your column, that it had opened reviving Bar-B-Que Pete’s menu and flavor. You awarded 4 stars. We went on a Sunday evening. We ordered ribs and chicken. The chicken was overcooked, dry, and flavorless. The ribs were ok but the flavor wasn’t cooked in. The sauce was apparently added after the meat was cooked.

The corn cobs were very small and the corn seemed overcooked. My husband’s corn was very hot. Mine was cold in many spots. The food gave every indication of having been pre-cooked and warmed up (with varying success). The wait staff was very lax and spent huge amounts of time talking to each other.

For your own reputation, try another visit or have someone who isn’t known visit for you.

This piece of reader feedback is not unusual. Since I wrote about Honey Bee BBQ in March, I’ve received e-mail and telephone messages telling me I’m flat-out wrong about Honey Bee’s barbecue. Some of the correspondence and calls dug deeper into the menu than I did.

First let me say three things:

1). I understand barbecue is a subjective thing. You like Kansas City. I like Memphis. I like St. Louis. You like Texas. One of us might like sweet or vinegary sauces more than the others. I agree we’ll disagree.

2.) When I wrote that Honey Bee has four-star barbecue, I was referring to the barbecue – brisket, ribs and chicken. Not the beans. Not the salad. Not the service. Not the corn. Not the steak. Not anything else on the menu. This was not a restaurant review; it was a report on the barbecue at two new restaurants.

3). I regret awarding Honey Bee’s barbecue four stars. Not because I didn’t enjoy the barbecue I ate and wrote about. I regret it because I regret the convention of the star system that’s supposed to give readers a shorthand version of a considered opinion. Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not railing against stars in reviews. I am concerned that stars, when they are attached to round-ups of ribs or pizzas or sandwiches or Korean fried chicken (exactly the kind of story in which I wrote about Honey Bee), are perceived as ratings for the restaurants themselves, not specifically the food that was written about.

Let me ask you how I can clear this up:

What do the stars mean to you?

Do you read star ratings of reviews first or read the perspectives and experiences in the reviews that inform the stars?

In the case of rounds-up reviews that deal with specific things – like the pizza round-up I’m writing this week about the pizza, and only the pizza, at The Cloverleaf, Spuds and Pizza Casa – do you want or expect the stars to be a reflection of overall dining experience, or just the pie?

Got any better ideas than stars or other shorthand icons of (mis)understanding?

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