Saturday, February 09, 2008

review : trio cafe


Alice and I went to Trio Cafe on Market Square for lunch today, so I thought I'd give it a review here.

Trio is OK. The food is pretty good- we built a custom salad out of a list of ingredients. This may be the most unique thing they offer. A random (but large) menu is also available with full breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings. I saw alot of folks with panini sandwiches. The cornbread waffle and the eggs benedict looked tempting. All in all, the selection was great. The salad we had was good, but the broccoli was not cut small enough and the dressing was lackluster.

At Trio Cafe, the food is not the problem. It's the serving style, ambiance, and prices that really miss the mark. You're probably going to pony up $8 to $12 dollars here, maybe more. There are no lunch specials. That's fine with me, but at that price point I want to sit down and have a waitress take my order. At Trio you wait in line and order at a counter, then the food is brought out to you. Not a problem in my book, as long as I'm in a $4-$8 range restaurant.

Then there's Trio's ambiance. The decor obviously tried for a sophisticated coffee house look, a la Panera. The result is anything but, with an interior of bright yellow and light pink set off by purple and pea green. The menu is displayed on posters on the wall, which look like a first year graphic art student with bad taste put it together. The whole place gave me the impression that Trio is what would happen if Panera Bread had a wild fling with Chuck E. Cheez and had a baby. It would be fine in a strip mall out west, but in downtown it seems tacky. Maybe as a designer I'm hypersensitive to these things, but ambiance matters- especially in the downtown market.

I seem destined to try Trio every few months, hoping maybe my previous impression was too harsh. But every time I always walk away with the same thoughts. If I have to go somewhere tacky, I want good prices. If I'm going to pay more, I want sit down service and a sophisticated atmosphere. Trio falls in the netherworld between these two, leaving me with a vague sense of dissatisfaction.

There are better places to eat downtown that meet either of the two criteria above. If you get bored of those places, maybe give Trio a try. It's not bad, it's just not that great.

Rating: 6 out of 10 wigs on the Wig-o-meter

7 comments:

em said...

this is a good review, ck, but i think 6/10 wigs is too generous. trio definitely is underwhelming. i might use the term luke-warm to describe it. you are right; it is waaaaay too expensive. and the food is only mediocre. those salads sure are massive, but the chicken tastes chemically and they dont have a diverse enough dressing selection. i went 2,3 times when it first opened, but i will be happy if i never go there again.

Mickey said...

I've been there a couple of times. I agree it's a little pricey, but I also like not having to wait for service or leave a tip, which keeps the tab for two people under $20.

The food has been good, but definitely not as good as other downtown establishments. I'll go back again.

Anonymous said...

trio cafe won best new restaurant this year. can any other restaurant boast that honor? NO. not one of your "downtown" establishments were honored? why is this? because downtown is coming around to finally catch up with the rest of the countries big cities and Trio hit the mark. Maybe you are too much of a tree hugger to realize that Fresh food, served quickly in a clean envirnment will always win over mom and pop places that have a hard time keeping the place clean or hiring intellegent employees. I have had 8 great meals. Keep up the good work Trio.
Ignore the ignorance.

ck said...

whoa, what's with the hostility? we're entitled to our opinions. you're right, trio is very clean and the food came quickly. don't expect me to praise the restaurant gods for that.
and trio is one of a kind and in the center of the city- doesn't that make it a "downtown" establishment?
and you can only get "best new restaurant" once. let's see how they fare next year, shall we?
state your opinion but no name calling, buddy.

Anonymous said...

I have read your other reviews of restaurants downtown and for you to consider the brewery the best food? yeah, maybe from a fryer....but anyone can produce food from a fryer that is edible when you drink beer. Why bash Trio when they are standing on their two feet, local girl owns the place, trying to make a living and giving Knoxville another choice that is not a franchise?
wow-good thing you have a day job-your restaurant reviews wouldn't pay your bills.

ck said...

thanks for the viewpoint. my opinion on trio has certainly gotten the full gamut of hostility over the past month. again, it's the service style versus pricing that's the main issue at trio. $9 for a meatloaf meal? i thought meatloaf was invented because it was cheaper than real meat! don't charge prices ike that and make me stand in line to order. i think trio could really be good, but it needs tweaking.
btw, i don't consider dtgb the premier downtown eatery (though the pol might disagree). if you want to dine like ck, look to pete's, pasta trio, or bijou bistro for the best balance (for their level) of food, service, atmosphere, and pricing.

downtn dweller said...

well, as i read your thoughts on Trio Cafe... I need to enlighten you-Metro Pulse will be announcing the BEST OF next week and I have heard through the vine that Trio Cafe will win two catagories. BEST SALADS and runner up for BEST LUNCH spot! Only behind Tomato Head that has been open for almost 10 years. Does this mean that Trio Cafe-open one year and only slightly behind Tomato Head (open 10 years..)is giving a fresh option to downtown? Well with the two majors papers doing polls and the readers taking time to fill in the ballots...sounds like it to me. Maybe you should open your mind and let the light in?