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Peanut Butter & Ellie's: New & Improved

When was the last time you were at Peanut Butter & Ellie's?  Portland's veteran of kid-friendly establishments, PB&E has gone through a renaissance.  Way back when, when we first moved to Portland in 2003, PB&E was in the neighborhood.  It was a great little spot for the kids to grab a snack and a great way to meet new families. Fast-forward to 2006.  PB&E closed it's doors at its NE Fremont location.  Now, in 2007, PB&E is back in full effect.  They're back and they're better.  Their new menu boasts grown-up food like steak or taquitos.  Their newest big person offerings are burgers and baked sweet potato fries.  YUM!  Even better, they've got beer and wine!  AND, they've got table service.  PB&E's still focuses on fun food for the little folk, and they make the environment playful and happy. So, uMamas, have you been to the new PB&E's in SW Portland?  What do you think?  Is it yummy?  Is it fun for the whole family?

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we looooove the PB&E's in SW. part of its charm is the awesome location- one of my biggest gripes when we do venture out of the downtown area is that i feel like i am driving from parking lot to parking lot. and when kids are hungry (and lets face it, when i'm hungry) the last thing i want to do it play the "where do you want to go?" game and then have to drive another ten min. to get there.
SW PB&E's is right across the street from the SW Community Center, a C.C that we love. We can go there for tai-kwon do lessons or swimming for the afternoon and then PB&E's is right there. its convenient for me (especially since they've added the great new food! yum!) and my kids think they are getting another treat for the day by getting to go to PB&E's.
i do like the switch to table service although be prepared for it to be a little slow. but with all the games and other kids to play with, my guys hardly care and i just know when i go in that we're going to be there a while.
the sweet potato fries are yummy!!!!!!

let's put it this way- if anyone has a six year oldish and would like to do a PB&E playdate we'd def. be in! :-)

eh. i just don't like that place for some reason. i've been many times to "give it another try", but always walk away regretting it. everty time i go it is total chaos in there, and they seem very short staffed. and while i usually like my meal, i think it's a little TOO organic for my kids' taste. seems like i spend $50 bucks on a lunch no one really eats.

well, sad to say but they lost what they had over on fremont. the menu sounds like a good idea but really if we want a full adult dinner there are other places we'd rather go. the fremont location had a wonderful neighborhood coziness that we (and many others from what i hear) really miss. driving up to an old strip mall is unappealing in itself, then the prices went up too. it's just a completely different place. if someone wanted to do something more similar to the original peanut butter & ellie's over on alberta or mississippi i bet it would do really well.
please note: this is meant in no offense to the current owner. everyone has a different vision and obvioulsy folks in sw like it. i'm just sayin. ; >

I enjoyed the old place, and I would probably check out the new if it were closer. But I'm just not crossing the river for pb&j. I agree about the nice neighborhood feel of the Fremont PB&E. The strip mall location is not enticing.

I'm a NoPo/NE mama all the way...I'm sure the new one is cool (I'll never know) but I miss having a kid-centered establishment over on my side of town. I've been saying this for years, if I wasn't already a small business owner (one is enough, thank you) I would open a restaurant over in N/NE for both children and parents to play in...it would make people really happy and it would do SO WELL. I'm not talking about a place with a child's "corner," I mean a really cozy family hangout place. Milkshakes and wine. And knitting. I can't believe nobody has done it yet. It will happen, and when it does, I'll be the first customer.

Fionnsnana- that is exactly what I'm wishing someone would do with the former laundrymat at 13th and Fremont, just a half block away from the old PB&E. Plenty of space and nice south facing windows. We were sad when PB&E left our neighborhood, but the SW location isn't on our radar. If we could bike there, maybe, but travelling across town for a peanut butter sandwich? I can't imagine!

well i just gave pb&e another try last week, my first time there in a year. and i have to say i was SORELY dissapointed. the service was slooooow, but the worst part was the food. although my salad was fine, my husbands meal was so bad he opted to finish our daughter's pb&banana instead (said it was far superior too!). and both of our sweet potato fries were the worst i have had in my life. pile of mush is an understatement. that was the most dissapointing for me, since i adore sweet potato fries and it was pretty much THE reason i wanted to go back to pb&e's again. they were truly awful. the play area was fine as always, but the chalkboard only had teeny tiny bits of chalk to draw with, and at the time i was there there weren't enough train cars for each kid at the train table. granted, this was a a friday night, so most tables were full. i kind of missed the old set up with the chalkboard on the wall above each booth. i'm also a NE girl, and wish they had a location near the old spot. i agree with all the posters that a new place would be packed. i can only take the laurelwood so often, and i don't find the food there all that great (lots of fried stuff, harder to eat healthy). i so love the idea of pb and ellies, just wish it was better executed and in a neighborhood i frequented. i certainly won't be venturing all the way over there again, it's just not enough of a draw unless i'm right there already.

I live in SW and I was so excited to try PB & E's when it moved, but I was so let down each time I tried it.

I think the eastside incarnation must have been better or it would never have worked.

I know Heidi, the owner, and she's such a wonderful woman. She really puts her heart into this business and is really trying to make it a great place! I just hate to see such negative things written publicly. I hope that if people have complaints they are also taking it straight to her/management because I know she would want to make it right if she knew. As a small business owner myself I know you can't please everyone, but it sure is nice to hear from those that are happy (as well as hearing DIRECTLY from those that aren't!)

Any moms out there, besides NE moms who miss the old place, that are happy with PB&E's?

Not me. I keep trying it one more time because I like the events that take place there but the food sucks and the kids who serve are totally clueless. Sad about it.

I have a lot of friends in the SW and I usually meet them over at PB and E's. I really enjoy it, but I never went to the old one. I like the food, my child likes the applesauce and yogurt, and it's priced very fairly for the type of food it is...I see it as a place you go to play and get snacks, not dinner, so I am never disappointed. So Melanie, I do believe there are many moms out there who have good experiences, as they are not expecting more than just a place for the kids to play and have a nosh. And moms, you can always get a beer...the parents I see coming in for bday parties are asking for one right as they walk in the door! Oh, but I do think the service is very slow. I saw 3 people just standing there, and when I tried to get their attention, they told me to wait a minute...but the actually wait-person was really nice and accomidating.

I just have to say that I am surprised by the number of people who won't travel out of their neighborhood or to a different part of town. Portland has so much to offer! I live in SW but am constantly in close-in SE, all over NE, NoPo, downtown, the Pearl - you name it, I go there. My husband and I take our three kids all over town regularly because there are so many great places that we don't want to miss just because they aren't in our neighborhood. I say get out there and live a little!

As for PB&E, I go there on occasion if there is a particular reason (playdate, meeting), mainly because my oldest kids, ages 8 and 5 1/2, tell me they are too old to go there. Unless they go with a friend, I can see how they would feel that way; it seems like mostly toddlers whenever we visit.

I live in SW so I've been to PB & Es quite a bit. When it's not crowded I really enjoy myself there. The lunch food is quite good (chicken salad sandwhich is yummy) and I can usually count on my toddler to gobble up the PB&J sandwhich or fruit and cheese. The play area keeps my little guy pretty occupied too. I like that there are so many choices on the menu for adults and kids. Yes it's a little pricey but most moms I know will pay extra for a place where they and the kids can be happy. I was even pleased to see that the last time we got fruit for my toddler they cut up the huge grapes (not fun trying to cut them with a butter knife myself while my son is screaming for his grapes).

However, the place just falls apart when it is crowded. There is one server there who is excellent and attentive but he cannot make up for the others. When it's really busy it seems that there needs to be a referee or someone who is in charge to make sure that everyone is getting equal attention from the waitstaff. The food suffers as well in the chaos (my taquitos were way overdone).

If my son could speak in sentences he'd probably give his thumbs up. Whenever we drive by PB&Es on our way to his Co-op preschool he points and yells and even sometimes cries when he realizes we are not stopping there.

I live in Multnomah Village and was thrilled when I heard PB&Es was moving so close. I would travel to NE with my son just to go there when it was on Fremont. When I saw where it was in the strip mall across from the community center, my heart dropped. I thought, "well it could still be great"... unfortunately I have been disappointed each time. I haven't been there in a long while and it is just 5 minutes away. I feel badly for the owner, it just lost its charm... and seemingly committed employees. I, too, felt the employees there were just that- young adults working a job in restaurant, not really caring about giving good service. The Fremont location seemed to have older people who were into kids and giving awesome service.. am I off base here?

Slowest service ever - and only half the tables were filled when we were there. This was a cold Sunday evening in Jan or Feb, and it also seemed like it was a hard place to keep clean. I assumed it was just an off night, where too many people had called in sick or something. I told my husband we should give it another try. But now, reading this, it sounds like a common experience. I know this would be painful for a business owner who is really trying, but maybe if she could read this she would see it is a common experience and not an isolated complaint, and she could take stronger steps to fix it.

I am a SW Mama and seemed to have had the opposite experience of most people that have posted. We drove over to the NE location a couple times and had terrible service-only 3 tables with people and half our order was forgotten and service certainly wasn't attentive. When I mentioned this to people, they said-oh yeah, it's always like that.

Since they moved to our neck of the woods, I have had great service. The server always tried to do some things that were just for the little people in the group to make their visit better.

I enjoy being able to have a place to go for dinner where the kids have healthy choices. I'm tired of only seeing hamburgers, chicken strips, or mac & cheese for kids at other restaurants.

I've actually felt really welcomed and attended to by the servers on the two occasions I've gone (weekdays around 11 or so).

I like the food but do feel it's a bit too pricey to go very often.

But I'm not sure I have much more than occasional use for a restaurant that's ENTIRELY child-themed. My daughter and her friend are kind of cowed by chaos so they haven't really had a great time. I saw pretty lax supervision from other parents (which I'm not exactly knocking - I understand that sometimes you need the opportunity). It's just that I'd rather go somewhere where there's a small safe area set aside for a few children to play, than a place where 50% of the clientele is racing around and screaming. But that's just my general preference - I'll still go to PBE's every few months or so for the good coffee and the chance to relax while my kid stares at the rest with her mouth open. :)

The reason the service sucks is because they pay their staff poorly, just like they do with their other business ventures like the health clubs. The owners took quality local business likes PB & Ellie's and the Riverplace Athletic Club and changed them for the worse.

No Thanks, I was under the impression that PB&E is owned by a local mama, not some business group. Can you elaborate on this?

Heidi Sivers Boyce owns PB& E's and is the COO of Oregon Athletic Clubs, which bought out Riverplace Athletic Club. If you look in one of the more recent editions of Metro Parent, you'll see a giant one page ad with all of the health club logos as well as PB & Ellie's. In fact, she's crossed PB & E's over into the club, as seen in their daycare and restaurant.

whoa... now, is this the same owner as the Fremont PB&Js?

Yes, it's in a strip mall, but so are a lot of amazing wonderful shops and restaurants in this world. I think the location being right across the street from the SW Community Center is a great choice. We love stopping by there after a swim. My kids love the chalkboard area and I love that it's not right at the table where we're eating (as chalk and peanut butter are not always the most appetizing of combinations -- trust me!) My older girl loves the reading area and my younger one loves the bottomless popcorn baskets! I've found it to be a terrific place to meet other moms with their kids during the day.

And, to clarify someone else's question, PB&E's is not owned by a business group. Heidi, the owner, is a local mama and one of the original owners from the east side location.

I have had such a great experience and wow, you guys are making it so personal here verses about her business. Riverplace Athletic Club is actually owned by a local family. The Oregon Athletic Clubs are owned by a local Portland family, Heidi being one of the members, and is family owned. I appreciate that so much in comparisson to 24 Hour Fitness, Bally's, and other operations. I think that leads to some of the special ness of PB&E's as they have such a strong healthy background and focus for the kids.

As for my experience, I was told about PB&E's for so long before I actually went. Many people said they loved the Fremont location, but it was to small. The first time I went was on Opening Day, and with any business, it was busy and crazy. While crazy, the staff was nice and kind in their rushed state. It was crazy in a good way though. I was surprised at first of the location, but more than pleased to be able to find parking easily, have a backyard play area, and so much space inside for my friends and I(there were 10 of us).

Since then, my daughter wants to go all the time. She loves to watch the other kids, get a Pb&J, and right now she is potty training so to go to a place where I don't have to worry and feel shamed that my kid had an "accident" is worth every cent of sanity. I will easily go there for a cup of coffee and playtime anyday. And....I, too, like many other posters, have to drive there and it's fine by me.

Personally, I have not experienced what some of the commenters here have experienced at PB & Ellie's Cafe -- and I go A LOT, so you'd think the odds would be more in my favor of having a bad experience! By a lot, I mean about once a week. I'm a mama with several businesses, a kid at home with me full-time and another about ready to pop, and PB & Ellie's is one of the very few places I can go and know I will get great food, great service, and my son will have a great time (which is the most important thing). Oh I go to Sip & Kranz (my son HATES it there), Sydney's, Urban Grind, Laurelwood -- all of the usual kid-friendly haunts too. But PB & Ellie's has something special, which keeps us going back. I love the servers - have you tried to engage them in actual conversation? they're super nice and witty, which makes my dining experience more fun. Plus, they've been so great with accommodating special meal requests (my whole family can take a while to order), and the barrage of kids we always bring with us. I hold meetings there, playdates, etc., but I tell ya the number one reason I go there: my very picky and strong-willed almost-3 year old LOVES it there. This is the ONLY place in PDX where he will eat almost everything on his plate - no joke! He, like most kids, needs room to roam and there is plenty of it at the SW location. Plus ample parking (a big plus on a rainy day when I'm 9 months preggo!), and it's right across from the SW Community Center and Gabriel Park.

We used to live on the eastside for over a decade and I am so surprised, like Heather above, to see how many folks don't venture outside of their little sheltered areas. I'm all for neighborhood spirit, but there's SO much in ALL areas in and around the city to enjoy. As a native Portlander, I'm sad to think of all the great things y'all have been missing :(

As for the personal side of things that some person with the unfortunate name of No Thanks (wow - that's gotta be a tough name to go through life with. sorry about that, dude) decided to start here, I'd say get your facts straight first. All of the businesses mentioned are local family-owned businesses. I work with hundreds of local mom business owners on a daily basis seven days a week, and let me tell you - running a restaurant is THE hardest business in the book. People who own other businesses have no idea how much MORE is involved with running a restaurant, much less an innovative concept like PB & Ellie's for which there is no restaurant guidebook. Heidi, the owner, pours her heart and soul and every ounce of love she has into that place, for sure, customer satisfaction is never going to be 100%. Sometimes employees aren't going to be their best. Sometimes equipment breaks down and you still have to feed 50 people. Sometimes the patrons are the most annoying, self-righteous people ever. What I do know about PB & Ellie's is this: I'm probably one of the pickiest, snobbiest, most blunt people in Portland when it comes to eating out with kids (just read my review of Noodles & Co on OregonLive), and I go back to PB & Ellie's Cafe week after week. Thank you for providing a place that is fun, spacious, unpretentious, and gives healthy options for kids meals. Phew - long post! Makes mama want some of their fabulous new pesto pasta...yummmmmm.....


Just to be accurate, if you look over this web page, you will see all the companies are owned and managed by DW Sivers, a company owned by Heidi Sivers Boyce's family. It is an established business that started in PDX, but it is not exactly a "mom and pop shop".

http://www.portlandmamasinc.org/index.php/heidi

This fact, of course, does not make it evil.

What I hate is that everytime i hear someone express honest--and in my opinion, eminently valid dissatisfaction--in this place, they are immediately met with the fact that Heidi is "such a great person--how could you say such a thing."

I am glad she is a great person, but that's not really the point.

"Heidi, the owner pours....." Sounds like a personal connection with the owner.

I appreciate the frankness and FYI posted on here... let's not bash each other for opinions and claim that the facts aren't straight when there was no contradiction.

LauraLye: you're right it's not the point, either direction, and it's not fair to act like a business' success is all due to the owner. I don't know (and don't care) who the owner is.

Of the 5-or-so times I've taken the kids to PB&E, we had GREAT service (the servers there know how to make the kids laugh!) - every time but one, then they seemed kinda swamped.

As for the food itself, we LOVE it! I mean LOOOOOVE it. But then, we eat similar things at home, so the kids are used to eating pretty healthy. PB&E just does it better than I can.

Anyway - all-in-all my kids love it, ask about it, and consider it a treat/reward to go there. The location & parking are great and convient for us.

I'm glad it exists.

(Sorry I never saw the NE Fremont location so I don't know what to compare it to.)

Who would have thought a kids cafe would be such a hot issue?

Anyway, I didn't mean to offend by posting the link. I thought it might be of interest.

Best.

Hi lauralye & sw_mama!
I don't know about anyone else, but I am not by any means disputing other people's experiences or claiming that an owner's personality is "the point" at all in my post. Another commenter decided to make it personal about Heidi, so I was simply adding my two cents about the ownership since I do have a personal connection, sw_mama -- I'm not trying to hide that at all -- just like I have a personal connection with over a hundred different family-run businesses in the area. My connections, however, do not negate my personal experiences with those businesses - I don't always give glowing reviews to my colleagues' businesses - I merely brought that up because that's where Ms. No Thanks decided to take the comments, to a negative personal attack that had no relation to the question at hand.

I too would appreciate the opportunity to post my frank and honest opinions on this blog without being attacked because you think they are wrong or you perceive them as coming from the "wrong" place. If I were dissatisfied, believe me, I would have posted that too! But, I personally have had good experiences here, and I would hope to be allowed the same opportunity to post my own opinions as freely and honestly.


I in no way meant to attack anyone. I absolutely did not ever write in a way that implied you were inhibited from speaking freely here.

Obviously, PB and Ellie's offers a mixed bag, depending on your experience and expectations. I am glad you have found an establishment you enjoy.

I agree, if you are happy with your experience at a business, that is great and thanks for sharing. However, if someone else is not, that too is their experience.
...both are valid.

I also did not mean to imply that you (marlynn) should not share your opinions.. I just thought that attacking another poster for their choice of name tag on a blog because you disagreed with them was beside the point.

Anyway, this is getting beside the point...

peace.

I appreciate the honest discourse about this place and I must say that No Thanks has a point--for whatever reason, PB&E's feels more corporate than mom-and-pop to me, and that's what matters. I did get the sense that the servers were underpaid, and it bothered me because the food is rather pricey. It bothers me when people who work with children aren't paid well.

Also, when we last visited (and maybe this had changed), there was a very expensive assortment of toys for purchase near the registers. I guess it bugged me because they were so much more attractive than the toys out on the floor.

These comments come from a dedicated NE mama who loves adventuring to the far-flung corners of the city and beyond!

We love PB & E's. We've never had a problem with the service or the servers. My son has sooo much fun there that the time just flies, anyway. He's a very picky eater and it's the only place we can go where we know that there will be several things on the menu that he will enjoy. The only reason people have so much to say about PB & Ellie's is because it is one-of-a-kind. There really is no other place in Portland, or that I've heard of in the rest of the country, that is really dedicated to families and healthy kids. Moms should support an effort like this, provide constructive comments and not nitpick at a place that is unique and special. I know Heidi is working really, really hard in the face of the realities of running a business to create a special place. Her heart is in the right place and I am grateful to her.

If people are angry about the cafe moving to the southwest, they're being silly. You would get in your car to go to the zoo, or OMNI. A trip to PB & E's can also be a special trip for your kids. It makes the kids I know feel special to make a car trip to a place where they come first, instead of mom and dad. Though I am grateful that Heidi has expanded the menu to include more adult food and beverages! Again, the choice of location was made, I'm sure, in the face of a lot of business realities. Until you've run a restaurant, you can't imagine the tight profit margins involved.

I say HOORAY for PB&E's. It is a model for places all over the country, and we should support them now, even if there are a few hiccups as they go through a transition in an effort to become an institution that will thrive into the future.

woah - this has really taken off since i last checked in. hard not to have a couple more things to say. first, most families i know in n/ne are completely willing & often do travel out of their neighborhood. my first comment was more of a hint to anyone looking to open a similar business over in north or northeast. second, pb&e's is in it's 2nd ownership. seems like some folks were curious about this so i'm just giving a fact here.
breathe and be well, mamas!

I went to the Eastside location and liked the idea, but it was rather inconvenient to get to (I live in SW), and although the venue was cute I thought the layout could be improved.

Fast-forward to the new SW location and I am a happy camper. The restaurant is clean, the food is delicious, and the play options for my children are much appreciated.

It is one of the few places my friends and I can eat our meals in relative peace: The kids are so engaged with the activities and/or their food (which they love, but then, I serve them organic, healthy food at home. They have never eaten fast food before) that I don't have to worry about keeping them from disturbing people sitting nearby or climbing around the booth or table, as is usually the case.

I read an item in the business section recently that reported that every single negative experience yields 12 negative reviews (i.e., if a person has one poor experience, they discourage 12 people from patronizing the business). Unfortunately, every good experience yields an average of one glowing review.

When I read all the reviews of PB&E's, I can't help but think that in reality the positive experiences must far outweigh the negative.

JJ, in my experience, people on blogs or yahoo groups also have more of a tendency to post a negative experience than a positive, as content people do not have the drive to report the status quo. However, when you are upset about something, you do have the urge to let others know in the form of venting. I also know that people who join groups like Yahoo groups and post on blogs are usually the outspoken among us (present company included! hehe) and the vast majority of the population may either avoid the limelight and watch from the sidelines (lurk) or not visit groups like this at all. Thank you for putting my thoughts together for me in your informative posting!

I'm surprised by the comments about PB&E prices being so high... since when is $8 for an organic beef hamburger + fries overpriced? I really like the fact that most of the food is organic and whole grain, as opposed to what looks like boxed mac n'cheese served at the Laurelwood and other places. Yeah, the service has not always been very quick the few times I've been to PB&E, but my daughter is happy and playing so who cares if if takes an extra minute? I also drive from across town to get there. I definitely feel like a few minutes in the car is worth it to go to a restaurant where my daughter is welcome, can play and move around (thereby allowing me to relax), and the food is relatively healthy. It may not be absolutely perfect but I don't know of a better child-oriented restaurant (I'm not talking cafes here) in town.

Yes, yes, yes the positive out weigh the negative. I have been to both locations and while I mourn not having PB&E's in the east side, the west side location is great. Being right next to the community center makes it a nice stop after swimming. I agree with Marlynn in that I can hold meetings there in the slow hours and have a nice place for my kiddos to hang out and not be too bored.

I have to say, it's not that I never venture out of "my little sheltered area," it's just that I prefer not to drive accross town for a snack. That's why I'm hoping someone will open a place in North or Northeast, 'cause I know lots of folks who would love to be able to walk or bike to a place with their families. I'm sure the new joint is great. No worries!
I didn't hear any anger about PB&E moving to SW, just a strong desire for some kid friendly restaurants on this side of town. Note to family conscious entreprenuers: I live off Portland Blvd. and MLK, and there is *nothing* near me. (Safeway? Taco Bell?) There are two morning preschool programs and a big childcare facility (= MANY hungry children and parents) within a 10 block radius, and not a single place to get food or coffee. I'm just sayin'!

Oh, one thing I really LOVE about PB and E's...the little things...they have sippy cups and bibs. None of the other places do that, and a napkin and "to go" cup and straw are sorry substitutes!

It certainly is interesting to see how heated this discussion has gotten...I live in North Portland and have driven to PB&Es several times within the last year and have had good experiences each time. If we lived closer, we'd probably be there more often, but it's not on our radar. If we lived in SW, it would likely be a weekly outing for us: Indoor Playgym at the CC and across the street for healthy lunch before naptime...sounds like a great morning to me!

We took out of town guests there this summer and they LOVED it--there is absolutely nothing like PB&Es (or Sydneys, Sip & Kranz, etc for that matter) in their hometown. Portland is so family friendly and I feel lucky to live in a city so full of kid friendly options. I wish there were more places like PB&Es--there are plenty of "kid friendly" coffee shops, but I'd like to see more in the way of restaurants too--where you can get more than a bagel or cookie to eat. I commend the owner on establishing a business that is so kid centered--as kid friendly as they are, lots of local businesses are setting out to create a nice environment for adults, and then throwing a bucket of toys in the corner to qualify as kid friendly.

Since my urbanPapa and I are not ready to put our business backgrounds to good use on our own business (not that we'd have the guts to get into restaurants anyway!) we'll support a local mama working hard to create a family friendly destination anytime. And if something like it ever pops up in NoPo or nearby, you'll be seeing us there regularly.

I would like to chime in and mirror NoPo Mama's comments...

While I LOVED having PB & E's in my hood, I have never turned down the opportunity to go to the "new" location with my 2 munchkins. We have always had positive experiences and as a woman (and a mama) I COMMEND PB& E's servers for all that they do. How many of us could do it (really)! I waitressed through college (a job hard enough on its own). I could not imagine throwing kids into the mix (and I teach kids for a living to boot)! I do not understand people bashing the restaurant for slow service, young workers, being in a strip mall, seriously!

Slow down and enjoy what you are receiving... quality time with your children. Enjoy the uniqueness of what Portland has to offer. Like NoPo Mamas said...Portland is so amazing and has so many kid-friendly places to visit, sights to see. If your complaint falls outside of the normal realm of slow-service, under/over cooked food, etc.(which ALL restaurants experience from time to time), take it up with the manager...please do not under estimate the power of the pen, this blog is a prime example.

Thank you PB & E's for existing, thanks for making my daughter laugh when she discovered marshmallows in her sandwich, thank you for hosting my son's 3rd birthday (crazy hats and all), thank you for adding Gardenburgers to your menu, thank you for creating a space..an ENTIRE space where my kids can run, play and be as much of a kids as they choose to, and thank you for all that you do for your community (many of these mamas have no idea how much you do). Thank you Heidi!

Ninanina

What does it matter if a place is "corporate" or not...come on! Get off your high horse..do you have any idea how hard it is to run a restaurant?

If you "get the feeling" the wait staff is underpaid leave a bigger tip (you know what they say about assumptions)!

What is up with leaving the comment about the "nice toys" for sale.. If they were junky, someone else would comment about that!

I just finished reading all 42 comments and all I can say is WOW! I'm quite amazed at how a simple, or maybe not so simple, question became a personal attack at both ends. I would like to write my completely subjective comment on the subject and hope to leave it at that. I've been to both locations with both the previous owner and now new owner. My general response is this. There were pros and cons to both, see all comments listed above. But my overall general take on the subject is this: I was happier with the service with the previous owner in the NE location. I have not been happy with the service in the SW location. I have worked in the service industry, specifically I was a "secret shopper" at restaurants, writing detailed reports on the restaurant. The service at its new location is not to par with the hype of a "family friendly" restaurant. It has nothing to do with the owner and how great or not she is. It has nothing to do with the staff, they all seem very nice and friendly. It entirely has to do with their knowledge of the menu and how to serve families, adults with children. You need to be able to predict what the customer needs and wants. I shouldn't have to ask for a glass of water. I shouldn't have to wait 10 minutes to find out what the soup of the day is and what the ingredients are, then have to walk up to the desk and wait another 3 minutes for the answer. Don't put me out. I am a mother of 3 kids. I come to relax and enjoy the experience, not to be frustrated and stressed at the entire dining experience. There needs to be better training of their staff. I'm sorry to say as much as my kids love it I have been sorely disappointed time and time again and after giving the restaurant my last chance, I probably will not go there again. Please don't flog me for my completely subjective take on this obviously tender subject. It is merely my opinion.

The most astonishingly mixed experience ever. The service was so slow that I thought we were likely to die of starvation long before the food ever showed. The waitress never came back to see if we needed anything. This was on an evening when the place was 3/4ths empty, so we can't postulate business as an excuse. The baby food was fabulous, and it was nice to have that available. The adult food-variable. Most of the entrees were mediocre to poor (we had 4 adults), and one was very good. We didn't try the sweet potato fries. The play area was fairly disgusting. To be fair, there was one very ill child playing, and he managed to snot over everything. That said, most of the toys were really slimy. Of course, our daughter came down with the worst cold ever, 3 days after going there, but that didn't color my review. Would I go back? Not in a million years......

So interesting. I usually never write in, but I feel really called to here. I want to point out that the original post asks "what do you think?". To those who feel that negative opinions aren't welcome, or that if you express that you had a bad experience after being asked, I ask, what is this blog for? We are sharing our experiences good/bad.. does this mean that we are not being sensitive enough to the owner or not happy with what Portland has to offer?

I have had several experiences at the SW PB&E's that have also left me feeling like I won't be returning. The service was not great, but mostly, I was hoping for an experience like I had with my daughter at the NE PB&E's. The space was smaller and parking was challenging, but the NE site had an all around better feel to it. The service was great, and it had that mom and pop feeling to it. I am not "blaming" anyone for this. It is just my experience.

Are we really still talking about PB & E's?

I think that whether or not you like PB&E's is really not the point anymore. For me, in my earlier post, I was a little concerned that people use the anonymity of the internet to say negative things, which if it's voiced in a constructive manner I think is totally appropriate. But I was also encouraging people to voice their criticisms DIRECTLY and not just slam someone's business on this site. I know that there are people who like the place and just wanted to hear from them also. It feels bad for me, as just a plain ole reader of this blog,to be hit with so much negativity. Now, don't get all upset... I think it's fine to post criticisms, but can't we make them a little more constructive sounding and not so harsh? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this site meant to SUPPORT all moms in this area, not tear them down? PB&E's is a LOCAL business, with a local owner who is a mom just like the rest of us. I'm sure she doesn't feel very supported right now by the community that she's trying to do something good for. And I do understand Marlynn's post regarding No Thanks' comments. I think No Thanks turned the attention away from the criticisms of the restaurant itself (by using the completly subjective and I think rude term "sucks" and saying that the owner underpays her staff. To me that sounds personal...) and focussed it on the owner and did it without even identifying herself. I just don't understand why it seems like moms and women are always the first to tear each other down. We've got the meat eaters vs. the non meat eaters (who can forget that thread), working moms vs. stay at home moms, and now this.

Like the restaurant or not, who cares? But before you post something that messes with someone's business and career (or at the very least remember that it's an actual person behind the business and you really have no idea about the logistics of running it) maybe you should think about whether or not you'd say that to her face. If you honestly think you'd word these comments like this in person, then go for it!

Ah, the gift of slow service. I should have paid extra:) But can I change the subject a little? I never hear anybody mention Old Wives Tales along with the Laurelwood and Sip and Krantz. Sure its been around awhile, and it caters to everybody, not just kids. But kids seem to love playing in their play room, and the food is wonderfully healthy. The service is friendly and usually reasonably paced, and if you're in a super hurry, they have what I suspect is the best salad bar in town.
If anybody disagrees, be my guest. I read this web site because I enjoy hearing your opinions - good and bad.

We used to go to Old Wives Tales all the time, but have decided it is only worth it to go for breakfast, and it has been a long time since we've done that. Their dinner food is overpriced and often not that great. Okay, it is really my husband who is more against it then me, but his vote counts. I'm not a fan of Laurelwood either, at least their vegetarian options, as much as I've tried to like them. They also serve a style of french fry that I don't like, which adds to the disappointment.

To defend us N/NE Portland families: of course we venture out of our neighborhoods, but by living in the close-in neighborhoods there are so many options to choose from nearby. I'm not angry they moved to the SW, that would be silly, though I was disappointed since I used to be able to walk there. Maybe if I was a stay at home mom and had the option of going on a weekday I might have been there by now, but I think if we are going to drive across town for a kid activity they'd rather go to the zoo anyday.

Yes, yes. Laurelwood beer - the best. Laurelwood food - eh. But Laurelwood with good friends - what living in Portland is made of.

Hello All,

I’m Heidi, the owner of PB & Ellie’s. I think there have been a lot of interesting things discussed in this string. One thing that is clear is that there are a lot of thoughtful people out there who care about taking care of families, about healthier food choices, about supporting local businesses, about supporting mom owned businesses, and more. All of these issues are dear to my heart, and I think that is great. And I am so appreciative of the support for my business and myself. Thank you.

I do love feedback and am always striving to improve the business as well as my own professional skills, and those of my team. I believe any restaurateur will tell you that one of the biggest challenges in the industry is the staffing. With our unique business model, and our lack of previous industry or management experience, PB&E’s has been no different. This has been true from day one. It goes great if Angela or I were/are there doing it ourselves. We're MOM's AND we really really care! But otherwise... Oh, we've been a learning! That was true in NE when we saw 1/4 of the customers each day, and will always be true. Please know that we have always cared, and always done our best given the situation at hand.

Whatever has happened in the past, right now, I believe I have a strong manager and a good team. Each member of our team gets excellent ratings from customers (as has been shared by commenters here. Thank you). Our biggest challenge right now is delivering their best service all the time, consistency. It is a unique business model, has a lot of extras to think of, and requires a lot of energy. You have to be “ON” all the time. Getting that consistency comes with feedback, training and accountability all of which we will ALWAYS be working on.

I have comment links on the web page (www.pbecafe.com) as well as customer comment cards on site. My manager and I review them every week, and take them back to the staff. We have regular staff meetings, a brand new incentive program, and are committed to ongoing one-on-ones.

We love feedback. The best way to get it is right away. If the staff member can fix it GREAT, everyone gains. If they can’t or don’t, or if it’s something we should know about anyway, my manager and I really want to know so we can address it. The more specific, the better. Which person, what dish, what happened, when. This allows us to fix any problems with you and take it back to the staff member while their memory is still fresh, and before they make the mistake again. We love and learn from the positive too! We’re at a point now where our customer comments are very positive the vast majority of the time, and the problems are the exception. Sometimes we have blips with a new staff member or a bad day. Some of that goes with the industry. But, we have the stability to really take it to the next level. We would love it if you would help us do that.

I appreciate the person who said that whether or not people like the business shouldn’t be about whether or not they like me. I can’t take on that responsibility. I’m just a person. I care a lot, and I do my best, but I’m the first to tell you I’m not perfect. I don’t really want to be a public figure. I absolutely make mistakes but I try to learn from them. If we met, I bet some of you would like me and some of you wouldn’t. I think that’s just the way of the world. I’m working really hard to make this business something that can stand the test of time and do good, for kids, for moms, and for whole families regardless of where my personal life path takes me. Maybe that’s where some people get the “corporate” thing. I’m not a corporation and I admit that hurts my feelings because of my personal beliefs, but that’s OK. I’m just me. I do believe in systems and structure and so on to create something that can financially and structurally support itself, and grow whether it is on it’s own or by teaching others. I do believe we need spaces that welcome entire families in micro-communities all over the world. If I can do something to help that, great.

So why do I do this? The other night I popped in there and I just stopped and watched. At the train table area two moms sat chatting while their toddlers played at the table. It was clear they just met. At another table, two 8 year olds sat playing battleship over a good dinner – not a French fry or soda in site. Parents catching up nearby. At a third, a mom, dad and child sat cuddled on one side of the booth reading Dr. Seuss. Mom was drinking wine. To me, it was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. You might like it, or you might not. But it made me so proud and makes me feel like I am doing something good.

I’m sorry this is long. My brother told me if I wrote anything over 5 sentences he would get on here and say something bad about me. Others told me not to write at all. But while this is a business, it is also my life. And people seem to care.

If you have any other questions, or want to know anything else about PB&E’s history, Why we do what we do, food and menu details, what we pay our staff and spend on labor, my family’s business and my long term goals with PB&E’s and the health clubs, or have other feedback, I’m easy to reach through the web page at www.pbecafe.com. I'm generally an open book and I’m happy to answer whatever I can.

Thanks again,
Heidi

One more thing.

In addition to providing the space I’m trying to do better that “standard” with the food. Our sweet potato sticks are baked. I won’t allow anything fried as part of our mission. So they are different, and there are all sorts of details that go with that that include where you source your product, how you cook it and store it in the kitchen so it can be delivered in a reasonable time period, etc. The customer feedback on a whole has been great, but if you don’t like them, please let us know! You can absolutely sub a salad, applesauce, or other side. But if the general consensus is find something else. I would! I just need to know!

It’s the same with our Mac-n-cheese. Our fresh, whole-wheat noodles and real cheese sauce are sure a lot different than most kids expect. The noodles can also be tempermental for my kitchen. We’re trying different products now, and are always working on improving. It’s a funny product because it’s our best seller and people LOVE it. People SWEAR by it. Kids pledge their allegiance to it. But it’s also the product that gets sent back the most. Often because it’s different from what kids expect, other times because it seems bland to some or the whole wheat noodles aren’t to their liking. So I put in place a “picky eaters insurance program” where if your kid won’t eat something you can get a quick conventional PB&J or grilled cheese at under our cost. We’re also discussing offering a choice of our own Mac-n-cheese or conventional (maybe Annie’s?). My goal is to try and create safe ways to try some new things.

Anyway, these are a couple of examples of what I’ve been balancing to try and deliver a quality products that taste great, is prepared thoughtfully, is affordable for families and there is also a selection for everyone. It’s why we added the natural burgers and steaks, while keeping the hummus wrap and spelt bread. We just added taquitos, a Food Alliance pesto, and a spicy Thai wrap. And this week my kitchen is working on making our Mexican food more flavorful, while still being OK for kiddos to eat. I think there is more for the person who said it’s “too organic” for their taste, but I know we’ll never please everyone. We can try :)

Again, we love the feedback. And we especially love it when it’s brought right to us so we can DO something about it, and learn and challenge ourselves to constantly do better. Thanks again for listening.

Heidi

LAST COMMENT I SWEAR!
I am looking for the right east side location.
I'd need about 2200-3200 square feet and parking as the basic requirements. Any ideas please do feel free to send my way. I plan to be picky and wait for "just that right fit" but we didn't want to leave that neighborhood and would love to provide something on the east side.

Wow, I feel all kinds of good about PB&E's now, and I haven't even been there yet. I look forward to taking my family sometime soon! Thanks for responding Heidi.

OK, wait. Heidi puts her pants on one leg at a time?? How disappointing... :-) Heidi, I don't know you, but I believe you best be sending your brother this link. Brave woman, great concept of a restaurant. I'm still a fan.

I love PB & Ellies because my daughter (2 1/2) can run around. I like the food, too. We make it a 1-2 times a month stop for dinner after daycare BUT it really could be SO much better. The toys are really limited and broken. Kind of like letting your child play in a goodwill donation bin. The bathroom is so horrible! For a place where little ones need to "potty" there really should be a spick and span spot to go. There is water leaking on the floor, the restroom is dirty, there isn't a child-sized toilet or a potty seat. I took one step into the bathroom and retreated before my child could touch anything. It smelled, too. Yuck. And one last thing....the food is too foreign for my daughter to enjoy. We try to eat healthy and I applaude the owners for using whole ingrediants but that doesn't mean the tofu needs to be a tasteless sponge or that the fries need to be sweet potato or that the applesauce needs to be brown. What's wrong with regular fries?!? My daughter hardly eats her meal. We go there mostly 'cause she can run around and not bother us while we are eating. It would be nicer if the food tasted more child friendly. And lastly....the wait staff should make sure that you have your check before you finish the meal.

I do love those sippy cups!

I have enjoyed reading the reponses and I feel like many of them, good and bad, reflect my opinion of PB&E's. I want to go there and then, for a reason I can't really explain, I am grumpy when I leave. I have to figure out my expectations: Is it that I expect the girls to play and let me have some peace and then they don't? Do I expect them to make friends and share with everyone? Is it the cost, service, food? I really can't put my finger on it and until I do, I will continue to go back.

One great experience we had was when we first moved to Portland 2 years ago: my husband, a pediatric ICU/ER doc noted on a comments card that the cheese/crackers/fruit combo came with a latex "mouse" balloon. He found it unsuitable for children since it is such a huge choking hazard. The next day we received a call from Heidi and she had already found a child safe replacement. I commend her responsiveness and really, isn't that what we ask of business owners?

Can we be done with this? I am tired of the cheerleading and "yeah for Heidi" comments. Accept that there are mamas that preferred the NE location and the SW location doesn't compare....

As much as I want to like PB&E, it's definitely not on our radar as a preferred dining establishment.

The good: The idea that there are healthy meals for kids as well as adults is great! The fact that families are welcomed is such a plus.

The bad: Great concept but the food just wasn't quite to our liking. On our first visit, after we ate, my husband asked if we could stop somewhere on the way home to get a bite to eat. The salad is not quite sufficient to make a meal. The metal buckets are a cute idea, but the sound of metal on metal is like the sound of fingernails scraping chalkboards. The squishy carrots were indeed, but I didn't expect them to be bland and sour! Neither of our kids ate more than a bite of their food.

It's still not quite the dining experience we're expecting. We went once prior to the menu makeover, and back again after giving it another shot and it still didn't feel worth the drive, especially when there are so many wonderful restaurants within walking / biking distance of us. To each his own...

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