The restaraunt was created by Olaf and his associates as a trap for while he was accompanying the Squalors and the Baudelaires out for lunch, with the intent of serving Jerome drugged food to knock him out and then kidnap the Baudelaires. Esmé however refused to have them dine there, because it was "out", instead choosing to dine at the "in" restaurant of Café Salmonella. Olaf then tells newspaper journalist Eleanora Poe that Herring Houdini is "in" to get her to write an article about it and make Esmé wish to dine there. It succeeds, causing Esmé and all the other restaurant patrons to rush there almost immediately after the article is published. However, the Baudelaires manage to slip away in the ruckus of all the patrons leaving the restaurant, thus thwarting Olaf's intent. Jerome, however, is drugged with a sleeping drink and passes out.
- The word "herring" could be a reference to the Red Herring statue, or just the term red herring in general. The "Houdini" part probably implies Count Olaf's later escape at the In Auction, named after escape artist Harry Houdini. Therefore, it means "the escape of the red herring statue," which is what happens later.