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The chain restaurant topic


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ted's bison burgers are quite good. and it always amazes me how little fat it has and yet still be so so tender and juicy and delicious.

i know it's not very culinarily chic, but it's hard to go wrong with a waffle house. triple hash browns, scattered, smothered, covered, and topped, with a dash of tabasco and heinz 57 really makes my day.

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  • 1 month later...

I guess this is a good place to post this link. Nina Lalli of the Village Voice discusses Applebees and the latest chain trend. Very funny!

Would You Like Shrimp With That?

Casual dining goes overboard with Surf 'n' Turf

http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0525,l...1,65058,15.html

As soon as you are seated at Applebee's, the hostess tells you about the specials. But at Applebee's, they don't even bother with such euphemisms as "specials." She levels with you, announcing, "Here's our promotion," while holding open a spiral-bound booklet, like a teacher reading a story to her class. This story is mostly pictures of thick sirloin steaks topped with different kinds of melted cheese. The main push is the one with shrimp and "parmesan," which looks gooey and creamy—a significant feat for a grating cheese.

<snip>

~WBC

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  • 3 months later...

I almost forgot to post about my very first experience with an Applebee's. (See how big an impression it made on me? ) I was meeting a bunch of people this past Sunday evening to see a movie, and they decided to get dinner beforehand, and this was the food place closest to the theater. Wouldn't have been my choice, but I figured "what the hell, how bad could it possibly be?" Well, I've had lots worse meals, but boy was this ever a mediocre one for the money.

Interesting that the article cited in the previous post goes on about Applebee's recent shrimp fixation. It was in full swing at this outpost--something like half the entrees in the big laminated menu had shrimp stuck in 'em somewhere or other. However, on my first circuit through the menu almost nothing appealed to me. Finally, I aimed directly into the shrimp fixation, and ordered "Crispy Buttermilk Shrimp," described in the menu as "a heaping platter of shrimp, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. Served with garlic mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, garlic toast and cocktail dipping sauce." What is it with this "to perfection" menu-speak? Aaaaaaah ... whatever. Thinking back to childhood encounters with fried seafood at HoJo's, I again figured "how bad could it possibly be?"

When the dish arrived I realized my mistake--duh, breaded seafood is a prime opportunity to go for pre-breaded frozen stuff. Needless to say, the shrimp looked nothing like the glamour photo shown in the menu (and second on right on their corporate website): flat cardboardy breading that was neither particularly crispy nor buttermilky--in fact, it didn't taste like much of anything. Further, the garlic toast was not particularly garlicky; mashed potatoes were gluey; seasonal vegetables were dried out; hell, even the cocktail sauce was pretty insipid. Given the quality, I suppose I should have been glad it was not the "heaping platter" quantities ballyhooed in the menu; but given the price, glad was one thing I was not. Perhaps if I'd stuck with something real simple like a burger ... (but maybe I didn't want to see how they could screw that up...)

Yeah, I'm another person who tends to see most chains as a predictable necessity at best and an abomination at worst, but I submit that my prejudice against them is not snobbery but realism, based on encouters such as the above. (Plus, given my penchant for cheapo ethnic hole-in-the-wall eateries, I think I can hardly be accused of food snobbery). To be sure, I make a few idiosyncratic exceptions for chains like Carl's Jr.--yes, their burgers are killer--and McCormick and Shmick's--the ones I've been to have been pretty darned good. And at three A.M. with a belly fulla booze and a head fulla loud rock music, inhaling a pile of greasy things in a Denny's is a pretty good thing to do. But in general, I feel justified in viewing most food chains with suspicion, unless and until one proves it's an exception to the rule.

Edited by mizducky (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

In Miami there are some great 'regional' chains. There's La Carreta and David's. Both are open 24/7 and both serve amazing home style Cuban food. It's great to have La Carreta to go to for some cafe con leche and pan tostado, after going happening hopping in downtown Miami. And, there's nothing like hitting all the clubs in South Beach and then walking to David's at 4:00 AM for pastelitos, fresh squeezed orange juice and 'un cafecito' to energize you for the rest of your date. I'm in New Jersey right now, and I even miss Denny's! I'm all for small, focused chains for good food. I'm also all for Denny's style places, if the local diners are few and far between or you're in a town that thinks only doughnuts should be available 24 hours a day. I like my coffee and french fries later, or earlier. :wink:

Personally, I think La Carreta could successfully sweep the nation, although their salad offerings could use a lift.

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When the dish arrived I realized my mistake--duh, breaded seafood is a prime opportunity to go for pre-breaded frozen stuff. Needless to say, the shrimp looked nothing like the glamour photo shown in the menu (and second on right on their corporate website)[...]

"Chicken Fried Chicken"?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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^as opposed to Chicken Fried Steak

I think Chicken Fried Chicken is just pieces of chicken lightly pounded, covered in flour/egg/bread crumbs, then fried.

Then why not just "fried chicken"?

Yes, I know that pan-fried chicken usually is not coated in a bound coating--usually, it's just dredged in seasoned flour, then fried--but you can also do bound-coated chicken fried in a pan; all it takes is a little more oil. I do this all the time.

"Chicken fried steak" makes sense because steak is usually not breaded or fried in a little fat in a pan. "Chicken fried chicken" sounds redundant.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Chicken Fried Chicken is for the health conscious rationalizers. No problem with the deep fat frying and the pan milk gravy as long as one is eating chicken and not steak.

It is the gravy that makes Fried Chicken, Chicken Fried Chicken.

How to spot a pretender. They feature country fried steak so the service staff doesn't have to explain to the tourists why there is no chicken in chicken fried steak.

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Last year while in Florida we were going to a different chain restaurant each night after spending all day in the hospital with a sick relative. The only one that I thought was worth going back to was Champps. The service was good, the food was fresh and the prices reasonable. Recently in Ohio we had dinner at Buca, a chain restaurant that serves tremendous dishes that must be shared. It is the Carmine's of the midwest. Their concept and quality of food would be worth trying if you are traveling and want someplace casual to eat. And if I was in a bind I like Outback but only if there isn't another choice in the city I am traveling through.

<p>(Edited by Rosie at 11:22 am on Aug. 12, 2001)

Buca di Beppo is big out east too. There are two of them in Philadelphia alone. I know there is another in DC as well.

WhizWit.net -- My blog on Food, Life, and Politics
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I don't know if anyone has mentioned Carrabbas, but for a chain, this place isn't bad. It beats some of the food I've had at places in little Italy in NYC. Everything seems fresh and they take some pride in it. I'm not a big fan of chains, but I can eat at Carrabbas anytime.

WhizWit.net -- My blog on Food, Life, and Politics
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Buca di Beppo is big out east too.  There are two of them in Philadelphia alone. I know there is another in DC as well.

15th and Latimer, and...?

I haven't yet eaten at Buca di Beppo, but it looks to me like the kitschy decor is this chain's distinctive feature, based on reviews I've read and a visit to the corporate Web site...

...where I learned, among other things, that "Buca di Beppo" is slangy Italian for "Joe's basement."

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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How to spot a pretender.  They feature country fried steak so the service staff doesn't have to explain to the tourists why there is no chicken in chicken fried steak.

The Omlette Factory in Santee, California, serves a "Country Fried Steak" and a waitress there once explained to me that they call it that because it's not "Chicken Fried" which means it has a breading before being fried. Their "Country Fried" just means there's a light flour coat on the steak before being fried but has no breading/coating.

I figured it was just their way to "CYA" so patrons couldn't complain about what they were getting. :biggrin:

I haven't yet eaten at Buca di Beppo, but it looks to me like the kitschy decor is this chain's distinctive feature, based on reviews I've read and a visit to the corporate Web site...

They've recently altered their menu to include "down-sized" portions. Before this, one dish was meant for a family but the new dishes are meant for 2-3 people.

From the Buca Corporate web site:

Introducing Buca Small. Sized perfectly for groups of 2-3 people, value priced, and still generously portioned.

That's an interesting change considering the "family-sized" portions were what they were known for. Now they have "Buca Large" and "Buca Small" for most of their menu items.

Sadly, it looks like they removed one of our favorite dishes from the menu...I think it was the Chicken Cacciatore which was an entire roasted chicken, cut into pieces, on a bed of mashed potatoes with a red sauce.

The kitchen table always looks like fun. And if you have a large enough party, ask for the "Pope table".

 

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Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

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Buca di Beppo is big out east too.  There are two of them in Philadelphia alone. I know there is another in DC as well.

15th and Latimer, and...?

I haven't yet eaten at Buca di Beppo, but it looks to me like the kitschy decor is this chain's distinctive feature, based on reviews I've read and a visit to the corporate Web site...

...where I learned, among other things, that "Buca di Beppo" is slangy Italian for "Joe's basement."

Well I moved to Maryland in 2003, so I might be mistaken. There was a Buca di Beppo in Jenkintown. A quick Google search says they closed this location in Nov 2004. http://www.bucadibeppo.com/a_newsdetail.asp?ID=209

But there is also another one outside of Norristown, which isn't too far from Philly. I must admit I was unaware of the Norristown location.

I personally think its ok. I usually won't ever say let's go there unless everyone else wants to. The food isn't that good and I think its overpriced even for the family sized options. Too much pasta stuff not enough protein on their menu.

Edited by ghost (log)
WhizWit.net -- My blog on Food, Life, and Politics
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  • 1 month later...

I am really not sure why, we had food at home and were only running to Lowes for lightbulbs but we decided to try the newish Applebees. I had never been to one before.

I now know why.

The usual...lets try the wings, hot of course, soda ...beer lets look at the menu. Steak and shrimp combo deals hmmm interesting, two-fer deals, well that works in case something is yucky.

So we order the wings and the terriyaki steak/coconut shrimp combo and the "riblets"/BBQ chicken combo

The wings were rippin hot spicewise, if only the heat had hit before the flavor..YECH

ok what did we do?

Steak was fine, shrimp quite edible....the riblet what is a riblet? it had bones but I am not 100% sure it was meat. Now the chicken, the sauce even worse than the wings and I am positive that wasnt chicken. You could see the teeny bubbles left from the extrusion process like in a McNugget.

Real mashed potatoes...garlic toast and mushy veg.

Uh no I dont want that wrapped to go :wacko:

WHY????

tracey

why cant I stop laughing about this ....it cost 50 freakin bucks

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

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I live in pretty much the middle of Middle America in a small town near the intersection of two big shipping highways. I'm pretty sure my town is an exception because, with the exception of fast food places (we have a Hardee's, McDonalds, Sonic, Taco Bell, Burger King, and two Subways), we don't have any chain restaurants except for a Country Kitchen and a Golden Corrall. There are 15+ independents now. The larger town 35 miles down the highway is at the intersection of two highly traveled interstates. They have a really good mix of chains and local restaurants. It's a major college town and very "cosmopolitan" for our region of the state. I work in town #2 and usually eat there becuase I work nights. I can't say that I have much of a problem with chain restaurants, and I don't quite understand most of the uproar. When you live in the sticks, sometimes it's all you've got. I mean - I knew people in high school who'd never eaten avocados until we went to a Chipotle or who didn't know that there were other kinds of tomatoes (other than the beefsteak variety that gets sold in the 2 grocery stores in our town) until they had cherry tomatoes on an Applebee's salad.

Of course, if I had two equal choices foodwise and pricewise, I'd choose an independent restaurant, but that isn't usually the case. Applebee's while not my favorite by any stretch of the imagination, is at least affordable (if you get the right things on the menu). I'm young and poor, and sometimes I just want a cup of soup from Panera (still called St. Louis Bread Co. around here 'cuz of our proximity to said city). I know I can get dinner there for less than the $7 or so that I have in my pocket.

That being said, not all chains are made the same. There's no way you could get me into either a Red Lobster or an Olive Garden any more. I lived with too many friends in college for whom these were haute cuisine, and wouldn't try any place else. I went to college in a huge metropolis compared to my hometown, so this was sacrilige for me. Damn picky eaters! For "special dinners" I can usually talk friends into nicer places and do this as often as possible. Like for prom we went to a jazz club/restaurant where one of my parents' friends was the chef.

My favorite chains aren't usually monster chains. I like places like Panera/SLBC, Qdoba/Chipotle or Nothing but Noodles/Noodles and Company that are semi-regional. Fast food wise, I'll usually try just about any new sandwich Sonic or Hardee's (Carl Jr.'s elsewhere) put out. At least their burgers taste like real meat.

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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I'd hazard a guess and say that you live somewhere near Effingham, Ill., Emily, but I don't recall there being a big college there. I may be wrong, though--I never got off I-70 passing through.

In any case: Your point about chains and small towns is well taken--though I've had good solid food at locally owned independent restaurants in towns that are probably no larger--and maybe even smaller--than the one you live in. A lunch I had of chicken fried steak at a restaurant in New Boston, Texas, for instance, sticks in my memory to this day.

What the chains often bring to smaller communities is more variety than they might otherwise have. A city as big as Kansas City, where I grew up, has enough ethnic variety to support homegrown Mexican, Chinese, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and even Eastern European restaurants, but where are you going to find these outside the large cities? A Chipotle Grill might well be a welcome change of pace.

However: I do not remember eating much seafood growing up--local supermarkets had fish, not seafood, counters--except on those occasions when Mom took us to a Red Lobster out in the eastern 'burbs. (This was before the advent of the Bristol Bar & Grill and its ilk--this place being a Houlihan's descendant, BTW.)

Similarly, up until very recently, really good authentic Mexican fare was all but impossible to find in Philadelphia, and a chain might have had a better reception then than now, when Mexican immigration into the city has produced a slew of decent, inexpensive Mexican restaurants and groceries.

The problem with chains is that people's taste in food is all too often conditioned by them, which makes it a little harder to get some of them to appreciate the really good stuff then they run across it. But I do not consider chains the scourge of the earth. Except maybe for the Olive Garden.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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My favorite chains aren't usually monster chains. I like places like Panera/SLBC, Qdoba/Chipotle or Nothing but Noodles/Noodles and Company that are semi-regional. Fast food wise, I'll usually try just about any new sandwich Sonic or Hardee's (Carl Jr.'s elsewhere) put out. At least their burgers taste like real meat.

I don't like chains, but I adore Panera. I like everything about the place. The one near me has a roaring fireplace, and I'll always grab the seat right by it if it's open. They have free wifi, and the service is great, people are always coming around to take away empty plates or offer free samples of different things.

But, the quality of the food is what I like most. The bread is made fresh and is the best I've had anywhere, especially the country white. I also like that they use organic chicken.

:) Pam

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"That being said, not all chains are made the same. There's no way you could get me into either a Red Lobster or an Olive Garden any more"

When I lived in California, I NEVER went to chain restaurants. However, now that I live in Southwest Ontario, and I often go to the border town of Port Huron, MI, my choices are really limited.

They have Red Lobster, Applebees, Oliver Garden, Ruby Tuesday and a recently added Chili's and Cheap Charlies. They did have a Chi Chi's but that went bye bye.

So, my options are rather limited.

Surprisingly the soup and salad combo at Red Lobster is tasty and cheap. 5.95 for all you can eat soup, fresh salads with baby shrimp and the ubiquitous cheese biscuits.

The chili's has some really fresh and tasty salads too.

I think its just a matter of knowing what to pick of the menu's.

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I'd hazard a guess and say that you live somewhere near Effingham, Ill., Emily, but I don't recall there being a big college there.  I may be wrong, though--I never got off I-70 passing through.

Actually, I live in Moberly, MO near Columbia where the University of Missouri and 3 other colleges are giving it the nick name "College Town USA."

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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I'd hazard a guess and say that you live somewhere near Effingham, Ill., Emily, but I don't recall there being a big college there.  I may be wrong, though--I never got off I-70 passing through.

Actually, I live in Moberly, MO near Columbia where the University of Missouri and 3 other colleges are giving it the nick name "College Town USA."

Ah. 'Twas the word "interstate" that threw me--I've been through Columbia many times. It's the biggest city in the middle of the state and, like most Midwestern college towns, a pretty cool place.

I suspect the coffee's better there too. :wink:

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I was in Seattle recently and, due to a supercomputer convention in town that day, the only remotely affordable hotel was stuck somewhere out in the boondocks in the middle of a strip mall. So... I'm hungry, in the middle of a strip mall and without a car, a situation I'm utterly unfamiliar with coming from Australia where such abominations simply do not exist.

So anyway, my dining choices were pretty much limited to a couple of quite frankly skeevy greasy spoons and... Outback Steakhouse... keeping in mind that I am from Australia. Oh... My... God... I now tell my friends that I now know what Che Gueverra would feel like if he were still alive today.

The final kick in the nuts was that the meal ended up costing me MORE than the delightful almond crusted ahi that I had at McCormick & Kuleto's in San Francisco.

PS: I am a guy.

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I was in Seattle recently and, due to a supercomputer convention in town that day, the only remotely affordable hotel was stuck somewhere out in the boondocks in the middle of a strip mall. So... I'm hungry, in the middle of a strip mall and without a car, a situation I'm utterly unfamiliar with coming from Australia where such abominations simply do not exist.

So anyway, my dining choices were pretty much limited to a couple of quite frankly skeevy greasy spoons and... Outback Steakhouse... keeping in mind that I am from Australia. Oh... My... God... I now tell my friends that I now know what Che Gueverra would feel like if he were still alive today.

The final kick in the nuts was that the meal ended up costing me MORE than the delightful almond crusted ahi that I had at McCormick & Kuleto's in San Francisco.

I went out to dinner with someone from Tasmania recently, and he was laughing about the Outback. Apparently, he was visiting some clients in another city in the US, and they somehow determined that the Outback would be the most appropriate place to bring the Australian. His reaction? A combination of horror and amusement.

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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  • 5 weeks later...

Outback is an abomination when it comes to steak.

I have mixed views on chain restaurants - some I hate, others I like.

Ones I hate:

Red Lobster

Applebee's

Outback

Subway

IHOP (they always seem dirty to me)

Ones I like:

Chipotle

Chevy's

I live in NYC where there are tons of independently owned restaurants, in a variety of price ranges. I'm a big fan of steakhouses and I've been to some of the more expensive ones like Peter Luger's, Ben Benson's and Old Homestead, where the steaks are highly rated. I guess that's why I'm so down on Outback. The steak is tasteless and overcooked there.

But other chains are alright when I want something quick and don't feel like cooking.

I would hate to live somewhere with chain restaurants as my only dining option. But on the other hand, it would be nice if I could take advantage of some of the more high end restaurants with some more frequency. The high cost of living in this city prevents my husband and I from doing so though.

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