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The merits of chain dining in the Heartland


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This thread was split from the thread containing Schneier's review of Granite City Food and Brewery. It's a great discussion but was taking the original thread off-course a bit so I though it best to give it a thread of its own.

Carry on, please :smile:

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It is so hard for me to understand why people will wait for mediocre food.  I see people lining up at PF Changs, Texas Roadhouse, Abuelos, Olive Garden and on and on.  It seems to be indemic to chain restaurants.  What is it about these chains that folks will wait for over an hour for a table when they can go down the road to a local chef owned restaurnant and have a great meal that is chef driven, not created in some research lab somewhere.   Maybe that is why those labs work.  They create food that is safe and cheap to produce.  I don't know, this is probably not the right forum to ponder this question.  If I have to wait more than 15 minutes, I am not there.

joiei

i too have a hard time empathizing, but i do understand why people would "wait for mediocre food." even a food snob like me would admit that there is something to be said for consistency - which chains, in my experience, are able to deliver pretty well. as many of our discussions on egullet have shown, dining at the higher end of the food chain is often plagued by disappointments (sometimes huge ones) that come with substantial fiscal loss. i have to admit, when i get "dining-out fatigue," or am "burned" by a tremendously disappointing upmarket experience, i am tempted to dash to my local chain for some predictable "comfort food." :laugh:

... sometimes, predictably mediocre is better than unexpectedly deficient! :sad:

ulterior epicure.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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It is so hard for me to understand why people will wait for mediocre food.  I see people lining up at PF Changs, Texas Roadhouse, Abuelos, Olive Garden and on and on.  It seems to be indemic to chain restaurants.  What is it about these chains that folks will wait for over an hour for a table when they can go down the road to a local chef owned restaurnant and have a great meal that is chef driven, not created in some research lab somewhere.   Maybe that is why those labs work.  They create food that is safe and cheap to produce.  I don't know, this is probably not the right forum to ponder this question.  If I have to wait more than 15 minutes, I am not there.

joiei

i too have a hard time empathizing, but i do understand why people would "wait for mediocre food." even a food snob like me would admit that there is something to be said for consistency - which chains, in my experience, are able to deliver pretty well. as many of our discussions on egullet have shown, dining at the higher end of the food chain is often plagued by disappointments (sometimes huge ones) that come with substantial fiscal loss. i have to admit, when i get "dining-out fatigue," or am "burned" by a tremendously disappointing upmarket experience, i am tempted to dash to my local chain for some predictable "comfort food." :laugh:

... sometimes, predictably mediocre is better than unexpectedly deficient! :sad:

ulterior epicure.

And sometimes I think it's hard to distinguish a chain... for instance, I've never heard of Abuelos and so would not automatically assume it was a chain. I think newer chains are also trying to "trick" the consumer and make them seem less chain-like.

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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And sometimes I think it's hard to distinguish a chain... for instance, I've never heard of Abuelos and so would not automatically assume it was a chain.  I think newer chains are also trying to "trick" the consumer and make them seem less chain-like.

well, i don't know if i would say they're trying to "trick" consumers as much as they're perhaps trying to cater to diners' preference for a more "homey"/boutique restaurant feel... but overall, in my experience, chains are rather recognizable - usually easily identified by large colourful signage (usually lit and abnoxiously festive - sometimes with kitschy titles or logos) and a sophisticatedly printed menu. large staffs and impossibly expensive fixtures complete the look. oh, and who could forget the often wal-mart-sized parking lots and kiddie crayon and colouring mats... sigh... (polished t.v., print and radio ads are another dead-ringer)

... i don't know, perhaps i'm more sensitive than others (or perhaps i've dined at more than my fair share of chain restaurants :unsure: ), i can usually smell (no pun in tended) the "cookie-cutter" establishment from miles away...

that all being said, since we are on the topic, where do you all think the definition of a chain begins and ends? there are such things as local chains... do you think their quality can be discounted by their choice to broaden their geographic scope? (see zeemanb-initiated thread on arthur bryant's new west village locale). does bo ling's count as a "chain," (though originated in kansas city, they've now got an outpost in miami)? what about the pbj group (ie. yia yia's, yahooz, grand street cafe, etc...)? what about lidia's (ie. filidia's in new york, and another lidia's in pennsylvannia?)...

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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And sometimes I think it's hard to distinguish a chain... for instance, I've never heard of Abuelos and so would not automatically assume it was a chain.  I think newer chains are also trying to "trick" the consumer and make them seem less chain-like.

well, i don't know if i would say they're trying to "trick" consumers as much as they're perhaps trying to cater to diners' preference for a more "homey"/boutique restaurant feel... but overall, in my experience, chains are rather recognizable - usually easily identified by large colourful signage (usually lit and abnoxiously festive - sometimes with kitschy titles or logos) and a sophisticatedly printed menu. large staffs and impossibly expensive fixtures complete the look. oh, and who could forget the often wal-mart-sized parking lots and kiddie crayon and colouring mats... sigh... (polished t.v., print and radio ads are another dead-ringer)

... i don't know, perhaps i'm more sensitive than others (or perhaps i've dined at more than my fair share of chain restaurants :unsure: ), i can usually smell (no pun in tended) the "cookie-cutter" establishment from miles away...

that all being said, since we are on the topic, where do you all think the definition of a chain begins and ends? there are such things as local chains... do you think their quality can be discounted by their choice to broaden their geographic scope? (see zeemanb-initiated thread on arthur bryant's new west village locale). does bo ling's count as a "chain," (though originated in kansas city, they've now got an outpost in miami)? what about the pbj group (ie. yia yia's, yahooz, grand street cafe, etc...)? what about lidia's (ie. filidia's in new york, and another lidia's in pennsylvannia?)...

u.e.

I think I can generally "smell" a chain too, but I do have to admit, that I was tricked in Boulder, CO this summer. We were attempting to eat at only local places, but were fooled twice, once by a more national chain (I think) and another by a local chain. Just because a company is a chain, doesn't necessarily mean it has bad food, but of course, that's always subjective. If I have good food somewhere, I'm likely to go back, whether it's a chain or not. Bo Ling's just counts as bad food... not just chain food! I've always had good experiences at all of pb&j, though I could do without Red Robin. And, don't shoot me, but I love Panera... I just feel comfortable there and I always enjoy my food, and it's convenient. Then, of course, there's the whole political side of things... I think there are "bad" chains and there are "good chains," but I am much more likely to support a local chain.

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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It is so hard for me to understand why people will wait for mediocre food.  I see people lining up at PF Changs, Texas Roadhouse, Abuelos, Olive Garden and on and on. 

Those same middle-classers cut coupons for Hamburger Helper so they can get it cheaper on double-coupon blue mondays. Most of the chain food is better than Hamburger Helper, so it doesn't surprise me too much. In my area, a lot of them also still think that the horrid liquid nacho cheese sauce makes qweezeen hote.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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In my area, a lot of them also still think that the horrid liquid nacho cheese sauce makes qweezeen hote.

without disparaging the people in your neck of the words who prefer canned cheese products - laugh out loud!! :laugh:

ulterior epicure.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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The city in which I live has several chain restaurants --Abuelos, Carrabba's, PF Chang's, Olive Garden, etc. And we wait for food at these restaurants for two reasons:

1. Every restaurant in town is crowded at dinnertime on weekends (my husband and I work different shifts during the week), and wherever you go, you're going to wait. A half-hour wait at 7 pm on a Saturday is a stroke of luck.

2. There are only a handful of locally-owned restaurants that have excellent food, and at most of them, their prices make them "special occasion" places for us. And to be perfectly honest about it, you're going to get the same quality of food at the chains that you get at most of the locally-owned places. I can think of about four locally-owned places with really good food, but we don't want to eat there every time we go out, and there are dishes at the chain restaurants that we like just as much as those we are served at local restaurants.

Maybe I have a bourgeois palate, but I've had some pretty good meals at our chain restaurants. Every time I see a discussion like this, I wonder what I'm missing. Maybe it's better I don't know?

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Maybe I have a bourgeois palate, but I've had some pretty good meals at our  chain restaurants.  Every time I see a discussion like this, I wonder what I'm missing.  Maybe it's better I don't know?

not necessarily jgm... i suspect that the average egulleter has a preference for more sophisticated food, but are often (sadly) limited by a bourgeois budget - not a bourgeois palate...

i think you make a good point. while i wouldn't say that the average chain will have food equivalent in quality/preparation/sophistication as upmarket establishments - i think the overall advantage of chains is in:

1. their ability to deliver decent food at often unbelievably low prices - ie. value. (this may involve mass production and sourcing).

2. a predictable, if not somewhat pedestrian, fare.

sometimes, i fear that you are right - that upmarket establishments are able to get away with charging more for the same food (including quality, preparation and presentation) you'd get at a chain because of any number of "bells and whistles" they're able to add to the dining experience (ie. trendy scene, star chef, location, swanky crowd, popular hype, ie...). take for instance my meal last night: without disclosing the restaurant's name, i was at a very upscale (for the city) restaurant. one of their menu items was salmon. i refrained from ordering because upon questioning the server, i discovered (to my surprise), that it was farm-raised. i can get farm-raised salmon for (literally) 1/3 the price this place was charging at any number of chain restaurants... i was shocked and a little disappointed...

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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The city in which I live has several chain restaurants --Abuelos, Carrabba's, PF Chang's, Olive Garden, etc. 

And that's Wichita! I grew up in Topeka, which is so much worse!

Maybe I have a bourgeois palate, but I've had some pretty good meals at our chain restaurants. Every time I see a discussion like this, I wonder what I'm missing. Maybe it's better I don't know?

A lot of times, people want to resist something just because it is popular. I like what I want to like and that's all there is to it for me!

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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I am not trying to slam chain type midlevel restaurants. If there is no line, I will gave a grilled salmon, medium rare at one particular Carrabba's, or something at PF Changs. THe thing I have a problem with is waiting over an hour for a table at one. I just will not do it. Their safe food is just not worth it.

As to dining local, I do like to support the efforts of our local chefs, without support, they go away and all I am left with is Red Lobster.

Safe dining is just that. Experiencing a dish that a chef has been working on is a treat. And there are enough midlevel locally owned places here that I do not have to go to Red Robin to have a good burger.

Not all local places are top dollar places. THe other night, I had a wonderful Chicago style pizza at a locally owned place that really did beat the socks off UNO Chicago Grill. It was a few dollars more expensive, but it was local and it was good.

edited to add that there are some locally owned places that I do not feel are worth the wait or my dollar either.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I like Granite City. I've been there a few times for both dinner and it's sunday brunch. Do I go there expecting to be wine and dined as if I were going to PerSe or the French Laundry? No. I go there to grab a blue cheese peppercorn burger and a beer or eat brunch with a few friends. Have I waited in line? Yes, I have. Why? Because the food isn't too bad, there's good selection of american dishes that a picky person or non picky person could choose from, it's in a good location, and it's has a fun atmosphere. Like any restaurant there are dishes they do well and some they don't.

I love the local eateries just as so many fellow eGulleteers but I think we are a little different than your average diner. I will go out of my way to find the local dive ethnic restaurants (a ghanian one just opened up by me I'm dying to try out) or make something thats going to take 4 trips to different stores and 3 days to make but will my friends? Nope and there is nothing wrong with that. Quite a few of them go with me to various locally owned ethnic restaurants too. Just different strokes....

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As to dining local,  I do like to support the efforts of our local chefs, without support, they go away and all I am left with is Red Lobster. 

Safe dining is just that.  Experiencing a dish that a chef has been working on is a treat.  And there are enough midlevel locally owned places here that I do not have to go to Red Robin to have a good burger.

i couldn't have put it better myself!! :wink:

...honestly though, because i haven't dined out at chains very much (actually not at all in the past six months), i'm not aware of these long waits that everyone seems familiar with. the only place i know that has a long wait is the cheesecake factory (due partially to their "no reservation" policy). as for p.f. chang's i've only been once (at a location other than kansas city at someone else's' invitation) and have never even been tempted to go back.

if any restaurant (even a really good locally owned one that i've been wanting to try) has a waiting line of over 30 minutes, then i would more likely go somewhere else, or home, and try another day - unless i'm in an area that offers sufficient distractions... perhaps due partly to impatience, but moreso i fear that when restaurants are swamped, sometimes service, quality and other elements start to slip...

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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This is an interesting thread. I do have to admit that my attitude towards chains has changed a little during the past year. I don't generally plan ahead to eat at a big chain, but the occasional pig-out at Cheesecake Factory, dinner at Red Lobster at my girlfriend's request or breakfast with the folks at Mimi's at Zona Rosa makes it onto my calendar. My general disdain for those places comes from my aversion to strip-mall sprawl…..places like Zona Rosa or Village West popping up overnight. I think they were specifically designed to choke traffic and keep people trapped in the area. Prisoners wait in lines. The awesome blossom at Outback could come with a side order of crisp twenty dollar bills, but even that wouldn't get me to brave the madness of the Barry Road corridor on a booming Saturday night.

As far as my new attitude, I agree that we are in the culinary minority, and I'm done trying to convert people to my way of thinking. I have this conversation with my girlfriend a lot, and I've come to realize that there's a fine line between opening someone's eyes to local cuisine and coming across like an asshole. Few things are as disheartening as FINALLY getting someone to visit one of your favorite restaurants with you, and watching them either hate it or pretending to like it. For that reason, if it's a group outing of family or friends I'll have some input but generally follow the herd. I truly hate On The Border, but maybe not as much as the seven other people in the group will hate Tienda Casa Paloma if I talk them into it, for example. The trade-off is a bad meal with good friends. And finding restaurants that my girlfriend and I are BOTH crazy about is a mine-field.

To keep this semi-relevant, I haven't eaten at Granite City. If it was down the street from my house and it wasn’t flanked by Wal-Mart, Lowes and Bed, Bath and Beyond, I might check it out. It would probably be a lot like Nick and Jake's or the 54th Street something or other near my house…..burgers topped with different stuff, pint glasses of alcoholic ice cream drinks, fried stuff with your choice of ranch or bleu cheese sauce, etc. I'm a fat guy, the deep fried tacos at In-A-Tub are ambrosia to me, so I'm not above mowing through a basket of wings or a mediocre rendition of spinach artichoke dip. I'm just more likely to put that money towards fewer, high quality meals at a local place that takes reservations. To each his own when it comes to chain food. Don't get me wrong, seeing a Chipotle on 39th Street scares the hell out of me, but I generally associate chains with areas of town that I avoid already. Have you ever BEEN to Zona Rosa? The horror……the horror…...

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

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As far as my new attitude, I agree that we are in the culinary minority, and I'm done trying to convert people to my way of thinking... I've come to realize that there's a fine line between opening someone's eyes to local cuisine and coming across like an asshole.  Few things are as disheartening as FINALLY getting someone to visit one of your favorite restaurants with you, and watching them either hate it or pretending to like it.  For that reason, if it's a group outing of family or friends I'll have some input but generally follow the herd. I truly hate On The Border, but maybe not as much as the seven other people in the group will hate Tienda Casa Paloma if I talk them into it, for example.  The trade-off is a bad meal with good friends.

Well put! There's nothing more depressing than feeling like you've DRAGGED your friends/family to a place that you really enjoy, only to have the experience ruined by a less-than-agreeable reaction - whether sincere or not...

the deep fried tacos at In-A-Tub are ambrosia to me

Dare I admit it - me too!! :raz:

I'm just more likely to put that money towards fewer, high quality meals at a local place that takes reservations.  To each his own when it comes to chain food.

Me too.

Have you ever BEEN to Zona Rosa?  The horror……the horror…...

:laugh: Yes I have - I pass (or crawl) by frequently... hardly ever go in. I have seen the Granite City all lit up from afar, but haven't ventured near it...

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I have two fundamental problems with the chains.

First, and most importantly, what some of the posters here have called consistent, I call ordinary. Dull, boring, uninspired, been-there food. Eating there is the same as listening to neo-bubblegum pop music. It's contrived, manufactured, and tastes like well salted plastic.

Secondly, their corporate-driven, deep-pocketed, manufactured-interest marketing system is driving the small places with the interesting, fresh, innovative local cuisine out of business, just like Menard's & Home Depot has destroyed the local hardware stores. You may think a hammer is a hammer, but nearly everything I ever bought at Menard's is broken now, and the service always sucked.

There is local cuisine in places like NYC, Boston, New Orleans and San Fran because they had large population bases well before the industrial revolution. Here in the Heartland, cities like Columbus & Des Moines got big populations after industrialism took over agriculture, and soon cuisine.

These chains are the battleships of the Malling of America. Tradition, and culture, and flavor, are the targets.

Here endeth the rant.

Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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The proliferation of chain restaurants has been killing the independent restaurant industry in this part of the country for many years. The big reason - lack of skilled labor. Independents, for the most part, simply cannot compete with the chains for qualified help. It's the Wal-Mart syndrome. Big, national (or regional) chain comes into town, hires up all the best help at premium wages (with benefits) and the independents are left to deal with the leftover, often shallow labor pool. There are exceptions, independents who manage to maintain quality food and service despite chain encroachment, but it is difficult. In larger metropolitan areas like KC the independent scene is more vibrant than ever, but just down the road in Topeka or Wichita, jeez it's like a chain restaurant nightmare.

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To follow up on what the last two posters have stated, chain restaurants also all serve basically the same foods. how many serve the damn onion thingy. How many all have the same appetizers. how many all have some form of overcooked ribs served with a sickly sweet bbq sauce. And they do this in KC. Smokey Bones is owned by the same people who own Olive Garden by the way.

being able to get the same food in Portland (either one) as I can get in Santa Fe does not excite or interest me. Why do the chains only follow food trends, they do not set trends, nor do they create exciting environments. Yet they are able to market themselves to the masses. They are able to afford the real estate placement that locals cannot even begin to approach.

When people will wait for 3 to 4 hours for a table at a PF Changs, it is beyond my ablility to comprehend. Are we such lemmings?

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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When people will wait for 3 to 4 hours for a table at a PF Changs,  it is beyond my ablility to comprehend.  Are we such lemmings?

...not i... who does that?

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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When people will wait for 3 to 4 hours for a table at a PF Changs,  it is beyond my ablility to comprehend.  Are we such lemmings?

...not i... who does that?

u.e.

A LOT of people do that. I see them waiting outside the door of the Olive Garden in an Iowa winter to eat breadstix and salad that they think are free (which of course they are not).

I believe that the reason people do this is so that they don't have to think. They want it fast, hot & plenty of it (and will waith an hour to have it fast (?!?!?!), without having to worry about things like nourshment or tradition or having to actually learn something about food. It is simply about perceived convenience for them. Speed is the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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When people will wait for 3 to 4 hours for a table at a PF Changs,  it is beyond my ablility to comprehend.  Are we such lemmings?

...not i... who does that?

u.e.

I'd even tell the French Laundry where to stick it if they wanted me to wait that long at the door. But we are ignoring that nearly any place in that price point in the whole town has that exact wait. You have to go $5 either way per plate to get away from that--which for a family or a large group can add up quickly.

In Lincoln, on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening, if you don't want to wait 45 minutes or more, you have the choices of Billy's (modestly upscale), Wasabi, vietnamese, Pizza Hut, fast food, or one of 2 independent greaseball diners. Every other place has horrid waits.

Is it more of the economics of that price point that forces that kind of chain economy of scale to survive?

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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One other area that I haven't seen mentioned in this thread is people's basic fear of the unkown. They know what they are going to get at the chains. But driving down the road and seeing a sign for Fred Restaurant scares them. They probably have no idea if Fred's is good or bad, expensive or cheap, or what Fred serves or doesn't serve. It's is too easy to drive another mile to "road in every town" that has the line of Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens, Macaroni Grills, etc. There they know what they will find.

Some of us prefer the hunt of finding a new place and are willing to eat several mediocre to bad meals to find a new gem. Most people are not this way.

"the only thing we knew for sure about henry porter was that his name wasn't henry porter" : bob

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One other area that I haven't seen mentioned in this thread is people's basic fear of the unkown.  They know what they are going to get at the chains.  But driving down the road and seeing a sign for Fred Restaurant scares them.  They probably have no idea if Fred's is good or bad, expensive or cheap, or what Fred serves or doesn't serve.  It's is too easy to drive another mile to "road in every town" that has the line of Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens, Macaroni Grills, etc.  There they know what they will find.

Some of us prefer the hunt of finding a new place and are willing to eat several mediocre to bad meals to find a new gem.  Most people are not this way.

... i think that earlier comments about "predictability" speaks to this...

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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One thing that strikes me about this conversation is that Heartlanders actually were the center of the FIRST real chain of restaurants in the US. Fred Harvey's Harvey House Restaurant first opened in Topeka in 1876 and quickly spread all over the Central and Western US. He provided dependable meals that were basically the same at everystop and, on top of all that, he provided wives for many of the towns in the West where there were no women. Will Rogers once said that Harvey "kept the West in food and wives," as many a Harvey Girl married a local fellow. Although the girls were asked not to marry during their first year of work, some historians estimate that more than 5,000 Harvey Girls married and settled in the West.

So you guys didn't just start doing this yesterday. It's part of your heritage. Just like corn and tuna casserole. You should be proud of carrying on this old Midwestern tradition. :wink:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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There are some (many) places in this world where avoiding chains is especially difficult. I experience it every time I visit my MIL in central Indiana. Sure, there are a few independents in her area but I can't spend a week eating at the same 3 places or inhaling constant cigarette smoke while I try to eat my food. We do cook at her house, but that's always an option for anyone, regardless of one's location.

But this discussion breaks down into 2 smaller ones: the food and the politics. I cannot deny that I find the politics behind chain-sprawl disappointing and discouraging. Still, as I alluded above, there are some places in this world where chains are simply too dominant a part of the landscape to avoid them entirely. It's all about available choices -- and they are way more abundant in some markets than others. I live in a huge metro area and almost always chose independent over chain but that's because it's very easy to do so. I have the benefit of choice. But doesn't mean that I will, strictly on policy, avoid chains.

I'll take a reliable chain over a filthy or smoke-filled local joint any day. A little diner near my office looks great on appearance but the charm wears off when you can smell the rancid oil in which the hash browns were cooked before the plate even lands on the table in front of you. Ultimately you want to get fed and you want it to be satisfying. I'm not going to let political issues dictate how I eat every meal. Life's too short for such extremism. My appetites are diverse and subject to my ever-changing moods. I will not avoid satisfying a craving simply on principle.

Chains, for all their negatives, can turn out some decent food too. White Castle, Taco Johns, Old Country Buffet, Arby's, Potbelly's and Popeyes are all places I've eaten on a regular basis. And on that note, I'm way more interested in hearing what folks who like chains like about them, which ones they like and what they order when they patronize them than I am in debating the larger, philosophical/political issues. I'm not saying that the political discussion isn't important or interesting -- only that it's been played out and we're not likely to be changing a lot of minds here anyway.

As for the "wait" issue, I find that it rears its ugly head across the board, regardless of restaurant type or classification. Lines routinely come out the door at hugely popular, locally-owned breakfast spots near me where the food served is no better than at OCB or McDonalds. Each of us has our own sliding scale of wait time over value (or pay-off) into which dozens of details can factor. On some nights a 45-minute wait for great bistro food may seem even pleasant to me, on other nights, I may not even have the desire to stand there for even 5 minutes.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I think a lot of those places in large metro areas (as opposed to places where they are almost the only act in town anyway) do well if they are anywhere near an airport or a convention center. You go to a convention and you may have an expense account but you really don't have the energy to drive or walk around looking for something. (I always end up in a group that wants to go to a chain. They don't mind waiting around because they can talk shop, whereas walking around looking for a place would take their attention.) And if you're eating alone, you can sit at the bar at PF Chang's or Cheesecake Factory and have a meal and not feel like you're a sore thumb at a table.

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