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I honestly believe most Americans (at least the ones I know) just don't care. They don't care about the quality of their ingredients. They don't care about the authenticity of the ingredients. I think as a society we have been conditioned not to question anything -- including the rationality of waiting two hours for a table at a chain restaurant. Mediocrity is king.  :angry:

I think you have put it both succinctly and correctly. I will never understand this and, try as I might to educate people to better choices, I am always concerned about coming off as a food snob.

I appreciate that everyone has different tastes, but really, 2 hour waits for chain food? I wouldn't wait half that time for the best restaurants in the world, unless I showed up without reservations.

When we first moved to Bucks County, I asked lots of folks where the best places were and more than a few said Georgine's in Bristol. We finally went there on a Sat night.. big restaurant, bigger portions, biggest waste of $$ in my life. After 2 bites of each of our entrees, waitress asked if she could pack it up for us and I told her if I didn't touch my food here what makes you think I would want to try it at home.

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Tragically, the chain restaurant cancer is metastasizing. Five years ago there were no national chain restaurants, other than fast food places, within 20 miles of us. Now, only 10 or 12 miles away we have Ruby Tuesday's, Red Robin and Chili's. I suppose it will only be a matter of time before Olive Garden and Red Lobster infiltrate the neighborhood. I've called an architect to begin designwork to reinforce the protective bunkers around our property.

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Tomorrow night will be my first venture to a Cheesecake Factory...not my idea: father in law's b-day and he loves it. What do I order? How do I keep my mouth shut? Do they at least have a bar?

I did find out they don't take reservations...WTF??????!!!?? I've got a 16 month old who is going to go crazy if we have to wait longer than ten minutes. How long should I expect for 6@5:30???

Edited by phlawless (log)

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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Tomorrow night will be my first venture to a Cheesecake Factory...not my idea: father in law's b-day and he loves it. What do I order? How do I keep my mouth shut? Do they at least have a bar?

I did find out they don't take reservations...WTF??????!!!?? I've got a 16 month old who is going to go crazy if we have to wait longer than ten minutes. How long should I expect for 6@5:30???

You'll be waiting at least 45 minutes. But that woudl be a VERY optimistic guess. Maybe they can go and wait and you can meet them there later? That's probably your best best.

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

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Problem is it's a 20 minute drive from home, and daughter has a 7:30 bed time. Am I screwed?

No, just have someone go at 4:45 and put your name in, then have them call you and let you know an approximate wait time. I'd say 5:30 would be about the time you would sit down. but the wait won't be any less than 20 minutes, so you're good.

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

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I woud like to make the point that not all chains are equal and the Cheesecake Factory may be getting a bad wrap here. I don't think it's fair to make a judgement about ANY restaurant before going, even something terrible like The Old Country Buffet (I've been there so I can offer that opinion).

I have been to alot of chains. Growing up in a Delco suburb in a middle class family whose parents don't eat anything unusual....going out to dinner meant Red Lobster most of the time.

I have found the Olive Garden, Chi-chis, Red Lobster, Chili's, TGIFridays, Bennigans, and Houlahanns all to be of pretty bad quality. Alot of fatty tasteless cheese is smothered over most dishes in the hopes of making it enticing. Or something. I've had alot of bad meals at these establishments and feel qualified to say that they're not good at all.

However, the veggie burger with fries at Ruby Tuesdays is a very satisfying dish for me. High quality, very tasty. This veggie burger ranks in my top 5. And their chocolate tallcake dessert is very good to share with a group. But all in all I think they may be a notch above their competition.

The Outback Steakhouse serves decent food. I have not had the steaks in a looong time, but the fish is always nicely cooked, nicely spiced and never over or underdone. The salads are always fresh and green, their dressings are specific to the chain (i.e. they created thei own), and very tasty. I wouldn't say that one can fairly compare an Outback and a Chilis, simply because they are both chains.

And the Cheesecake Factory actually has good food. Is it better than L'angolo or Dmitri's? Absolutely not! But not every restaurant can reach those levels of greatness. The Cheesecake Factory has good food, though. It's good! And I don't think there's anything wrong with having a big menu. This wouldn't put me off of any other restaurant. If Dmitri's expanded their menu by a few pages, I would probably just end up going there more often, to make sure I tried it all! Big portions I do have a problem with in general, but for myself, I always wrap half of my food up and have it for lunch the next day, so no problem.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't knock it till you try it. Or if you're not going to try it (and I can understand why one wouldn't with so many other high quality, no-wait-involved restaurants in the Philly area)..... then don't knock it.

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

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And the Cheesecake Factory actually has good food.  Is it better than L'angolo or Dmitri's?  Absolutely not!  But not every restaurant can reach those levels of greatness.  The Cheesecake Factory has good food, though.  It's good!  And I don't think there's anything wrong with having a big menu.  This wouldn't put me off of any other restaurant.  If Dmitri's expanded their menu by a few pages, I would probably just end up going there more often, to make sure I tried it all!  Big portions I do have a problem with in general, but for myself, I always wrap half of my food up and have it for lunch the next day, so no problem.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't knock it till you try it.  Or if you're not going to try it (and I can understand why one wouldn't with so many other high quality, no-wait-involved restaurants in the Philly area)..... then don't knock it.

I think at the prices Cheesecake Factory commands, combined with the whole wait-time fiasco, they can take a little knocking. Anyway, I've eaten meals there a couple of times now, and seen numerous appetizers consumed, and I think they're awful. Miso salmon clearly had not been allowed to sit in miso for any length of time, in fact miso could barely be detected in the dish. It was not a good piece of fish either. That suggests to me that what one would fear with a menu that long-- too many different things to do them well-- is at least partly true.

What CF and PF Chang's do have is a nice bar to sit in and some decent cocktails, and the people who work in the bars are usually nice and professional. If you are stuck in a mall somewhere, not a bad place to cool your heels. That may be disappearing, though, as people figure out the bar is the quickest place to eat.

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What CF and PF Chang's do have is a nice bar to sit in and some decent cocktails, and the people who work in the bars are usually nice and professional. If you are stuck in a mall somewhere, not a bad place to cool your heels. That may be disappearing, though, as people figure out the bar is the quickest place to eat.

funny, there was a mildly amusing article by dude in philadelphia weekly about drinking around KOP mall--click if you wanna read it

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I am always concerned about coming off as a food snob.

Alas, this, too, has been my problem. When I try and show people that they have choices and that they can make a difference in what they spend their money on, most people also pass me off as a food snob or worse yet, a "gourmet". I've almost come to loathe that word, "gourmet".

mmm_chocolate: It certainly isn't for me to say whether anyone else should like the food at Cheesecake Factory (or any other establishment for that matter) or not. I've paid for a meal there twice now and I don't particularly think what I had was all that good. That aside, my main issue with these types of establishments has always been the size of the portion AND the resulting cost. Why can't I get a human sized portion at a more modest price? Instead of offering me a pasta dish with chicken and pesto that could serve 2 and costs $18, why not offer me 1/2 the amount for $9?

I suppose part of it is market analysis and demographics. When people go out for dinner, they expect their entrees to be somewhere between $15-$20. Chains will cater to that and with pasta being as cheap as it is, you end up getting what you paid for -- lots of pasta. :raz:

(Note: Those are Ohio prices. Your mileage may vary. :smile:)

Edited by tino27 (log)

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I guess I am a food snob. I discriminate against chains. Mostly, I want to do what I can to give the local guys a chance. However, I do not extend the same courtesy to local book stores, hardware stores, etc. I now feel guilty.

Part of my problem with chains is their inability to maintain consistent quality. I grew up in Texas, and back in the day (a very long time ago), I loved going to the Blackeyed Pea and Chili's. This was before they expanded nationwide and then were picked up by Brinker (Chilis). God they were good back then. Our Blackeyed Pea here in Charlotte was so bad it went under. I wouldn't step foot in a Chili's today. It got to the point that every time I went I was disappointed.

Now, I remember a place in Dallas many moons ago - a Mexican joint that was a dive and that did not have a liquor license. People used to wait up to two hours to eat at the few tables they had. Part of the appeal was standing outside with a cooler full of beer. Of course, the food was pretty good, too, as I recall.

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I am always concerned about coming off as a food snob.

Alas, this, too, has been my problem. When I try and show people that they have choices and that they can make a difference in what they spend their money on, most people also pass me off as a food snob or worse yet, a "gourmet". I've almost come to loathe that word, "gourmet".

mmm_chocolate: It certainly isn't for me to say whether anyone else should like the food at Cheesecake Factory (or any other establishment for that matter) or not. I've paid for a meal there twice now and I don't particularly think what I had was all that good. That aside, my main issue with these types of establishments has always been the size of the portion AND the resulting cost. Why can't I get a human sized portion at a more modest price? Instead of offering me a pasta dish with chicken and pesto that could serve 2 and costs $18, why not offer me 1/2 the amount for $9?

I suppose part of it is market analysis and demographics. When people go out for dinner, they expect their entrees to be somewhere between $15-$20. Chains will cater to that and with pasta being as cheap as it is, you end up getting what you paid for -- lots of pasta. :raz:

(Note: Those are Ohio prices. Your mileage may vary. :smile:)

My posts are just my opinions, there can be no right or wrong answer here. I personally think the food there is good (it's not on my top ten list or anything, but I've never been offended or disappointed there), and its certainly of a higher quality than say, Chili's. But I'm not trying to tell anyone whether they should like it, and I'm sorry if it came across that way.

What I am telling them is to go to a restaurant themselves before they profess personal judgement. I mean, it certainly doesn't hurt my feelings or anything if people don't like the Cheesecake factory...as long as they've eaten there and have a valid basis for their opinion. It just seems a bit elitist to say that a restaurant is bad without having eaten there. That's the only point I am trying to get across here.

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

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I have found the Olive Garden, Chi-chis, Red Lobster, Chili's, TGIFridays, Bennigans, and Houlahanns all to be of pretty bad quality.  Alot of fatty tasteless cheese is smothered over most dishes in the hopes of making it enticing.  Or something.  I've had alot of bad meals at these establishments and feel qualified to say that they're not good at all.

However, the veggie burger with fries at Ruby Tuesdays is a very satisfying dish for me.  High quality, very tasty.  This veggie burger ranks in my top 5.  And their chocolate tallcake dessert is very good to share with a group.  But all in all I think they may be a notch above their competition.

Several comments:

1. I am not opposed to chains just because they're chains. There are good chains and bad ones. In fact, my introduction to eGullet was by way of an essay I wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer two summers ago arguing that the chain invasion of Center City was not A Bad Thing but rather a sign that we've arrived as a place of interest to a wide variety of people.

I still don't think the chain invasion is A Bad Thing, as I believe the local dining scene and food community is strong enough and large enough to keep our great independent restaurants going even after the chains have skimmed off the less adventurous, the more cautious, the incurious and the easily swayed by advertising on TV. But I could see the day when all these chains start to choke off the new blood that is necessary for the independent restaurant scene to continue. That is something we need to be vigilant against.

2. On behalf of Kansas Citians everywhere, I offer humble apologies for our unleashing Houlihan's on an unsuspecting world. It began innocently enough, as a play on words, of sorts: a men's wear shop on the Country Club Plaza, Tom Houlihan, relocated to larger digs a few blocks down. The restaurant company that owned the fancy Plaza III restaurant next door, Gilbert/Robinson (then a strictly local operator), took over the space and installed a faux-old-timey, vaguely Irish pub which it christened--natch--"Houlihan's Old Place" (for that is indeed what it was). The place was an immediate hit, and when Gilbert/Robinson was acquired by W.R. Grace & Co., the new owners took it national, with predictable results. I've been known to conflate the name of this chain with that of Bennigan's and refer to restaurants of this ilk as "Hooligan's." I do not in the least mourn the passing of the Rittenhouse Square Houlihan's, but cannot tell you what its successor, the Devon Seafood Grill (still owned by Houlihan's, now an independent firm based in Overland Park, just outside Kansas City), is like at all. I've heard it's not bad.

3. Regarding the cheese: Your description of these places recalls a quip by "Blue Collar" comedian Jeff Foxworthy that will one day grace my .sig:

"There is no dish whose taste cannot be improved by adding cheese to it."

Unfortunately for these places, it does make a difference what cheese you use.

4. I had a very good burger at a Ruby Tuesday's in suburban Wilmington a while back, and their salad bar was of good quality too. I think you may be right about this chain. OTOH, I don't think the meals I had at Chili's when I worked at Penn were all that bad--I've certainly had much worse (most recently at a chain restaurant outside Harrisburg called Damian's Grill, whose gimmick is that you come there to watch TV as much as to eat. Certainly, the fare served up on the huge TV screens was better than what was served up on my plate). Obviously, people's assessments of various chains are as various as the people and the chains themselves. Except for Olive Garden and Pizza Hut, about which I cannot recall a single positive word uttered by an eGulleteer.

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 have found the Olive Garden, Chi-chis, Red Lobster, Chili's, TGIFridays, Bennigans, and Houlahanns all to be of pretty bad quality.  Alot of fatty tasteless cheese is smothered over most dishes in the hopes of making it enticing.   Or something.  I've had alot of bad meals at these establishments and feel qualified to say that they're not good at all.

However, the veggie burger with fries at Ruby Tuesdays is a very satisfying dish for me.  High quality, very tasty.  This veggie burger ranks in my top 5.  And their chocolate tallcake dessert is very good to share with a group.  But all in all I think they may be a notch above their competition.

Several comments:

1. I am not opposed to chains just because they're chains. There are good chains and bad ones. In fact, my introduction to eGullet was by way of an essay I wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer two summers ago arguing that the chain invasion of Center City was not A Bad Thing but rather a sign that we've arrived as a place of interest to a wide variety of people.

I still don't think the chain invasion is A Bad Thing, as I believe the local dining scene and food community is strong enough and large enough to keep our great independent restaurants going even after the chains have skimmed off the less adventurous, the more cautious, the incurious and the easily swayed by advertising on TV. But I could see the day when all these chains start to choke off the new blood that is necessary for the independent restaurant scene to continue. That is something we need to be vigilant against.

2. On behalf of Kansas Citians everywhere, I offer humble apologies for our unleashing Houlihan's on an unsuspecting world. It began innocently enough, as a play on words, of sorts: a men's wear shop on the Country Club Plaza, Tom Houlihan, relocated to larger digs a few blocks down. The restaurant company that owned the fancy Plaza III restaurant next door, Gilbert/Robinson (then a strictly local operator), took over the space and installed a faux-old-timey, vaguely Irish pub which it christened--natch--"Houlihan's Old Place" (for that is indeed what it was). The place was an immediate hit, and when Gilbert/Robinson was acquired by W.R. Grace & Co., the new owners took it national, with predictable results. I've been known to conflate the name of this chain with that of Bennigan's and refer to restaurants of this ilk as "Hooligan's." I do not in the least mourn the passing of the Rittenhouse Square Houlihan's, but cannot tell you what its successor, the Devon Seafood Grill (still owned by Houlihan's, now an independent firm based in Overland Park, just outside Kansas City), is like at all. I've heard it's not bad.

3. Regarding the cheese: Your description of these places recalls a quip by "Blue Collar" comedian Jeff Foxworthy that will one day grace my .sig:

"There is no dish whose taste cannot be improved by adding cheese to it."

Unfortunately for these places, it does make a difference what cheese you use.

4. I had a very good burger at a Ruby Tuesday's in suburban Wilmington a while back, and their salad bar was of good quality too. I think you may be right about this chain. OTOH, I don't think the meals I had at Chili's when I worked at Penn were all that bad--I've certainly had much worse (most recently at a chain restaurant outside Harrisburg called Damian's Grill, whose gimmick is that you come there to watch TV as much as to eat. Certainly, the fare served up on the huge TV screens was better than what was served up on my plate). Obviously, people's assessments of various chains are as various as the people and the chains themselves. Except for Olive Garden and Pizza Hut, about which I cannot recall a single positive word uttered by an eGulleteer.

I would agree that quality can depend on the particular location of a chain. The owner, chefs and staff will definitely factor into food quality, cleanliness, and service. So maybe I am being elitist in saying that Chili's is no good. I should say that the Chili's on CityLine Ave was not great for me. And there's a Bennigans (or something akin) at the KoP mall that is abysmal.

I will also agree about the salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays, and add that the one in Exton (and the new location in Malvern) is quite good, but look out for the RT salad bar at Grantie Run mall. It's always stocked with wilted lettuce, slimy cucumbers, fermenting fruit and unwashed mushrooms. And it's always been that way. Not so at the aforementioned locations. I guess this proves the point about not all restaurants within a chain being equal.

Thanks for the info about Houllihans, seems like perhaps alot of chains started off with good intentions and went downhill.

And while on that topic, another chain I enjoy is Pizza Rio Uno. I really like their pan pizza.....their crust is buttery and full of fattening ingredients of some sort.

Geez, people on this board are going to think I'm a chain queen or something with terrible taste....I really don't eat at chains alot at ALL and most definitely prefer dining at our amazing local restaurants in Center City and even the little suburban gems like Jaipur Indian and High Street Cafe. So, don't get me wrong. I'm not defending chains or saying they're better or encouraging people to go or anything like that..... :blink:

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters." - King James I

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I dislike chains as a matter of principle, particularly the ones with apostrophes in their names(Ruby Tuesday's, T.G.I. Friday's--as if we are expected to think the proprietor's name is something like Thomas Geoffrey Isaac Friday or something).

I dislike them because they are contributing to the homogeneity of the nation and because the creativity all occurs at corporate headquarters rather than in the individual kitchens. I liken it to motel room art--it is the same wherever you go.

I dislike them because I think they do harm the independent restauranteurs who are trying to survive in their niches. That may not be of significant concern in a large urban community, but I do see the impact in the provinces.

I dislike them because, when they are stand alone structures(as opposed to when they are in malls), they have huge footprints with their buildings, parking lots and access roads. I wonder whether some of the flooding impact we have seen in recent years would have been lessened if we didn't have all of the WalMarts, Home Depots and, yes, Applebee's sprouting everywhere.

Finally, I particularly dislike the chains that have staff sing happy birthday to customers. I don't know whether that distasteful phenomenon has receded, but that alone has been enough to keep me out of Red Lobster since January of 1988.

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And while on that topic, another chain I enjoy is Pizza Rio Uno.  I really like their pan pizza.....their crust is buttery and full of fattening ingredients of some sort.

SHHHHHH! Don't say that too loud around here--someone might try to revoke your eGullet Society membership! :wink:

If you go look at the current Pizza Club thread, you will find several posts--including at least one by me--casting aspersions on Pizzeria Uno too. I wouldn't put it in the same circle of Hell as Pizza Hut, and I will even concede that the style of pizza it offers is unique and not otherwise available locally, but I've had better--lots better.

Geez, people on this board are going to think I'm a chain queen or something with terrible taste....I really don't eat at chains alot at ALL and most definitely prefer dining at our amazing local restaurants in Center City and even the little suburban gems like Jaipur Indian and High Street Cafe.  So, don't get me wrong.  I'm not defending chains or saying they're better or encouraging people to go or anything like that..... :blink:

Check out the places on State Street in Media sometime. That's a great little business strip--charming without being precious. It also boasts several very good restaurants--and one eventual stop on our epic Pizza Club "Best of Philly Review Tour," Apollo Pizza.

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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Ugh. I got lulled into a T.G.I. Friday's under premise of a business meeting only to find out that my new colleagues had also enlightened the staff about my birthday (which happened to be the same day). When someone slipped and mentioned the fact that the staff knew, I immediately informed the server that there would be absolutely no singing. And there wasn't. However, about six different servers came over to give me a ballon. What a 34 year-old needs with helium filled balloons at a Friday's, I'll never know. Fortunately, there was a little kid at the next table who was more than HAPPY to take them off my hands.

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Geez, people on this board are going to think I'm a chain queen or something with terrible taste....I really don't eat at chains alot at ALL and most definitely prefer dining at our amazing local restaurants in Center City and even the little suburban gems like Jaipur Indian and High Street Cafe.  So, don't get me wrong.  I'm not defending chains or saying they're better or encouraging people to go or anything like that..... :blink:

By my reasoning you sure do eat at a lot of chains. I couldn't tell you how the food is at most chains because I refuse to patronize them. I only go if I'm starving, out of town and was stupid enough not to post on the EG forum where I happened to be. But that's just me, and I wouldn't ever think you were the chain queen because you redeem youself by pointing out that you enjoy the great local places.

Really though, I think most people (read non EG or other foodie types) find a real comfort in the homogenous world of chain restaurants and that's why they are so profitable. Fact is more people in the US frequent these chains than other chef-driven places as evidenced by new ones constantly breaking ground and no doubt documented in trade publications and such. This to me is really a shame but then again I suspect that most people who frequent chains aren't likely to try new things or go out of their way to a place. Today it's all about convenience and expedience and that's too bad

Great time to ask if anyone's going to the Slow Food Philadelphia and Farm to City event this Saturday :shock:

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This is getting spooky. I had never heard of a CheeseCake Factory till yesterday, when I was researching places to dine in Baltimore and it sprung up.

Then I click on the PA forum by accident, spy this thread title, wonder what it's about, & behold.....

Even if karma is trying to send me a message, I am not going to the one in Baltimore.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

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So....I went.

And I didn't wait.

The inlaws arrived early and put our name on the list so by the time I got there they were seated with nachos in hand. Good lord! Why didn't anyone warn me what that place was like? It's like a casino in there!! And the menu...why are there ads for shoes and perscription sunglasses next to the choice of 14, yes that's right 14!! salads? Is there really that much of a difference between the Santa Fe Chicken Salad and the other quasi-mexi-add-guacamole-to-greens one? This place is hilarious...I am truly shocked that people pay that kind of money for such crappy food! I apologize to those of you who are okay with dining there, I just had no idea!

Needless to say, that will be my only visit.

(There was a line of at least 30 people when I was leaving around 7, regettably I didn't stop to ask how long the wait was.)

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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Great time to ask if anyone's going to the Slow Food Philadelphia and Farm to City event this Saturday :shock:

I'm volunteering from 5 to 7.

See you there?

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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And the menu...why are there ads for shoes and perscription sunglasses next to the choice of 14, yes that's right 14!! salads? Is there really that much of a difference between the Santa Fe Chicken Salad and the other quasi-mexi-add-guacamole-to-greens one? This place is hilarious...I am truly shocked that people pay that kind of money for such crappy food! I apologize to those of you who are okay with dining there, I just had no idea!

See previous post for my rant (and yes, I realize it is a rant to some and obnoxious to others :biggrin: ) about the size of their menu. To me, it's ridiculously huge. And I agree, having 14 salads seems overly complicated. So does having two pages for appetizers. I've seen shorter card catalogues.

As for the taste ... I guess we all have to experience that on our own in order to decide whether CF is the culinary utopia of middle class existence or pure and ultimate evil. :blink:

Ok, maybe I got carried away with that last statement. :rolleyes:

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Great time to ask if anyone's going to the Slow Food Philadelphia and Farm to City event this Saturday :shock:

I'm volunteering from 5 to 7.

See you there?

I'll be helping set up from 3-5, should be a fun event. Maybe we can go to Cheesecake Factory afterward :wacko:

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