No, not talkin bout Dokken… I’m talking about restaurant chains.Â The big ones.Â Have a discussion with 5 random people about their favorite restaurants and probably 3 of them will mention some watered down national chain.Â Oh sure, it makes sense… They’re (generally) cheap, they’re safe, they allow white middle-class families to eat out without leaving the safety of the suburbs.Â And of course, like top-40 radio, they appeal to the middle 80% of the population.Â While I’m not a culinary expert, I tend to avert myself from these places in favor of local flavors.Â Here’s what comes to mind when people mention some of the big name restaurants…
Applebee’s – Ubiquitous as syphilis in a 1500’s Roman bathhouse and just about as desirable.Â Nothing on their menu is too inspiring and it really is the poster child for bland dining.
Benihana – The teppanyaki cooking experience has been really bastardized over the years, and there’s no telling anymore if one place is better than another.Â I will say this, I cannot recall the last time I saw an actual Japanese person taking on chef duties at a Benihana.
Denny’s – Denny’s may be the first of many themed restaurants where the staff acts a very specific role.Â Ed Debevic’s in Chicago later perfected the experience.Â The staff at Denny’s will “act” as though they are rude, apathetic, or going through the initial stages of heroin withdrawal.Â The food isn’t great, but it is a fine place to buy low-grade drugs.
Pizza Hut – Are you eager to lose weight but diet and exercise isn’t for you?Â I suggest the Pepperoni-Lovers pizza from Pizza Hut.Â Your bowels will burst like the Hoover Dam in Superman I.Â Good way to drop 5 lbs overnight.
Texas Roadhouse – As a resident of the state of Texas, I can assure you that if you’re chomping on Rattlesnake Bites in Grand Forks, ND, you’re just insulting my home.
Chipotle – South Park referenced the burrito chain, saying it caused bloody stool.Â Need I say more?
Outback Steakhouse – Kind of an identity crisis with this one.Â It tries to float between being a semi-respectable steakhouse and just another obnoxious place to fatten up your kids.Â Don’t take that description too seriously, the steaks are terrible and even if they used a decent cut of meat, the $7/hr guys in the kitchen wouldn’t know how to prepare them anyway.Â It’s kind of fine dining for folks who think Culver’s is a family restaurant.Â I lovingly refer to it as “Outhouse Steakhouse.”
California Pizza Kitchen – Any time your entire entree list can be purchased in the same aisle as Hot Pockets, you’re missing the mark.
Ruth’s Chris – Hi, we’re going to charge you $50 for a steak and then throw it in a pan full of butter and toss it in the oven long enough for any remnants of meat flavor to disappear.
Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, Bravo, Carabas, Bucca di Beppo, Maggiano’s, etc, etc. – Ran out of steam with those names, but you get the idea.Â The BMT at Subway is more authentic Italian than anything served at these dumps.Â The Soup/Salad lunch deal at Olive Garden is nice.Â However, if you decide to stay for dinner, I’m sure they’ll offer you a glass of their signature white zinfandel with your NY Strip D’Italiano.Â Good grief.
PF Changs – Another place for white people to feel cultured without the inconvenience of interacting with different cultures of people.Â Not sure what their aim is with the cuisine.Â It’s kind of like they grabbed the worst cook they could find in each east-Asian country and had them whip up a menu.Â Not a good place for diabetics either; no matter the dish, the secret ingredient is sugar.