It should come as no surprise that I’m not much into big chain restaurants. While they may create a particular atmosphere or provide reliable food and/or service, they often lack something in their character. Sometimes it’s the schtick that servers are forced to repeat table after table, or that each location, whether you’re in New York or Oklahoma, looks and feels exactly the same. And more often than not, the food doesn’t quite pop… because they all have to use the same company standard products and the same company standard recipes. I hate thinking about all the menu items that must come packaged when I eat at a chain, even at the “nicer” places. Like the roasted beet and goat cheese salad at one particular place (COUGHCOUGHgrandluxcafeCOUGHCOUGH)– if by “roasted” beets, they mean canned. Pfft. But I’d definitely rather have that than the sad excuse for food at places like… well… I don’t wanna be mean…
Another thing about chain restaurants– and this is strictly from my individual experience– why do they hide bits of meat in my food?? Macaroni Grill, I’m looking at you! I kinda like your bread and the tables with the crayons, but finding bits of chicken in my already sub-par pasta is NOT COOL, especially when I accidentally start to eat a piece. And the arrabbiatta sauce by the way, is supposed to be “angry” from the chili peppers, yet it makes me angry because I can’t taste them! Granted, I haven’t been there in a while. Maybe you’ve changed, but I’m still mad about the chicken. Bahama Breeze, I know when I sent the salad back you just picked the chicken out. At least at Panera they were nice enough to make it over! And Rotelli, when I ask you to leave out the bacon, I don’t want it replaced with chicken (why is it always chicken?)… but that was the noob server’s mistake.
Despite these little flops, I still go to some chains here and there. Not that they’re super-dee-duper amazing, but at least their food is real, and enjoyable. Like California Pizza Kitchen, which gets even more points for having plenty of vegetarian options. I went there with a friend this past Sunday, and we split a salad and pizza. We didn’t have to modify either dish because they were both automatically vegetarian. Oh, happy day. So I’m sitting there, enjoying the salad, thinking to myself “yumyumyum, iwishihadapetgoat, yumyumyum”, when all of a sudden, there’s an alien, yet familiar taste and texture on my tongue. It’s not supposed to be there. It’s salty; savory; kinda crunchy, kinda tender… it’s… BACON. Freakin’. BACON. Too late to retrieve the tiny bit of pig flesh, I had to take it down. I wasn’t really disgusted, just… shocked. Like a blast from the past. Memories of eating pancakes and bacon at Denny’s. One might ask, Are you sure it was bacon? Yes, 99.9%. I know it’s been eight or nine years since I’ve consumed any version of pig, but you don’t forget the taste of bacon, my friends. It was bacon.
So, California Pizza Kitchen… strike one. You’re lucky you have good food otherwise. And I know it was an accident, for I found no more pieces of bacon in the salad. And hey, at least it wasn’t boring old chicken again.