The argument mentioned in yesterday’s blog came down to exactly the same conversation y’all had in the comments section: the relative merit in avoiding American chain restaurants out of snobbery, out of a genuine disgust for the food, or out of a charitable desire to eat at an local, independent joint. And there’s always the question of “why avoid these places at all?”
I’ve found myself on road trips and other sojourns with people who will absolutely not eat at one of these jernts, and it has driven me nuts, because a) I’m usually starving by the time the subject has come up, and b) for the same reasons Neva mentioned – that it’s just silly to dismiss all these places out of hand. Especially since there is a world of difference between Panera Bread (kinda awesome), Souplantation (LOVE), and Denny’s (where you might get throat fungus).
I share my bro-in-law Jon’s irrational affection for Cracker Barrel, even though it’s precisely the kind of place that should give me hives, what with the old washboards on the walls and the obese seniors selling taffy shaped like Jesus. Their corporate headquarters have historically been no friends to the gays, the blacks, and the women. And yet their chicken-fried steak and pancakes are a thing of wonder.
Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t go to these places normally, because they will eventually make you fat, sick and demoralized. But on trips or odd occasions away from home base, it generally comes down to a decision tree for all of us, doesn’t it? For me, it’d work like this:
1. Is there a good local independent place that will give you a taste of the region, and it seems relatively uncomplicated? (if yes, go there – if no, move to next question)
2. Are you and yours pretty hungry, and it’s a problem that needs to be solved in the next 25 minutes? (if no, go home – if yes, move on)
3. Do you have a few minutes, and do you want to avoid feeling like death? (if not, go to McDonald’s – if yes, move on)
4. Is your only option a Denny’s or something like Ruby Tuesday’s or Long John Silver? (if yes, kill yourself – if no, move on)
5. Is there a Panera Bread or Quizno’s or Chipotle or Cracker Barrel? (if yes, ROCK AND ROLL!!!)