crayons with the placemat


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.

cracker barrel pancakes.jpg

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!!!)

0 thoughts on “crayons with the placemat

  1. TammyO.

    I missed yesterday’s post, but I just want to give a shout-out to Chipotle and Quizno’s. They started in Denver! And Chipotle actually cares about supporting local growers/farmers and taking care of employees (among their benefits is free continuing language education).

  2. erica

    Can someone recommend a better app to identify the “good local independent place that will give you a taste of the region”? We have previously used Yelp and found ourselves in many marginal to gut-wrenching places that contributors deemed “the best!” Obviously if we’re going to be somewhere for awhile, we ask the locals where they eat. But I am talking about on road trips where you are projecting the need to eat in X hours – where to stop?

  3. Karin

    I like the Urban Spoon app. You can’t exclude chains but i’s very easy to identify a chain result and move on. We’ve found really wonderful restaurants on our travels using Urban Spoon.

  4. CM

    Isn’t snobbery about avoiding those chains kind of misplaced, seeing as the wait staff etc. are local and can still use your money?
    I luuuuv Quizno’s, Panera, Joe’s Crab Shack, and many others. But there are plenty of great non-chain restaurants here in Hoboken that are luscious. If you ever come here, try the fresh mutz at Vito’s or have breakfast at Turning Point (which is actually a very small 5-restaurant chain in Joisey).

  5. Emma's Big sis

    There’s a Panera near our house where you pay what you want or are able to pay. It’s supposed to help people who otherwise might not be able to get a good meal. It was just converted to a Panera Cares about a month ago and I haven’t been yet but will. I loved Panera before, but this makes them even better. Of course, this is done in a town where diners want to know the name and pedigree of the chicken they are about to eat (see above Portlandia link).


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