The Chain Gang

30 Jul

So last night Ryan and I ate at Outback and it got me thinking. Ever since graduating culinary school, people ask me if I can eat at places like McDonald’s and Panera Bread. The truth of the matter is that education does not make (or at least should not) make you better or above what you once enjoyed. What education does for you is give you the sensibility to know what to expect and how to gauge a great experience from a poor one.

For example, McDonald’s promises fast, hot food. Beyond that there isn’t much. So if I go to McDonald’s and I get a cold burger that takes a long time. I have the right to feel disappointed. McDonald’s had failed to live up to the promise of a fast, hot meal. At a place that is a little fancier, say Le Bec Fin, the promises are a little higher and involved. Understanding what to expect is the biggest part of being happy with your meal out.

Last night, we were unfortunately disappointed. Outback promises a uniquely spiced steak at a reasonable price in an “Australian Outback” theme. So, why were we disappointed? Besides the slow service, the steak was not seasoned, not cooked  to the right temperature, and the sweet potato I had ordered as my side was closer to a dessert than a potato. And the amount of cinnamon butter on top of this so called tuber was melting all over the plate. This made everything taste like cinnamon and brown sugar. Not exactly the spices I was expecting on my meat. Ok ok, so I’m a little picky when it comes to my steak and I probably should have known better, but for 9.99 a 6oz steak is a deal.

I feel like in general that most chain restaurants fall into this category of disappointment. The food stylists and photographers that are hired to make the food at these place look amazingly mouth-watering do their job to the “T”. They get you in the door and then fill your plate with average, uninspired food. Don’t get me wrong, how can you miss the soup and salad at Olive Garden or the fried food at Friday’s during a game? But the honest answer is that you shouldn’t order the pasta at Friday’s, or the seafood dish at Olive Garden. If you do, you are just asking for trouble.

From now on Ryan and I will be sticking to the local individually owned places. They are always better. Or going to those places that we know to order the right things. Pasta at Maggiano’s, nachos or quesadillas at Chili’s, and burgers at Champps. Sorry Outback it will be a very long time before we return.

Always thinking of the next meal,



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