Let’s face it: chain restaurants don’t exactly have a glamorous reputation. The paparazzi aren’t lined up outside of your local Applebee’s, no doubt because I’m fairly certain Angelia Jolie isn’t dining at many places that feature pictures on the menu.
Personally though, I have always found a certain charm to chain restaurants. There is a familiarity there that is immediately recognizable, which can be very comforting for someone who is traveling, away from family, or just happens to be a sentimental fool like yours truly.
The first example that comes to mind is Mimi’s Cafe. My affinity for it started when I was in high school, when I would often end up there for breakfast with my dad on our way to spending the day in the city. This habit continued into college, when my friends and I would frequent the place after a night of debauchery. I ate at a Mimi’s the morning after my 21st birthday, the morning of my sister’s wedding, and the first time my husband and I went out on a breakfast date.
I don’t know what it is about Mimi’s that I love so much. I think of it as sort of a classed-up Denny’s. Inexplicably I will only go there for breakfast. Inexplicably I consider it a treat to go, despite the average breakfast entree costing little more than my daily Starbucks habit. I don’t know exactly why I adore it, but I have a few guesses:
A chain restaurant like Mimi’s is predictable. But that word has negative connotations. Dependable, perhaps. You always know what to expect, be it warm breadsticks at Olive Garden or those perfectly salty tortilla chips at Chevy’s.
Sure, I’d love to visit The Ivy one day, but my wallet would much prefer it if I stuck to places who’s menu is geared toward the everyday diner’s budget.
There is a time and a place to spend two hours trying to find that perfect little corner bistro. While you’re exploring the streets and alleys of Florence, perhaps. By the time Friday night at 8pm rolls around, however, I really just want to grab a (predictable, affordable) bite.
Ok, I don’t think that’s actually a word. But because chain restaurant menus are uniform and often subject to menu labeling laws, it is increasingly easy to find nutrition information for the food I’m eating. Big,big plus for this dining detective.
While studying abroad, I took great comfort in being able to visit a Starbucks in London and being transported back to my hometown for those 15 minutes. Food in itself is often tied to emotions and memories…the same goes for the institutions in which we eat and drink.
How about you? Are you a fan of chain restaurants, or do you prefer to seek out more unique places to dine?