Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - Printable Version
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Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - Rey - 01-07-2011 01:00 PM
One of my favorite local independent restaurants, a delicious Polish buffet, has just closed. This is kind of depressing, I’ve been going there since 1987, where am I going to get my favorite blintzes, pierogies, and potato pancakes now?
Down at the corner near my house, at a major highway intersection, the last independent fast food restaurant closed last summer. They had really great gyros sandwiches. Now the only choices are the common fast food places that are in every other town in America, you know the ones. The big chain restaurants are dominant everywhere. Does the little guy have a chance anymore?
When traveling through unfamiliar areas we are presented with a choice of where to eat. The big chain is going to taste exactly the same as it does at home. Nothing exotic, nothing adventurous, but at least you know what you are going to get. Or you can try an independent place, for a new experience, a taste of the local flavor in the area you are in. This is a great thing to do, and you can discover some great food. But there is also a risk involved, it can end up being not so good.
Once for work I was laid over for a weekend in an unfamiliar small town. I was in the mood for pizza, and there were only two pizza places in the town to choose from. Right across the street from the motel I was in was a Pizza Hut. The other place, an independent, was way across town somewhere. I figured if he had to compete with Pizza Hut and survive, it had to be really good pizza. So, even though it was farther away, and I ended up lost trying to find it, I wanted the pizza from the independent. I also, as a matter of principal, wanted to spend my money and support the non-chain guy. I wish this story had a happy ending, but the pizza ended up being really terrible, worse than frozen. I would have been better off with the place across the street.
So I am curious, how do you all like your restaurants? How often so you frequent the chains versus the independents where you live?
When traveling, do you like knowing what you are going to get with a chain, or willing to try something new, knowing you might not like it?
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - NWoBHM - 01-07-2011 03:08 PM
I think the only chains we have are Domino Pizza, and the like, McDonalds etc - most UK restuarants I would think are independent - "We are a nation of shopkeepers after all".
I would go for the independent, but generally over here they would be the better bet.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - old honda rider - 01-07-2011 04:05 PM
I think it depends on a couple of factors. First, how adventurous you are feeling at the moment. Tired and sore from spending all day on the back of a motorcycle? I'll probably go with the chain. As has been mentioned, it won't be anything exotic or adventurous, but you'll pretty much know what you'll be getting.
Second, where do the truckers, cab drivers and cops eat? If they've chosen a chain over an independent, then the independent fare is probably lacking. But if they are packed into the independent, then that fare is probably better.
My best surprise was choosing a local Indian place some years ago because, well, I just felt like some good Indian fare. And I'm so very glad I did. They know me by name there now. The lamb tika masala is utterly extraordinary, and their Mullugtwany soup has brought me to tears it's so good.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - Mufasa - 01-07-2011 04:35 PM
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - RN-PRN - 01-07-2011 06:51 PM
It is Mulligatawny Soup which is an Anglo-Indian soup that is a product of the British Raj in India. Mulligatawny is chicken soup flavored with Indian spices. Serve it with Basmati rice or with a chunk of crusty bread.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - nettiesaur - 01-07-2011 10:08 PM
The chain I like best only has a couple of locations: Thunder Bay Bar and Grille. They deal with my allergies pretty well. Subway is a go to place when I'm traveling, or Culver's in a pinch.
No McDonalds...heart attack in a bag.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - Boomer - 01-08-2011 09:47 AM
There are a couple places I enjoy here - like 'Al & Irene's Ribs' so tasty you will order racks at a time and gorge yourself!! Thats one mom n pop place I discovered years ago. Another place I enjoy is "Granite City" which is a pretty nice joint whose serving size tends to lend itself more towards feeding the 5th Army. There is the local diner down the street my wife and I LOVE. The owner - Willy - rebuilt it in another location after his previous location was totally destroyed in the Flood of 2008. I think he gets so much business now its almost overwhelming. I don't do bars per se any more. As for any of the chains - I avoid them totally unless my schedule wont permit it. The last place, called The Chinese Buffet, makes about the best Hunan chicken I have had. EVER! Every time I go there the owner is in the back chopping up FRESH stuff....boxes of broccolli, celery, mushrooms, etc.....thats some great food for a real decent price.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - Rey - 01-09-2011 12:50 PM
Yes, (like Nettiesaur mentioned), if a place has a few locations in the local area, I probably would not lump it in with the big national chains. It still has something unique to offer to the area.
Then there are the more regional type chains, like (someone mentioned) Culvers. It was regional anyway, centered around Wisconsin, but spreading fast. I liked the location in Lake Geneva, WI, they had a G scale model train that would run, going around the ceiling. That was a nice touch to make it different inside than all the others. The burgers there are okay I guess, but no big deal. Now, the sundaes for dessert is where that place really shines. My favorite is called the “Cherry Blossom” which has been discontinued from the menu (everything I like always gets discontinued). If Im lucky, I can find an older employee that remembers how to make it for me.
But my girlfriend and I, we tend to have bad luck with food when traveling. I even thought about asking the locals for recommendations would be a good idea. We were traveling in South Dakota, checking out the Badlands area, thinking this is just the country to find a great steak, what with all the angus cattle grazing everywhere. Asked around, and was sent by the locals to diner in a rural area. We parked, and there were even horses that came up to the fence to greet us by our parking place, and we thought, yeah this is the place where even the cowboys come to get a steak. But, in the end, I could have made a better steak at home in the broiler, and we were disappointed.
In Colorado we didn’t have much better luck. We were up in the mountains in an area where none of the restaurants or motels had any air conditioning. It was a warm day, and so the restaurant we stopped at had the door propped open to let in some air, but with no screen. Now, if you were at home in your house cooking a meal, would you leave the door open with no screen? Of course not, and the result was that this restaurant was full of flies, they were just everywhere. I looked at the other diners, and it didn’t seem to bother anyone else.
Now, we are not picky eaters, not by a long shot. We were not looking for fancy fine dining or pictures drawn with sauce on our plates. Just some good regional home cooking, but more often than not it seemed to elude us.
On the flipside there were some moments where we really enjoyed a meal. In Georgetown, CO there is a little Italian eatery on their quaint little main street. The meal I had there was great. There was a mean wind there that would whip down the street and suddenly blow the front door open. Happened several times, and had to hold everything down on the table.
We were in rural Wyoming and very tired at the end of the day, pulled off an exit and into a so so looking motel with attached restaurant/bar. We weren’t expecting much quality from the looks of the place, but too tired to go out looking for another restaurant, so we just ordered plain old cheeseburgers. But let me tell you, that turned out to be the best burger that I have had, ever. I should have ordered a steak to try that, but who knew?
Of course I am not going to say we never stopped at a chain on that trip, but when we did we got just what we expected, nothing more, nothing less, and all in all kind of boring.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - smoker guy - 04-22-2011 08:56 AM
I try to avoid the big chains. We have a great seafood restaurant here in Des Moines called Splash, it makes Red Lobster look like LJS. Als my wife and I are big fans of a local Russo/American restaurant Called Irena's restaurant and grill. Good '50's style diner as well, good home cooking. My wife and I try to support local businesses at home and when on trips.
RE: Restaurants: Independents vs. Chains: What do you like? - Gungawoman - 04-22-2011 09:48 PM
Where I live, there are no big chains, except a few fast food types. It's literally ALL independent restaurants here. We've tried most of them. Some aren't worth looking at as you drive by. Others are FANTASTIC! Last summer when my USMC son came home from Afghanistan, we drove back to N Carolina from AZ. We ate solely at independents. We luckily hit into all good places. It was adventurous, but we ate really good!