Overrated Restaurants

A top six.

I’ve never had Papa John’s, or Chipotle’s and it’s been years since I ate at an Olive Garden, but that’s Patricia’s complaint, too (she used to have a boss who loved to go there for lunch). I concur on the fries at In’n’Out. I like Chick-fil-A, but don’t worship it. I only go to Cracker Barrel for breakfast (and rarely — there are none in LA of which I’m aware, and we have better chain places here, like the Black Bear Diner).

But I don’t eat out much in general unless I’m traveling, because it’s terrible both for your budget and from a nutritional standpoint. Unless it’s some kind of exotic cuisine, I can cook much cheaper and healthier at home, and don’t have to endure the noise of restaurants. The notion of going out for a steak seems absurd to me.

[Late-afternooon update]

Sorry, here’s the link.

17 thoughts on “Overrated Restaurants”

  1. Other than Cheesecake factor (for the cheesecake of course) I pretty much don’t like any restaurant food. Like you, I can cook a much better steak at home than most any restaurant except maybe Ruth Chris or Morton’s and they are damn expensive.

    Olive Garden and Applebee’s used to be okay, but they’ve gone to crap too, especially after IHOP purchased Applebee’s.

  2. Is there supposed to be a link. And yes Black Bear Diner is very good, perhaps the best breakfasts I have had.

  3. I regret to report that my town is getting a Chipotle. Mrs. McG was excited by this discovery until I reminded her you couldn’t spell Chipotle without E. coli.

  4. Is there supposed to be a link in this post? “I concur on the fries at In’n’Out” implies you’re concurring with something..

      1. I suspect that it’s that they don’t prepare them properly, and that they fry them in some sort of awful vegetable oil, because cholesterol. I still think that McDonald’s would do well by going back to tallow, both taste-wise and economically.

  5. No link, no problem. I have a few favorite restaurants, most of them Italian. Filomena, in Washington DC, is among the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever patronized. They decorate for holidays like no other restaurant (especially Halloween!). Their service is by tuxedo ed waiters reminiscent of New York City restaurants of the past (like Mama Leoni’s), and is a treat any time. At the other end of the scale is Bella Vita, in Manassas, VA (where we live). It is incredibly inexpensive, and wonderfully delicious. They are also the only restaurant east of the Mississippi to serve toasted ravioli that I’ve ever found (a staple on the Hill in St. Louis, where I grew up). You have to look for the one-offs.

    1. I like Scoma’s in San Francisco.

      I can’t think of a chain restaurant that couldn’t be called overrated. After all, quality control is hard, and high quality dining is harder to mimic.

      1. Getting ingredients from the same source is a limiting factor but the biggest difference is the people and how well they prepare the food. A dozen people can cook the same meal with the same ingredients/recipe and several of those meals will stand out above the others.

  6. Disagree on chic-fil-a. It’s the best chicken sandwich out there in chain land. Salty though, and you have to like dill pickle flavor. The lemonade is top drawer anywhere. 5 Guys have managed to move to the top slot for chain hamburgers and they are doing a really good job of maintaining quality as they grow.

    1. Bear in mind, the list is not whether or not it’s good, but whether or not it’s overrated. It’s like when I say that Hemingway is overrated. He’s not a terrible writer, but he’s not as wonderful as his reputation.

      1. I dunno. His super short story (only six words long!) always gets the same reaction whenever I quote it. The person I’m telling gets a look of anguish on their face.

        “For Sale:
        Baby Shoes
        Never worn.”

        1. The Hemingway authorship is strongly disputed. I do love his “The Big Two-Hearted River”, though. It has always been one of my guilty pleasures.

  7. I find Chipotle adequate for grabbing a quick lunch that’s better than typical fast food, but what they call carnitas is semi-flavorless watery pork – get the grilled chicken. I do like In-N-Out though, including their fries – but I almost never eat there because it’s so goddamn crowded!

    The rest of the list – never liked any of them. And there are no Cracker Barrels in CA.

  8. I’m as low-carb as I can get these days so I don’t eat chain restaurant pizza anymore. Back when I did, Pizza Hut was my favorite. Papa John’s I only tried once. It was okay, but nothing special.

    I’ve only eaten at a Cracker Barrel when visiting the wife’s relatives in MO. I have no real recollection of the food. The country store theme and all the non-food stuff for sale pretty much overwhelms the food.

    Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich outranks those from most other fast food outlets. The Spicy Crispy Chicken sandwich at Carl’s Jr. was the only other such that I would rate a peer of Chick-fil-A’s but I have no idea if it’s still on the Carls menu. I haven’t eaten either one since going low-carb as both are breaded.

    Chipotle I’ve never been to and have no intention of ever going. Most Mexican or Mexican-esque fast food is way too carby.

    Haven’t been to an Olive Garden in better than two decades. At that time, the food was quite good and a lot of it struck me as fairly authentically Italian too. I ate in neighborhood mom and pop places during my 16 months in Milan back in the day so I have some basis for comparison. But much can change in the sit-down restaurant biz in quite short order – you should pardon the expression. The present-day Olive Garden may well be awful. The wife and I used to consider Carrow’s the best of the reasonably-priced sit-down chains. Then Carrow’s changed owners and the menu went straight to hell. Haven’t been back since. Our favorite sit-down place these days is Hometown Buffet.

    The indictment of In-n-Out is way out of line. It is definitely the best of the burger chains in terms of quality vs. price and pretty near the top in terms of just quality. Back when I still ate fries, I liked their fries too. I tried the much-overpraised Five Guys when they came to CA. Not impressive. The burgers are not better than In-n-Out and the prices are roughly twice as high. The best burger chain is Fatburger. They will serve any of their stuff in a clamshell without a bun too. In-n-Out won’t do that so, on the comparatively rare occasions I still eat there, I have to de-bun the burgers before consumption. In terms of fast food beef, though, I like Arby’s as well as I like Fatburger. Their condiments are the best in the business and they have Diet Dr. Pepper in their fountains.

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