Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​

I had a good friend who worked at Domino’s Pizza in the mid-’90s. He worked the late shift and was left in charge. On occasion, he’d invite me to hang out with him. I got to spend time behind the counter watching the delivery drivers come and go, watch my buddy make the pizzas, and he’d also let me make my own pizza. I’ll never forget the contraption they used that would apply the cheese pellets (and they were indeed pellets). You’d load the proper amount of cheese into an elevated cone, then slide the pizza under, press the release button, and bam! A perfectly cheesed pizza.

At the time, I ate Domino’s pizza and would order a pie for delivery now and then.

But that was more than 20 years ago, and it wasn’t too long after that I met my wife, who was instrumental in nudging me toward learning to appreciate better food. She loathes Domino’s, and I haven’t eaten it since.

Recently, I decided it was time to revisit the chain. Admittedly, I fell victim to their marketing, and the idea of eating a pizza with a soft doughy crust, that’s sweetly sauced, and with a generous amount of cheese appealed to me.

I may have temporarily lost my mind. Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​”

Bad Chain Restauants XII – In Recovery

Today, I’m giving the dubious honor of bad chain to Recovery Sports Grill. The concept started in Albany with a single location across the street from Albany Med as The Recovery Room. It has since expanded to eight locations in the immediate area, and is expanding west—there’s one in Amsterdam and one near Turning Stone Casino in Verona—and south with locations in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and Florida.

Congratulations Albany! You are the progenitor of your very own bad chain. We have supported and enabled an expanding empire of uninspired pub fare and its ubiquitous “throw a bunch of crap on the wall along with lots of giant TVs” ambiance. Yes, folks, our beloved Captial Region has unleashed a bad chain on an unsuspecting world. May God have mercy on us.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restauants XII – In Recovery”

Bad Chain Restaurants XI – Cloning the Big Mac

Is there any burger joint more American than McDonald’s? Is there any restaurant more American than McDonald’s? No way, I say. McDonald’s is the very definition of Americana in my mind. And is there any American who hasn’t eaten at least once at McDonald’s? Perhaps, but I have no doubt they’re a small minority.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from The Profussor, a.k.a., Daniel Berman, proprietor of FUSSYlittleBLOG. It was related to a Yelp event I was hosting, but after dealing with that business, he asked me if I’d be interested in relieving him of a partially used bottle of McDonald’s Big Mac Special Sauce. An official, limited edition, numbered bottle of Big Mac Special Sauce.

Heck yes, I would!
Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants XI – Cloning the Big Mac”

Bad Chain Restaurants X – Dread Lobster

I just had the blandest meal I can remember eating in a long time.

The dull dinner came about as a gift of sorts from my wife’s employer. In place of a Christmas party, my wife’s company instead gave everyone in her office a restaurant gift card. It’s a nice gesture, and we were looking forward to a night out on her company’s dime. The card arrived in the mail yesterday, and to my dismay, it was a Darden gift card.

Darden is the parent company of no less than eight restaurant chains (seven actually—I’ll explain in a moment). Eight restaurants are enough to choose from, and of those eight, a few are upscale, and the food is excellent. But only two of the eight Darden chains are local to the Albany area, and none of the other six are within a two-hour drive. The two that are local to Albany are the worst of the bunch, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster.

Oh, joy.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants X – Dread Lobster”

Bad Chain Restaurants IX – Taco Hell; Hellacious Tacos

A few weeks ago, Otis M. of the food blog Burnt My Fingers, wrote a Yelp review of a tiny Mexican restaurant in South Glens Falls, Taqueria GDL. And when I say tiny, I’m not exaggerating. The building is about the size of a two stall garage, with around 5 or 6 tables within. It sits on the southbound side of Route 9, in an area that’s sort of ‘urban barren’, to coin a phrase.

Otis loved the tacos, claiming they’re Magical…”. He tried three varieties and raved “…each was the best of its kind I have ever tasted.”

The best he’d ever tasted? Heady claims indeed.

Coming from just anyone I’d write it off as irrational exuberance or inexperience, but Otis knows his stuff, and he has credibility with me. Plus, the photos he posted backed up his claim. Those tacos looked legit. Despite it being a 50 minute drive up the Northway from my home in Albany, I had to check them out for myself.

Before I get to Taqueria GDL; I had so much fun writing the piece comparing the lobster roll at Troy Kitchen to McDonald’s, I wanted to do a similar comparison with tacos. So I also stopped into La Mexicana Grocery in Schenectady, and my local Taco Bell, eating a sampling of tacos at each.

The crazy things I do for this blog.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants IX – Taco Hell; Hellacious Tacos”

Bad Chain Restaurants VIII – A Lobster Rolls into McDonald’s

Lobster rolls are a unique thing. They’re the mating of shabby and chic. The melding together of expensive, fancy-schmancy, pinky-in-the-air lobster, with a cheap, blue collar hot dog roll. Who in their right mind would do such a thing? It’s crazy. Crazy good! Frankly, I’d much rather eat a great lobster roll standing up outside a lobster shack, than eat a whole lobster in a fine dining setting, and all the work it takes to de-shell the thing, all while wearing that silly bib.

Moreover, lobster rolls are pure genius in their simplicity. Just three components, lobster, hot dog roll, and mayo. Those three ingredients come together to make culinary magic. And its simplicity belies what an incredibly delicious thing it can be.

Back in March I had the pleasure of attending a preview for Troy Kitchen and came away very impressed with what Troy Lobster, one of the food stalls within, was doing. I finally made it back this past weekend and ordered Troy Lobster’s take on the classic Maine-style lobster roll.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants VIII – A Lobster Rolls into McDonald’s”

Bad Chain Restaurants VII – Slouching Skirt

What do you get when you mix a Hooters ripoff with Applebees?

You get the Tilted Kilt. Just opened in Niskayuna, it’s a half-baked attempt to capitalize on Hooters’ unabashed glorification and playful mockery of Men’s primal desire to mingle with attractive women half their age, drink too much beer and eat fried foods.

I want to be clear, I am not disparaging Hooters, or the average Joe’s need to spend time with his buddies whilst ogling a cute waitress in a male-focused establishment. Rather, I am saddened that Tilted Kilt manages to water down the experience to the point of it being nothing more than bad chain food served by scantily clad women and men in skirts.

Hooters has been famously sued on more than one occasion because they refuse to hire men as waitstaff. Hooters argues that hiring only (young and attractive) women is a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’. In short, young, cute, female waitresses are essential to their business. (Hooters does hire men, but not as waitstaff or bartenders). And I agree with Hooters. It’s what makes them special. Trust me, no one is going to Hooters for the food (with the exception of the wings, which are quite good).

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants VII – Slouching Skirt”

Bad Chain Restaurants VI – Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance as it’s described on the Simply Physcology website:

“Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc.”

Am I feeling discomfort due to cognitive dissonance? Perhaps. But it does make me want to rethink some of my beliefs regarding casual restaurant chains. Some obviously are better than others and that makes it easy to justify eating there. Sometimes though there are places that shouldn’t be much better than the rest of the pack, yet I find myself eating there on occasion and actually enjoying the food, as well as the atmosphere.

Macaroni Grill is one of those that causes me to experience cognitive dissonance.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants VI – Cognitive Dissonance”

Bad Chain Restaurants V – Fool me once…

On a recent visit to a local chain restaurant, this idiom came to mind:

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

We all know that chain restaurants have marketing departments. People that get paid to make their restaurant appear to be someplace you want to spend your time, and more important, your dollars. This is no secret. We’re all jaded by TV commercials, online ads, billboards, etc. But have you realized that a restaurant’s menu is also a marketing tool? Some of it is obvious. Most casual chain restaurants today have very large laminated menus with beautiful mouth-watering photos of the food in the background. There’s also the marketing terms scattered throughout the pages that are obviously attempting to “sell” you.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants V – Fool me once…”

Death by Bad Chain Cheeseburger II – I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today

So I find myself in Crossgates, just after Christmas, dealing with the crowds and with a hungry 8 year old in tow. This kid is in love with Dave & Buster’s. Playing the games there is one of her favorite treats. We don’t take her often, mainly because of the expense. One can easily spend a small fortune in a very short time on the games there. Those guys have a racket going for sure. And they prey on suckers like me, who attempt to score points with his little girl from time to time by lavishing her with enough game time, to earn enough tickets to bring home a large-ish stuffed animal. An afternoon at Dave & Buster’s will usually elicit a “You’re the best Dad ever!” from the mouth of that beautiful little girl, and what Dad can resist that?

This is a ritual now that we’ve created. Little girl and I eat lunch at Dave & Buster’s, then we hit the game room. But with most kids still on Christmas vacation, the joint was packed, and there was a long line of families waiting for tables. So off through the mall we head in search of a not-so-packed restaurant in hopes of eating lunch before it turns into dinner.

Continue reading “Death by Bad Chain Cheeseburger II – I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today”