I am vehemently opposed to national chain restaurants, so it suits me just fine that we live in a region where franchises mostly dare not tread. That leaves us going to lots and lots of family-owned restaurants and diners. The kind with hand-made signs in the bathroom, inconsistent offerings, and smoke-smelling waitresses, but really, really good pizza.
So it was pretty darn random that I inexplicably got the urge to try out, of all places, a RED LOBSTER restaurant in the vast strip mall of a town known as Vestal, New York.
We walked in the newly-remodeled space and I hit the ladies room. Was that . . . GRANITE counter tops? SO FANCY! I haven't seen granite since . . . before I moved here? OK, maybe once. Literally. And what's this? PROPER facilities that are actually code-compliant? And not a handwritten sign in sight. Amazing.
A look around the joint and I continued to be impressed. FOUR flat screen TVs, brand new nice wooden bar with brass details and everything (do I sound like a hick yet???)
As always with the ultra-American places (Applebee's anyone?), I was horrified by the blatant ways in which they brainwash you into buying the greasiest stuff (see the photo where I am commanded to "Taste the Possibilities" followed by larger-than-life photos of shiny, greasy, cheesy (and therefore tasty) food.
Another case in point: these biscuits. They can't just give you normal bread, they have to give you Bisquicky biscuits. But not just any Bisquicky biscuits- these are actually infused with cheese so they slide right down the gullet . . . I won't hide the fact that I consumed an entire one ("research for my blog," I reasoned).
When I told people at work that I'd ventured to Red Lobster, I was told that it had the best fish in town. This is probably a true statement, since there is virtually NO fish in town. And at nearly $50 (including tip) for the two of us, it cost about double what we'd normally pay for dinner out.
What did we order? We ran with the program and started off with some Cheese/Spinach/Lobster dip that inexplicably came with tortilla chips and salsa. But not just any chips- these were so super-infused with oil that I literally started to dab them with my napkin to get at the grease. No use, of course, that would defeat the purpose.
p.s. Gov. Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation, similar to new legislation in the City of Los Angeles, that will require restaurants with more than 20 (? I think?) outlets to post calorie and nutrition information. Normally I'm against putting more layers of bureaucracy on business, but man, this obesity thing is out of control and with restaurants like this, that are so expert at shoveling greasy fried stuff down hungry throats . . . one can only help that an informed public will make better choices and not pop down all those fried shrimp with tartar sauce, like I did!