Fake Fun

Last night on our way home from letting some furniture delivery guys into my parents' house in San Marcos, we stopped at T.G.I.Friday's* for dinner. Neither of us had a specific craving for Friday's, it was just on the way and we were hungry. It's going to be a good long while before we return, at least until I forget how sucktastic it is.

We didn't have any of the big chain restaurants in Lawton when I was growing up, so eating at a Chili's, Bennigan's, or the OG** when we were in Dallas or Houston was something of a treat. I remember thinking back then the food was actually good, maybe just because we didn't eat out all that often. Nowadays, Lawton is littered with all the favorites, with Outback Steakhouse, Applebees, and Chili's in the same block. There is even, after 20 years of it's rumored arrival, an Olive Garden.

I haven't been to the Olive Garden in like, forever!

Ryan and I were discussing this as we left the restaurant, that food at chain restaurants used to be grilled/cooked right there in the kitchens as opposed to popping a frozen chicken patty in the microwave***. These days the food has the unique ability to LOOK exactly like the menu pictures, but taste as fresh as a Hot Pocket smothered in Jack Daniel's sauce.

Hoooooooot Pocket!

It's not just the food that screams mediocrity. It's all about fake fun. Fake fun is a term we in the Steans family started using a few years ago to describe the methods used to convince people they are having a GOOD TIME. Fake fun is obnoxious waiters who chummily slide next to you in your booth to take your order. Fake fun is wall flair: random objects barfed up on the walls intended to look like priceless artifacts from American culture but whose mass construction in a warehouse somewhere couldn't make them less original. Fake fun is the bland Clear Channel pop wrestling for your attention with the 15 TVs hanging over the bar.

wall flair

I have no question as to the motivation of fake fun tactics. But don't try to make me think your establishment is unique and wacky by throwing giant pool balls on the walls. And for God's sake, try a little harder on the food. That was gross.

*Emphasizing my point, I chose not to link to the Friday's site due to the blaring 'good times' music
**ditto for Olive Garden
***I have no evidence of microwaved food, but I am highly suspicious


Steven said…
I seem to recall a recent visit to the OG where you, your SO, your SO's genetic poolmate and my SO were all present?

Or did fake famiglia not etch itself into your memory indelibly enough?
mcsteans said…
Steven -- one of my favorite episodes of Clone High
J.S. said…
Right there with you. But if you let enough time pass, you'll slowly forget why you didn't like Friday's (or insert fungible chain restaurant name). Eventually you'll forget why you didn't like it and then you're sucked back in.

Incidentally, I'm happy to join you on a quest to find good, non-chain restaurants around Austin (or at least not big, national chains). It's good for local business, and it'll be fun for us!
The League said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
The League said…
Sorry for removing comment. Too many type-o's.

I confess to a certain liking of the OG. I can't say no to breadsticks and salad. And its hard to go wrong with their basics. I just don't get why its always so crowded.

Or why there aren't really that many other options for spaghetti that aren't a huge chain like Carrabba's, Macaroni Grill, etc...

The beauty of the OG is that if you don't have much of a wait, you add friends and booze and really soak in the delightful Italian stereotype, its a good time.

As per TGI Friday's: My entree at Fridays was a pair of chicken breasts, which were pretty clearly formerly frozen, and pretty clearly NOT actually grilled in order to be cooked. I cook chicken at home. I know what the hell grilled chicken looks, smells and tastes like. This met none of those qualifications. I have no idea how they were actually prepared.

Honestly, I'm not sure it was a natural chicken breast at all. It seemed to have no texture, like the meat in a McNugget.
J.S. said…
There aren't actually all that many places who truly grill their food. You kind of have to look for them.
The League said…
That may be so, but if you're selling me BBQ, don't try to fake it. I ordered the chicken off "The Jack Daniel's Grill" section of the menu, which i would have assumed meant the chicken was grilled.
Anonymous said…
I think they have a grill-looking branding iron in the back that they use to stamp the meat before sending it out. Pretty sure that was what happened to your chicken.
mcsteans said…
It's like the 'rib shape' cookie cutter for the McRib.
Anonymous said…
That's what they do at Burger King. They paint on the grill stripes.
Anonymous said…
"I haven't been to the Olive Garden in like FOREVER!!"
mcsteans said…
Actually, we went to the Olive Garden, like, last night. They were having their neverending pasta bowl (which none of us made it past the first bowl), and I had 2 bowls of salad, 2 breadsticks, and almost an entire bowl of pasta. Bleargh.
Anonymous said…
Sucktastic - I love it! I think you may have just invented my new favorite word!

I was considering a career switch. How much do you think one earns to be an "Interior Flair Decorator" for these chains?
Ellen said…
recently, I went to Red Lobster twice in the same week.
mcsteans said…
I applaud your bravery in admitting that, Ellen :)

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