The producer pod had an interesting discussion today spurred by my quirky dislike of chain restaurants.
I cannot explain to you the sheer disdain I have for dining establishments of the Applebee's/Outback/Red Lobster variety. The fact of the matter is, if it's a nationwide chain, then I pretty much hate it.
I'll admit, it's a really odd characteristic.
Some people I know - they hate condiments. Others, well they hate seafood. Our likes and dislikes are what define us. They make us unique and they add to the variety that is this great big world.
I suppose part of my anti-chain philosophy developed after growing up in a town that has nary a chain to offer, aside from the two McDonald's sitting along the interstate. My charming New England hometown is chock full of homes that celebrated their 100 year birthdays when George Washington visited to watch Long Island Sound for British ships. In it's fervor to protect posterity, the forefathers of Madison, CT passed laws banning chains and strip malls and the like.
We have a Starbucks and a Dunkin' Donuts (because one can never have too much coffee), but we have to drive 45 minutes away if we want to sink our teeth into anything remotely chain.
Another reason why I hate chain restaurants: the food.
Eating is one of my favorite hobbies. I am passionate about new, unique dining establishments and culinary feats that celebrate the art of all things gourmet. I'm also a big fan of little dives that serve up the best down home cooking this side of the Mississippi.
I love restaurants that strive for creative cooking, no matter the genre of food on the plate, and I tend to think a chain is the last place I'm going to get a chance to try something creative.
You know what I'm talking about. Peppercorn ranch. Rubbery chicken served seven different ways. Marinara blah blah blah.
It's enough to make me want to run off to a Moroccan casbah and eat couscous and cumin flavored lamb skewers.
Wait, that sounds pretty good...
The fact of the matter is, I love eclectic dining spots. I love to support the little guy. I encourage dining in locally owned and operated restaurants that help communities thrive and grow.
Indigo is a great example of an independent, Cincinnati restaurant. Owner Shawn Bleh opened his first location in Hyde Park over 18 years ago. The menu is creative and features some of the best calzones I've ever had. Three years after opening the spot, he decided to branch out to Northern Kentucky. The Fort Mitchell location features the same unique menu that's brought thousands of diners through the door for years.
Sure, I can run down a list of all the shi-shi little guy spots I like. Places like Teak Thai, Beluga, and, yes, even Jeff Ruby's.
But the fact of the matter is, I love lots of low-key little guy restaurants, too. Tucker's in Over-the-Rhine ranks as my #1 spot to have breakfast- their goetta is awesome. So are their french toast and hash browns. I love Allyn's Cafe for it's excellent margaritas and uber-eclectic decor. I think Bangkok Bistro serves up some of the best Thai food I've ever had ( I had the most incredible dish for my birthday that showcased squid and octopus in this complex, spicy sauce), and don't even get me started on the Mad Max burrito at Habanero on Ludlow Ave. in Clifton. The batter-fried tillapia and pineapple salsa is an incredible combination...
I could go on and on, but to continue typing would be sheer torture this close to dinner time.
The point is, I can't really explain why I like indie restaurants. But after reading the above, I suppose I don't have to...