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turning someone into a chowhound (MSP)

I have this problem where I recently started dating a guy who doesn't care much for food at all. Normally this would be a deal-breaker for me, as I'm almostly completely obssessed about food- but he's a nice guy, so I'm seeing where this goes. The problem is that the only restaurants he likes going to or even knows of are chain restaurants, like Olive Garden, Applebees, Macaroni Grill, etc.

So what would some good restaurants be that are not too 'exotic' and would start expanding his food horizons? I'm thinking maybe Punch, or Kafe 421? any ideas would be greatly appreciated...

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    Hang in there - my Hubby was a bbq chix sandwich/cheeseburger & a lite beer guy when I first met him. At least he prefered Chammps over TGIF or Applebees.

    Now he is a huge food snob and wine snob as well - beyond chowish if you ask me. He got older, wiser and its really nice.

    I think Punch is a great place to start.

    What worked for me is finding places where they had a nice variety of food so he could try something new - even if it was still chicken, or he could revert back to a cheeseburger (or something similar) as well. And I would also have plently of chow worthy items on the menu as well. However, some spots with a mile long menu are too much for the simple guys to handle.

    Just check out the menu beforehand and make sure there are at least 2 items that he would eat - that he can understand etc as well.

    How about....Downtowner woodfire grill? Zelo & its sisters (pizza!) the local? even going to Damico and sons might be another good place to intro him to a "nice" turkey sandwich vs Subway....

    Good luck. It could be a dealbreaker but give the guy a chance!

    1. A place like Campiello could be a nice step up from the olive garden. Definitely not exotic for a real chowhound, but a good way to ease someone in to more interesting food. Better Italian would seem to be a good gateway to me...

      1. What I did long ago was decide to not eat at chain restaurants. I saw what chains were doing to a lot of local businesses, and didn't particularly like it. I figured that if some people could decide not to eat critters, and survive just fine - I could give up chains. It's a similar decision, but a heck of a lot easier (and tastier... mmm.... meat...).

        Ultimately, that's what forced me into my chowhound ways. If I wasn't going to eat at chains, I was going to have to dig deeper for my food. Once I started doing that, I found that the portions were much more normally sized, the quality was better, there was actual atmosphere, and about a zillion other things that are great about eating at local establishments.

        You could make the same sort of decision. It isn't a "You must be a chowhound" edict, or even an intervention. He could keep eating nothing but cheeseburgers for the rest of his life - he could even do that at Applebee's. But, not if he wants you to be there. It isn't much different than if he started dating a vegetarian, or someone who keeps kosher, or has some other dietary needs. You need to adapt a little bit.

        If he's willing to do that, he'll eventually come to appreciate the better food. (And if he won't adapt to your needs, what good is he anyway?) That said, he probably won't really notice the improvement until he goes back to a chain restaurant.

        We recently won a bunch of Applebee's Gift Certificates. Figuring, "It's free... how bad could it be?" we went and tried it. The contrast between Applebee's and the types of places we were used to eating was amazing. The atmosphere was so forced it was disturbing - but not as disturbing as the chicken....

        I'm not even sure how to describe the texture and taste of the chicken that had been "marinated." It was like eating synthetic meat - with all the chemical aftertaste you'd expect. Given the number of people eating chicken, I'm guessing they can get away with this because the customers don't know what chicken SHOULD taste like.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Danny

          take the guy to 112 so at least he can get the cheeseburger and you can have one of their other lovely dishes.

          If it's sportsbar type atmosphere that he is looking for, go to Gabes. Its not the best food, but its pretty good for a sports bar. I like the create your own pizza's. I have heard that the Buffalo chicken sandwich is pretty good.

          Re: the free Appelbee's visit that Danny and I had, it was also disconcerting to notice the amount of weight watchers and "celebrity" inspired dishes. who wants to think about their diet when eating out? I felt so ripped off even though it was free. Never Again!

          1. re: Danny

            I really like Danny's idea. I did something similar, but without as much forethought. Finding local places that serve foods he likes should help make the transition easier. Be aware, he may never come to appreciate what makes non-chain food great. (My family loves the restaurants I pick out for them when they visit, but always default to chains at home. The difference isn't noticeable or important to them.)

            That said - I'd recommend Tavern on Grand. Homey atmosphere and well prepared bar food.

          2. I hesitate to say it but what about bringing him to Salut? We've had hit or miss experiences there but their goal is to cater to people that want to believe they ate at a french restaurant but are sort of scared of the reality of it. I do really love the cornmeal crusted halibut there.

            1. Bring him wherever you want... if you are buying! :o)