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Eating with Non-CH's

I was posting in another board about "foodie vacations" when I was reminded of an experience I had on a business trip last year:

I travel fairly frequently for work. While I am not a big fan of WORK travel, I do try to reap the benefits of trying out new foods in the location I am at. Last year I travelled to Wichita, Kansas for an audit. Not exactly my first choice but hey, I thought I could get to try some good BBQ. On our first night our audit leader was asking where we all wanted to eat dinner and he mentioned that there was an Olive Garden close by. The look on my face must have been classic. First of all, I wont even eat at an Olive Garden at home - I mean, come on, really? Who eats there? I'm sorry if I've offended any OG lovers but I just can't stomach the place. And second, we're in the midwest! Let's try something we can't get at HOME! No chains, please!!!

We finally ended up at a local brewpub which was actually pretty good - thanks to some quick internet searching on my part. The next night my friend (who loves to try new food too) and I decided we'd go out on our own for dinner and tried a local steak and chop house which was excellent. Definitely the type of experience I look for when in a new locale.

The last night our "hosts" (ie. the locals) decided they were taking us all out to dinner. What did they pick??? No, not OG......but Texas RoadHouse. There are no words....

Is this seriously the type of place the locals should be picking for a group of out of towners? I had no choice - I had to go. I tried to play it safe by ordering some chicken dish. No dice. Everything was so salty I couldn't eat. My dinner consisted of the cornbread that was served and plenty of alcoholic beverages. Most of the others in our party ordered various steaks. The weird part? They raved! To me, all of the steaks looked thin, dried out and overcooked. I guess I must be a steak snob because I will only order a steak at a high end steakhouse or simply buy a nice cut of meat and make it at home.

So have any of you had similar experiences with non-chowhounders and being forced to eat at a restaurant you can't stomach? I'd love to hear what happened and how you handled it! :)

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  1. I've been going on business trips to the San Francisco area for the past two months with my boss and my boss's boss.
    The boss's boss keeps taking us to TGIFridays. Blech. I have yet to find anything I like there, and I've been there more times than I can count. But, he's the "big man" so I go along with it.
    Last week, I got stranded there for three extra days when flights to D/FW airport were cancelled due to weather. On my own I found Korean, Sushi, Afghani and Greek local places that are wonderful.
    Next trip, I'm suggesting the Greek place for dinner. I'll probably get shot down in favor of TGI, but I have to try. There's only so much TGI a girl can take!

    2 Replies
    1. re: QueenB

      Oh Queen, I feel for you. I can't imagine being in the Bay area and having to eat at TGI Fridays. I have family that live in Redwood City so it is always a culinary adventure when I go. I hope you can convince the bosses to try someting new! :)

      1. re: QueenB

        Now that's just criminal - but I am prejudiced as I live in SF. What does the big boss like/order at TGI Friday? Maybe we in SF can think of a place that offers the same dish, but actually edible! I'm endlessly amazed at people flocking into horrid chains when they visit SF, but I guess there is comfort in familiarity!

      2. heeehee, I consider myself a foodie, but there are have been a few times when I have suggested going to OG while travelling on businesss. The nostalgia cracks me up and we don't have them in Toronto anymore. Sometimes my travelling companions even indulge me and we get to go

        8 Replies
        1. re: orangewasabi

          scorp, what are you on about? QB got three extra days in SF--more than makes up for some TGIF suffering.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Sam, I guess I am not sure where you are coming from. I was just telling her that I felt for her that she had to keep going to TGIF. I'm glad she had 3 days on her own to experiment and find new places. I was only hoping she could convince her bosses to try something new. It sounds like she is there fairly frequently so it would be nice to try even more of the many wonderful restaurants SF has to offer.

            1. re: scorpioscuba

              I doubt I'll get them to try something new. The big man is pretty stuck in his ways and doesn't have an adventurous palate. However, now that I know some of what is around, I'll start throwing out suggestions.
              Thanks for your sympathy...TGI bites the big one no matter what town you're in!

              1. re: QueenB

                scuba, you and I are on the same page. Just that I would have put up with the Hell of TGIF with the boss in exchange for those three extra days alone in the Heaven of SF.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Too bad there isn't a Cracker Barrel out there

                  1. re: kimberlya

                    I was just thinking about Cracker Barrel the last time I read this thread. I think I posted something about telling my traveling companions "no chain restaurants," but I'm actually open to chains that are not in my region, like CB, which I really really like.

                    1. re: boltnut55

                      Have to admit that I to have a weakness for Cracker Barrel. But I've only gone after a long day on I95 down to Florida and too tired to look around for somewhere else.


                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Oh my, Sam. Those three days were just amazing. Eating-wise, that is.
                    (that doesn't really sound right, does it...I'm going to give people the wrong idea)

          2. My boyfriend and I were visiting his dad and step mother in Boston. The step-mother works in Cambridge. One day we went to meet her for lunch. She works in a building that happens to have a Mall in it. So where did we have lunch? In the Mall Food Court! I'm not kidding. We are in the middle of Cambridge, MA. We were surrounded by lots of cool little ethnic cafes. And we had to eat in the food court.
            I have been told that the step-mother has issues with food. But this has never really been explained.
            I wonder what she really thought of all the food I cooked while we were staying with them!

            1. If I'm really stuck and can't make the pendulum swing my way, I order several drinks and by the end of the meal, I don't much care.

              1. You've named the places you didn't like and skipped the names of the place you did like. Add the places you found that were good so others can follow.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ccbweb

                  Excellent point! Thanks for waking me up - I was so focused on the bad and didn't focus on the good. The "brewpub" we went to was the Red Rock Canyon Grill and for dinner, my friend and I went to Chester's Chop House and Wine Bar.

                2. This is a funny thread. Years ago I was on a job in Kokomo. As it stretched out a little, my boss called and suggested I take the client out to dinner. We drove down to a fairly new and upscale place in Indianapolis and had a reasonable dinner. As the job stretched on a little longer, the client decided to reciprocate. He had a coupon, so we went to Long John Silver.

                  1. I'm about to experience the same thing. The corporate bigwigs are coming to town and want to take the local team to dinner. I'm in a place where there are many wonderful locally-owned options, and I suggested a few. Got shot down in favor of the dark steakhouse that hasn't been renovated since the 70s. So I can get an OK steak or fried seafood. Ugh.

                    And my dad doesn't do small and local. Only major American chains like Applebees.

                    1. welcome to the midwest...i grew up with it! larger cities are getting better all the time, and even small towns are better than they used to be

                      but to each his own, eh? there's always something you can eat everywhere, whether it be a bunch of bread or plain pasta or salad. actually, in many cases, dried pasta is better anyways. pasta and red sauce...

                      i try to be understanding when i go home. otherwise, it's too easy to come off as being a total snob. not every dining experience can be a major gastronomic event, right? heh.

                      1. "our audit leader was asking where we all wanted to eat dinner and he mentioned that there was an Olive Garden close by...we finally ended up..."

                        This is a really common problem. After a long day, everybody is in a strange city and has no idea what their options are. They're a little hesitant to go too far from the hotel. Nobody wants to take responsibility for making a decision - especially a bad one for everybody else. So somebody comes up with the first boring safe choice that pops into their head and nobody has a better idea.
                        If you don't want this to happen again and again, you have to step into that leadership gap.
                        For your next trip, find out some options ahead of time. You generally can't push a group too far so forget most ethnic adventures. Some of your colleagues will feel the same about those as you do about the Olive Garden.
                        But every town has something that they're known for, or an old restaurant that might be sort of special or famous, even if it's a little hokey but fun. Call ahead to the people you'll be working with. Where do they eat for fun, for special occasions? Call the sales staff at the hotel. Hit the internet and the archives for reviews from the local newspaper. The chamber of commerce. AAA. Keep asking and you'll get some good answers from the locals.
                        I've done this before and made a list of suggestions that I could give to my colleagues, including the type of food the places had, price ranges, how far from the hotel they were and how we could get there. If I found reviews, I included those too. Make it close to a no-brainer. Sometimes, I got a bunch of people who were ready to go. Others were just as happy to have room service or go to a nearby Applebee's. At least we didn't stand around in the hotel lobby with our fingers in our ears waiting for somebody to come up with an idea. And I got to eat at some terrific places all over America and in a few foreign countries.
                        Somebody just has to have a list of good suggestions when everybody's wandering in the desert...

                        Of course when the Big Boss or the Client is in charge, there's always the bread basket and room service later.

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: MakingSense

                          ...or take-out pizza. No room service in a cheap motel.

                          I'm going to throw out more suggestions next time, especially because I'm more familiar with the area now.

                          1. re: QueenB

                            Get really organized. Whip a printed list out of your pocket with names and addresses of restaurants and a little bit about them. People are visual. You know how hard it is when a waiter rattles off the specials at a restaurant? Then suggest that "we all try this one tonight because it's easy to get to..." Sighs of relief. Just make sure that it's going to be pretty generally acceptable price-wise and not edgy. Pretty soon they'll start to trust you and you can add a few adventurous selections.
                            After I did this for awhile, my colleagues started asking me before trips where we were going to eat. Some of them started adding suggestions they got in advance of the trips. Everybody likes good food and a little adventure. They're just not good at finding it in unfamiliar surroundings so put your skills to work. Just keep in mind that everybody in a work situation isn't a Chowhound so you have to moderate your tastes somewhat. Make sure the list includes some "safes" for those who want to stay behind the safari.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              A small addition, if I may.
                              "names and addresses of restaurants and a little bit about them"
                              A Mapquest map is a great "visual aid" also.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                I agree. Whenever I am going to a place I'm not familiar with, I would always do some research and note down important details such as restaurants, hotels, airports, and shops among others. And in instances that I happen to be in a restaurant that I am not familiar with, I would go for something safe.

                                But for what I know of, it's not that hard to find your own choice of food in most cities. Unless, you are in a country where food is really different, like in most countries in Asia.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  "Everyone likes good food and a little adventure."

                                  Sadly, I do not think this is true. Some people like the bland reliability of the Olive Garden and have no sense of culinary adventure. I think it's a great idea to have a few local suggestions on hand, but there really are some folks who will choose The Cheesecake Factory. And if one of them is the boss... sigh.

                                  1. re: Rabbit

                                    This is so true(that the quote is not true)...some people think that "good" Italian food = Olive Garden. Although as long as the food isn't too spicy, I've found that a lot of OG lovers will also enjoy other types of restaurants, they just will not seek them out. I have a friend who is like this and she will agree to most places I suggest, as long as the food isn't terribly spicy.

                              2. re: MakingSense

                                The long day, strange city thing can jump up and get most anyone. My wife and I, on one of our exceedingly frequent cross country treks in the last several years stopped for the night in, I believe, Lincoln, NE. After we found our hotel, which proved quite difficult and got checked in it was about 9:45pm. We didn't have the first clue about where to find food but trudged out to the car to go in search; right as we reached the car we both looked up and there was the neon Applebee's sign. Just across the street and through the parking lot. We looked at each other and the thoughts were immediate "we won't get lost and they have drinks."

                                I actually have very fond memories of our meal at that Applebee's.

                                But MakingSense (as is often the case) does just that and I can't second the suggestion enough to make a list ahead of time and circulate it. In my experience, fabulous sounding desserts will move a group; ie, that mile high chocolate turtle fudge pie (or whatever) will get people excited and they'll be willing to go where ever you suggest if they can get it.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Excellent suggestion. When you don't really know what's around, the safest thing to do is to suggest the Applebee's, Denny's, Olive Garden, or TGIF. Generally, it's American food (safe because ethnic isn't - someone may not like or won't try ____ ) or everyday food at least. Also, the boss' job isn't to spend time looking for three restaurants to go to at the next assignment - it's what his/her job is supposed to be, and to many bosses, food is the last thing on their minds. Not justifying but maybe explaining.

                                  I'm not much of a CH by comparison, but when I travel w/others, my loudly stated criteria is "no chain restaurant" because it forces others to think try a little harder at making suggestions and looking at restaurant signs while we're driving around.

                                  1. re: boltnut55

                                    I just wish he'd have more of an open mind. The second trip out there, I threw out some suggestions, and promptly got shot down in favor for TGI.
                                    Ah well, it's only a few meals out of my life.
                                    I'll try again next time, but I doubt I'll get anywhere...

                                    1. re: QueenB

                                      QB, you have got to get this guy out of his rut. Maybe you can play to his ego.
                                      I can't remember eating at TGIF but I think it's a burger chain. Why don't you find a great local place very close by the TGIF and your hotel that has great burgers. There must be a really good one. Tell him that you understand that "this is where the local business executives go" instead of TGIF because it's more exclusive, has terrific burgers, and they like the atmosphere better for conducting business. Maybe he'll think he's in the know and part of the upper echelon of the business community.
                                      Most cities have places that offer good burgers, steaks, etc. in addition to fairly wide menus of other things. It could get to be his new favorite place and you would at least have more options in a non-chain setting. They probably have better wine, too.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        I think this idea of thowing out suggestions that have a similar type of food (but better prepared) makes sense, MakingSense :-) and might be more likely to yield results than suggesting something less familiar (such as Greek)....

                                        The 'be prepared' approach does work. When I knew I would have to do a business dinner with a group of my coworkers, some of whom are a little fussy and not hounds, in Toronto last year, I asked for suggestions on the Toronto boards, and then actually made the reservation at my place of choice (and then sent an email to the group with the time/date of said reservation pointing out that it would be good to not have to worry about where to go at the last minute, a concept that pleased the boss!). Food was excellent, and everyone thought I was a genius ("this was so much fun: how did you find this place?").

                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                    This happens EVERY time we go away on vacation. Where do we eat? We drive around for an hour or more looking for someplace satisfactory for both of us.
                                    "Too seedy"
                                    "Too fancy looking"
                                    "Too rowdy bar looking"
                                    "Not enough cars in the parking lot"
                                    "Too crowded"
                                    "What could they possibly serve in a place looking like that?"
                                    "Looks like bad italian"
                                    "Place smells too fishy"
                                    "I dont want a hamburger"
                                    "Looks too dark ... closed?"
                                    "Nothing edible could come out of that!"
                                    "Tables too close together"
                                    "Over my dead body"
                                    "Do you know what to order in an Ethiopian restaurant?"
                                    "Too difficult to turn around and go over there"
                                    "Hurry up and find someplace"
                                    "Too expensive looking"
                                    "Does it look like they serve chicken noodle soup?"
                                    "Dont trust the valet"
                                    "Take me back to the hotel!"

                                    Usually we are too hungry and tired to fight it and we do a chain.

                                    1. re: tom porc

                                      This list of quotes reminded me of one of my favorite T-Shirts from a (non-chain, local) joint in Charlottesville, VA called "Continental Divide" which is known in equal parts for spectacular margaritas, lengthy tequila list, good Mexican influenced eats and tiny, cramped space. They have T-Shirts that read: "Too Small? Too Noisy? Too Crowded? Too Bad."

                                      It would be overbearing except that they're all so nice and if you go early its just not that bad. And, well, people like the place so there's not much they can do about it!

                                      1. re: tom porc

                                        Tom, it is is very hard to find good food wandering in the Interstate desert. You have to plan ahead. Try scheduling your meals around restaurants you learn about from Chowhound or other sources. You can have a great lunch as your main meal of the day and then pick up things for supper at a farm stand for supper in your room. Lots of motels have simple kitchen. Or eat an early dinner at a great place and then drive a few more hours before stopping for the night. A detour for good food can be the highlight of trip.
                                        The most unlikely looking places in the most bizarre locations have some of the best food in America. If you're out of your element, it's not easy to find them on your own. Do your homework and plan your trip around them. The rewards are great.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          We try to plan ahead but things dont always work out. What sounds good in the local newspaper, magazine or tourist guide may not appeal to us for one of the reasons quoted previously. Most commonly the seating is too close for our comfort. Too crowded with long wait, too expensive, etc are things we have to determine when we arrive at the restaurant and then we have to find someplace else. Of course, our second choice is miles away and we then settle for a chain on the way back to hotel.
                                          We have the hardest time in resort areas trying to avoid the tourist traps. The above quotes were on our last visit to Myrtle Beach and Orlando.

                                          1. re: tom porc

                                            Tom, Tom, Tom. Start using CH more and trust your research. You are judging books by their covers. Every one of us has said the same things about places that you said about the places you rejected. Sure, they often don't look like we expected but that doesn't mean that they might not have good food inside. The difference is we took chances and that's why they were recommended.
                                            Look at a place like Galatoire's in New Orleans - a total classic. On crummy tourist-filled Bourbon Street. The tables are close together, expensive (worth it), crowded, no reservations, long wait in line - the Governor of the State waits in line with everybody else, from outside it doesn't look like anything at all, you have no idea what to order, no parking lot and they don't stamp your parking lot ticket. So you're going to go the McDonald's on Canal Street?
                                            Sometimes what you call a tourist trap is THE place to eat in town. The locals love it and the tourist go because it's great. The specialty is really special. So it's packed. The place is hokey-looking, noisy and the tables are close together. It isn't cheap. Are you going to miss out on that and hit a chain?
                                            Faith. At some point you just have to trust. Close your eyes and jump off the cliff. Eat at the place you heard about on CH whatever it looks like. A little out of your comfort zone. The reward is no more chain restaurant food.
                                            We can only help you so far, Tom.

                                        2. re: tom porc

                                          This is exactly what Chowhound is for. Indeed, I first started using CH when I was searching for places for hubby and I to eat on vacation in an area of Los Angeles I don't know well....

                                        3. re: MakingSense

                                          I totally agree about having to do research ahead of time. Unfortunately, I'm lately one of those last-minute twenty-somethings. Whenever we go on a family trip, my mom tries to ask us well in advance to read the guidebooks, do our research, give her our input, and we always say we want to be spontaneous. Then, we get there, and she has this out of the way place picked out that we would have NEVER found on our own without research, and I am so grateful she looked into it in advance ;)

                                        4. Hey at least you have a fellow food seeker...not to be too harsh. I've had places picked with work and my attitude is "well at least I'm not buying so count it as free."

                                          On other hand, I remember being on site and having to eat lunch with a guy I didn't know (both new) and doing the "where do you want to eat" thing. I can't remember who asked first but there was a bit of tension. After some mention of safe places, someone sort of made a face like bleeck. Then it went something like:

                                          "remember that taco truck back there?"
                                          "Yeah." "Want to go?"
                                          "Yeah, I thought you'd freak out if I said something."
                                          "Oh no...no way. Lets go."
                                          "Really? Cool."

                                          Instant friendship.

                                          1. Our daughter worked as a server in a Texas Roadhouse during summer break last year where she goes to school. I asked her how that was going and she answered "Fine, except their food sucks. It's pretty bad when I can get a better steak at home than I can in a supposed steak house" (picture me beaming).

                                            My brother is a well educated professional guy who lives in the Bay area - once when we were visiting he asked if we'd like to go out for "Italian" and I thought "Great!". Guess what his idea of "Italian" was? Olive Garden. I can't say it was bad because it was tolerable, but why waste your money on that when you could spend the same amount for good Italian food.

                                            A comment on Pizza Hut in another country - we go to Cozumel, MX every couple of years and when Pizza Hut opened there as the first chain restaurant on the island it was an instant hit - with the local folks. They love pizza.

                                            18 Replies
                                            1. re: scotth

                                              I ate at the Pizza Hut in Amman Jordan (which is not surprisingly located directly across from the main gate of the University of Jordan). My excuse is that I was with my daughter, who was a student there and a bit homesick....it actually wasn't bad. and was very popular, despite not being cheap by local standards. But then, we were in the country for a while (she was there for quite a while). In Paris, however, I would draw the line....

                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                When I was in Dublin the summer after I graduated from high school, a couple of the people I was with wanted to go to McDonald's in O'Connell Street. WTH? I wouldn't go in.

                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                  Funny you should say that. When I first saw this post I was reminded of a story my boss tells, (Over and over again) about his Brother and sister in law. They planned their frist trip to Paris and picked their hotel because of its location which was next to a McDonalds. They said they wanted to stay there because they were going to be in a strange country and they needed to eat! Every time I hear that story it is like a dagger in my heart.

                                                  1. re: bubbles4me

                                                    Time and place for everything. Last year I got a cry for help via Blackberry from my older daughter, standing on a street corner in Shanghai. She'd been hiking in the Yellow Mountains for days and had eaten at Jean-Georges the night before and her tummy had had enough. "Help, Mom!" I sent back quick directions from her location to the nearest McD's and instructions to get some of the same Chinese chicken soup that had soothed her younger sister's traveler's tummy the year before. The next morning she was back to eating her way through China.
                                                    All international branches of McD's add local items to their menus and that chicken soup in Shanghai was a welcome relief for both my daughters. It's kind of fun to see what they offer. Borscht in Russia. Always free clean bathrooms in a pinch.

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      In that situation I can see it but these people ate nothing but McD's during their trip but they are not really into food so to each their own.

                                                      1. re: bubbles4me

                                                        Professionally, I work with foreign groups who come to the US and we make arrangements for them here. We absolutely bend over backwards to give them the best of the best. You can't believe what pains in the ass some of them can be. And I'm talking about educated, generally well-connected foreign citizens who are sent by their governments or companies for some special program in the US - not bumpkins. I get special needs ahead of time (allergies, religious food guideline, etc.) and always have Plans B through Q and Z. It's never enough when people are just looking to be picky. Some folks are just going to want what they are used to eating and that's that. There are times when I think they should just stay home or do what Sam's Filapinas did - carry some Vienna sausages along.

                                                    2. re: bubbles4me

                                                      Well, I may have mentioned this before: I was once in India where we were all eating Indian food (what else!) at a reserch institute cafeteria. Wonderful. Some of the filipina training staff brought with them from the Philippines canned vienna sausages, canned pork and beans, ...

                                                      1. re: bubbles4me

                                                        One of my coworkers went to Paris for a week, and after she came back she was talking about where she'd been, what she did, and someone asked, "But what did you eat??" and she said, "Oh, I don't know. We found a place near the hotel that had hamburgers and pizza, so we went there every night."
                                                        The room got very quiet....

                                                        1. re: bubbles4me

                                                          When I was at uni in London, a good friend of mine was working in Paris, and I actually have some very fond memories of Paris McDonald's. We were typical broke college kids, and drinking at nightclubs or bars could get quite expensive, so we'd usually stop at McDonald's for beer and French fries with that mayonnaise-type stuff that they serve.

                                                      2. re: scotth

                                                        When we were in Paris this last winter there was a McDonald's practically next door to our apartment. It was packed every night, btw, with locals. Now, I never stepped foot in the place, but my sons and one son's girlfriend went several times when they were hungry for breakfast and hubbie and I were sleeping in.....Now, they SWEAR that the egg McMuffins there were better than in the states. I decided that on general principles I would NOT test their theory (even though Egg McMuffins are the only McDonalds' food I eat....)

                                                        1. re: janetofreno

                                                          I had a similar experience in Paris. McDs crowded. Cafes and restaurants vacant. The locals knew they were for tourists with poor quality food. I asked a tour guide and he said many Parisians cant afford or dont have the time to go to a good restaurant for lunch/dinner which will take 2 -3 hours. Neither could we. I could visit the Louvre or have lunch. No time for both. So I grabbed something from a stand and went to see Mona. Sadly, some of the worst food I ever had was in Paris.

                                                          1. re: tom porc

                                                            I'd rather eat in Paris than see the Mona Lisa... :-)

                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                              Agreed. Part of the experience of going to different places is enjoying the food..and those long lunches are definitely part of it! I'm planning a trip to Spain in six months, and one of the first things DH asked me to do was to go on chowhound and look for restaurant recommendations!! We are much more interested in where we eat than in where we stay.....

                                                              BTW, the McDonalds near our apartment in Paris WAS always crowded with locals, but so were many of the local cafes. I didn't mean to imply that locals were choosing McD's OVER local cafes, only that locals seemed to like McDs. And so did my kids...who ate there more in one week than they typically would at a McDs here in three months......We also ate at much nicer and more local places, obviously, and enjoyed several long lunches and dinners. The kids started to choose McDonalds for breakfast because DH and I were sleeping in a lot and because I was the only one in our group who even spoke a word or two of French. They figured they could go there and not worry about what they were receiving when they ordered. When they discovered the quality of the ham and eggs in their egg McMuffins was much better than home, they started to make it a regular habit.....

                                                              (McDonald's may be McDonalds anywhere in the world, but it seems the US is the champ of pumping its eggs and meats so full of additives and junk that they actually taste different than they do overseas....)

                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                Me too. But I have to admit, at 17 MacDo's was a good find - because they serve beer! (Ahh the years of underage drinking...)

                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                  do both. there are TONS of cafes near Louvre for a quick bite. Turn your nose on high and find one. McD's in Paris? Are you kidding. A beautiful piece of bread with a slice or two of ham and a slice of gruyere. SOme sparkling water and back to the Louvre. Say a passing hello to ML and go to the other rooms and then choose a little cafe for dinner. If you can't find good food in Paris, well, je ne comprend pas.

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    Dont worry I didnt eat McDs in Paris or anywhere else. Mostly store front counters and cafes but overall thought the food was just .... blah. It was probably where and what I chose to eat. I didnt go to Paris for the food anyway. I thought the food in the south of France was better. More spicy and fresh. Perhaps it was the Mediterranean influence.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      You mean, "jfood ne comprend pas."

                                                                      I ate @ Mickey D when I was in Paris. It was after a long day at the museums, I was suffering from jet lag, and I just wanted to hit the sack at eight in the evening. The McD was only a block away from my 2-star hotel (which only served continental breakfast), and I didn't want a sit-down affair that I couldn't fully enjoy, so there I was chomping away at Chicken Mcnuggets in the Latin Quarter.

                                                                  2. re: tom porc

                                                                    When in Paris on a budget, the bistro is your friend. I've eaten great there for very little money, but you really have to do your research to find the right places. And Paris has divine Lebanese food that can be eaten very cheaply.

                                                                    Back to the original topic, I try to take the initiative and do research before a business trip, so I'm not stuck asking for recommendations.

                                                              2. I was in Wichita the end of May and went out to eat with my sister, her husband and kids, and her inlaws. The in-laws were paying, so I wouldn't have complained, ever. They're from out of town and only ever want to go to this yuppified Mexican place way out on the east side of town in a strip mall. So we went there. It was just okay, especially since I know of a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place closer to downtown that's really, really good.

                                                                And if someone suggests Olive Garden if you're there again, here's a counter-suggestion for you: DeFazio's. That was one of my favorites when I lived there, but that's been a long time ago now. So I didn't know if it was still there or still any good, but a friend of mine says it is still there and is better now even than it used to be.

                                                                1. I've experienced this dilemma a couple of times w/ guys I'm dating, more specifically; their families. I come from a family of CH's, who are always looking for hole-in-the-wall and small local places to support. And, i guess, Down Under we really don't have a plethora of chain restaurants. Sure we have McD's and KFC, and there used to be a LoneStar Steakhouse, but certainly not the RedLobster/Olive Garden/Applebees of here. The first time I met my ex's family, we went to an Applebees. I was so appalled that I've never voluntarily gone back! Once I realised that this was my fate in this family of nonCH's.i did as someone mentioned and took the proactive approach. I figured out how far they'd go for adventurous eating and started doing major research so that when we did go out for family dinners, i was able to throw out several non-chain suggestions w/in a reasonable pricepoint. Of course, now he's my ex and i'm finding the same issue w/ my new beau's family, it's a tough sell but it sure beats the heck out of TGIF -4-eva!

                                                                  1. My in-laws live in Iowa and always insist on taking us for Mexican food when we're in town. Which is fine and it's actually pretty decent Tex-Mex. Except for one tiny little detail. We live in Texas and I can walk to about 4 really good non-chain places.

                                                                    Oh well. At least they have margaritas.

                                                                    I've eaten at my share of chains while traveling if for no other reason than I don't have to think after a long day of work at someplace away from home. And I have to admit that, after being in Belgium for ten days shortly after discovering I was pregnant, we passed a McDonald's in Brussels and I HAD to have fries. I still remember how good those fries were. Especially when followed by a waffle from a street stand ;>

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: dalaimama

                                                                      OK, this one baffles me given the number of frite kots in the area. If I wanted frites, I would have head over to the place on the Bourse- places to sit and lovely snacks. But as everyone has been saying here, to each their own-- plus no accounting for pregancy cravings.

                                                                      I will also say that all the Paris visitors who champion McD (not Quick?) over other places for the convenience seem to be closing their eyes to the numbers of sandwich places. I understand exhaustion and convenience (one night in Prague, I was so spent, I finished with crocodile sandwiches in my hotel room) but I would opt for trying the other stuff first.

                                                                      Then again, I didn't eat McDonalds when I lived in the states either (too many other options in NYC to be worthwhile-- a quarterpounder instead of a banh mi?). I suppose I just lost a taste for it, so it has never seemed like a viable option-- not out of principle, but out of habit.

                                                                    2. Back when I was a part of corporate America and traveled with the unadventurous, I would excuse myself from their dinners by saying that I promised a friend that I would try a special place while I was in this town and report back on it.

                                                                      Your fellow chowhounds will be your friends and you can promise us you will go to a great BBQ place next time and even write a full report.

                                                                      By evening I needed a meal alone. I guess that's why I'm no longer in corporate America. Too little tolerance for traveling with co-workers.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: BostonZest

                                                                        "By evening I needed a meal alone. I guess that's why I'm no longer in corporate America. Too little tolerance for traveling with co-workers."

                                                                        One of the fun things when I was "traveling on the company" was that we got to have breakfast together, lunch with the client, and the high point of the evening was "What time are we getting together for supper?"

                                                                      2. Most of the time I agree that local is better than a chain. A few years ago we retired early and built a home in central Mexico. We still have a place in Denver and drive up several times a year.
                                                                        Where we live in Mexico, it's all local fare or home cooking. 99% of the cooking is "Mexican", but not the kind we grew up with. When we drive up, DH insists that we leave at 4:00am so that we can reach Eagle Pass, Tx. by suppertime. We wants to eat at Fuddruckers, a Louisiana/Texas/Colorado hamburger chain. The food is good, consistant and familiar. By the time we reach Denver, DH is chained out and we eat at the little, family-owned/operated restaurants that we love. BTW, our favorite is a little Mexican restaurant.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Pampatz

                                                                          Actually, Fuddrucker's is a national chain. They're owned by the same folks that own Koo Koo Roo and there are locations in almost every state.

                                                                        2. Ouch- it's hard to soar with the eagles when you work with turkeys.

                                                                          Last year I went to visit a friend in Florida, expecting to get some good seafood, see some great Caribbean diversity and food... ended up at Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden and similar other chains, with all the other fifty gabillion middle-aged white people that are there. I should have known, she's not what you call an epicure and was in the middle of an alcoholic decline to boot, but the ONLY decent meal I had there was the rock shrimp at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville.

                                                                          I just thought of something- maybe they were punishing you for being an auditor?

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                                                            Hmmm....thats a good point EWS! I'm getting ready to go on another audit (not my normal job but where I work we all have to do at least one a year) in Portland, Oregon at the end of the month. My friend and I decided we are leaving the Friday before we have to get there so we can go and experience Portland our way. Then maybe if we end up in some not so CH friendly places we won't mind as much. I will be doing my research though and I'll be popping in on those Portland boards real soon! :)

                                                                          2. I was recently taken to the cheesecake factory by my brother's friends for his graduation party in LA. Ughh. Ordered the gumbo which basically looked like a stir-fry. Dry, over salted and overcooked chicken and shrimp with bell peppers (no okra). No Roux in sight! Uggggh! I can't say it enough. This was after we waited 45 minutes (10 pm on a saturday night). I couldn't complain, though because the night was about my brother, not me. The only redeeming part was the cocktail.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: kayonyc

                                                                              I might be in the minority here but I really do like Cheesecake Factory! Maybe it's because the portions are so huge that I'm guarenteed a lot of leftovers....and I also know what to order. (I admit that it's definitely trial and error). I either choose things that I know I will not be disappointed if it is not authentic- for example, the chicken terriyaki or one of their hybrid superhuman salads. I also appreciate that there are no singing waiters (at least I've been lucky so far if they do do that! Fridays always sends evil shivers down my spine when someone is having a b-day) and I can ask for extra cherries in my diet coke and I get a ton without complaints. (Just try doing that in a non-chain restaurant:} )

                                                                              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                My cousin, who's a chef, took me to the cheesecake factory in Omaha awhile back. He'd been there for their "VIP" opening party a few months before, and had been reasonably impressed. So we went there. I thought it was pretty good. They have a huge menu with all sorts of things from various ethnic origins. I was prepared not to like it, but I did.

                                                                            2. I guess you could have done worse than TRH - when did they start serving corn bread?
                                                                              The best suggestions you've got here is to consult Chowhound before traveling whenever possible.

                                                                              As far as convincing your co-workers and even hosts to go with your suggestions, as soon as you do it once or twice, they'll start looking to you for advice. I've been fortunate enough to sorta become known for finding good chow, or hooking up with the right people where we are going who can do the same. Believe me, it took a lot of trips to TGIF, OG, and Outback to gain their trust though.

                                                                              I've run into the converse problem more with family and friends. We'll go to visit, and they've been raving about the ribs, burgers, meatloaf, whatever at some local place. Then when we arrive, and it's a certifiable h-hole, with mediocre or lousy food. Trust me, even local places with good reputations can turn out to be total misses for a CH.

                                                                              Good luck!

                                                                              1. I have the same reaction to Olive Garden, though I can't actually remember if I've ever been there (comes from hearing about food poisoning there when I was growing up). I went to a wedding in Minneapolis years ago & while the bride/groom families were having the rehearsal dinner, some of the other out of town guests planned on going to dinner together. Luckily I was rooming with a friend who had similar fears of having to eat at the OG that we saw on our way back to the hotel (we were near the interstate somewhat out of the city). We both said, "no way are we going to OG." We had a car, so we looked in the phonebook (no internet, way before CH) and found a street that seemed to have a cluster of pho places. Meanwhile, we got a call from the rest of the group, and told them we wanted a chance to catch up over dinner but would meet them later. We drove out to the street, checked to see which one seemed clean & more populated, and had great & cheap pho. When we got back to the hotel & met up with everyone later we asked where they'd eaten & as expected, they said they'd had a pretty nondescript meal at OG.

                                                                                I understand that some people don't want to be bothered by seeking out restaurants in an unfamiliar city. There's always the potential of bad food & annoyance, but to me & my friend the alternative of eating at OG was worth the gamble. We didn't know the other guests, but also didn't want to be rude by saying we thought OG would be horrible - not everyone has the same palette and there's no point in insulting them. I guess for business you can't extract yourself from suggestions from your host, but could you say something like, "I've heard about this great place that I was hoping to try...(that you previously researched). Do you think we could go there instead?"

                                                                                If pressed to eat at a place like the Texas RH (doesn't make sense in Kansas, but no BBQ there?), I'd stick to what I'd guess is the "specialty," though it seems like there wasn't much you wanted to eat on the menu there. But was it a place that could accomodate a lot of guests? A place where drinks were better (you mentioned a lot of drinks, mebbe to wash it down)?? I would suggest trying a salad, but even that can be scary (& not very satisfying) since I ordered a Ceaser's Salad at a TGIF once in a foreign country (craving salad) & got a huge container of dressing that looked like a separate soup, but at least it wasn't all dumped on the greens for me. Yuck. I feel for QueenB going to TGIF in SanFran - there's SO much good food in that city, I've never even noticed a TGIF.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: bbc

                                                                                  The TGIF is either in San Mateo or Belmont. Not quite in SF, but close. Still lots of good ethnic, local eats around.

                                                                                  1. re: bbc

                                                                                    While I would have definitely have been tempted to do as you did and find a good meal, I doubt that I would have simply because it forces you to be exclusionary to everyone else. Unless they are people you really do not care for, one night is not going to kill anyone eating somewhere they don't prefer. I try to be flexible for the sake of being social- with friends I believe it's give and take- they can pick one day, I pick the next. But with people I hardly see- as in the case of a wedding, I just feel that my priority is to be social. Again though, if these are people you really don't like, that's another story! :}

                                                                                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                      sorry this reply is three years late! (i've been off CH for a while). i agree it's semi-exclusionary behavior, and that one dinner is just one dinner, but we actually didn't even know the other guests. they were friends of the groom who'd we'd met for 10mins. we did meet up with them after dinner (and we did honestly did want to catch up).

                                                                                  2. This might sound odd but if you want to prompt or push the boss...pick up something like Zagats. I know it's a mixed bag but for many people it's reputable, safe and "gourmet". I'd just cross reference any suggestions point and towards those. If you're really into adventure...just give him the book. I think if you could find a steakhouse or local Italian place you'd do pretty well.

                                                                                    1. When traveling with co-workers, I try to find a local, either a client or a conference goer who is local, and ask in the hearing of my co-workers, "While we are here we would like to eat somewhere that we can't eat at home, what is your favorite place?" This eliminates chain restaurants, as we can eat there at home. It also puts pressure on the group to go there so that we can report back the next day.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: bonmann

                                                                                        I live in the Midwest AKA chain-restaurant hell. There are only a handful of local restaurants, most of which are breakfast & lunch places. Texas Roadhouse is everyone's (not mine or my husband's) favorite. UGGGGG! I just don't get it. It's at the point where I almost get mad if someone invites us out to eat, how sad is that? The real sad part is that we live just North of Cincinnati, where there appears to be quite a few excellent places, its just getting others to be a little adventurous and go.

                                                                                      2. Someone mentioned an experience they had in Lincoln, Nebraska. This brought back memories of a business trip there: my local hosts said they wanted to take me to a new 'continental' seafood place in town because they figured it would be familiar and 'like the food you can get at home'. Huh? I immediately assured them that I got plenty of seafood at home, and would *much* rather have a local specialty. Took some convincing, but we finally went to a very good local steakhouse. (well, they served the California red wine chilled, but the steak was actually very good...)

                                                                                        This is one other potential problem to watch for when being taken out by locals: if they don't choose a chain they think you might be comfortable with, they might choose something similar to their perception of your local food....I always tell local hosts that one of my goals is to eat the local specialties when I travel: this solves both problems generally..

                                                                                        1. I like the suggestions made here but I feel I personally can't justify having co-workers make concessions for me when I'm the only one that doesn't want to eat at those kind of places. Also, chains can have some decent food if you look hard enough. Not always though.

                                                                                          --I will say that if the meal is really terrible, I tend to cut up my food a lot and hide it under the lettuce leaf if there is any. Then I hit the town later for something decent.

                                                                                          1. Great topic. For me, it depends. If I'm being entertained, I let them take me whereever they want to take me and try to be as gracious as possible about their choices. But, golly, if they ask me if I have any preferences, I do indeed speak up with a few ideas of places I've heard about. If I'm doing the entertaining, I try to do my research in advance and choose a "chowish" place after finding out what people's preferences are.

                                                                                            If I'm traveling with peers or if it's a longer trip where I'm having multiple meals with the same people over the course of several days, I try to excuse myself on the second or third evening in a way similar to what BostonZest does, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/41849..., or I just say I have a phone call to make or work to finish up and need to bow out of dinner, then wander off on my own.

                                                                                            I do try to drop little hints to my co-workers and/or hosts to let folks know I'm 'houndishly inclined--you never know when you might find a kindred spirit in the group. Something like, "I heard there is fantastic X cuisine in this town," or "A friend of mine loves coming here--says he always eats at X place" can draw someone out. But the truth is, I don't push it because often the point of a business meal is about the networking/socializing, and, unfortunately, not about the chow, and I don't want to force people out of their comfort zones. Some of your colleagues might be too tired after a day of traveling to go be adventurous, or maybe traveling upsets their stomachs, or maybe they are on a special diet and at least these chain restaurants offer them something familiar that they know they can "at least" order that.

                                                                                            If you do do some research in advance about the most chowish choices in the area you're visiting, you might make sure to list a couple of chowish, but less adventurous kinds of choices. While you might not be able to convince everyone to go out for Indian or sushi, you might be able to nudge an unadventurous co-worker to try a place that does soups, salads and fish well (or something simple along those lines.)

                                                                                            Another, practical thing to do is to spend a little time on Chowhound's chain's board in advance to find out what things people recommend at those chains. If you do end up at one of these places, at least you can make the best of a bad situation by ordering the best thing on the menu or steering your colleagues to a chain that's better than others... This is obviously a "last resort" but it might be better than having to explore the entire menu yourself to find the one dish that's maybe edible.


                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              This kind of thing happens to me every time I travel with my fiancee.
                                                                                              We went to hawaii, all this lovely tropical food around us...where do we go? Denny's.

                                                                                              When in an unfamiliar place, my fiancee always goes for the familiar chains -- outback steakhouse, dennys, etc. It sucks, but he can't stand taking a chance on 'hole in the wall' places like the ones I always look for. (and grumbles when I take him to one)

                                                                                              in the end it's all about compromise. What we do is generally I pick a place, then he picks a place, etc.

                                                                                              1. re: Jeters

                                                                                                We were in Vancouver for our honeymoon over 16 years ago, and I just HAD to go to Denny's for a meal one day... we also stopped at the 7-11 as well.

                                                                                            2. Everytime I visit home in IN my best friend and myself go out for a long dinner to catch up. I really look forward to these times, and consider the company a much higher priority than the food, but sometimes I get bummed because she only ever will eat at Longhorn, Logans Roadhouse, Applebee's or O'Charleys. None of these places rank as my favorites and no matter which one we are at she always orders their incarnation of a fried chicken salad with ranch dressing and then complains that the food is only mediocre. Finally last time I was in town I convinced her to go with me to try a new greek resto. She was apprehensive, but agreed and I was excited not just for me, but hopeful she would have some sort of chowish breakthrough. We get there and I recommend a few things on the menu and try to steer her towards dishes I think she'll like. After much deliberation the server comes and she orders a greek salad, wait for it, with RANCH DRESSING and NO OLIVES or FETA. I guess some people just cannot overcome habit. Ah, well.

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                That happens to me sometimes as well. One idea might be to let your companion try some of what you order. Not everyone is willing to do that though.

                                                                                                1. re: GDSinPA

                                                                                                  I have offered, but she seems to have some major food hang-ups. Her father, who raised her, is incredibly picky and basically will only eat Hardee's. She grew up hearing how "nasty" basically all food-stuffs are and that message seems to have imprinted on her. She just seems terrified of getting something in her mouth and finding the taste to be unpleasant, as if that would be the end of the world. I will keep trying though. Just getting her in a smallish locally owned place was a pretty big breakthrough. Babysteps.

                                                                                                  1. re: GDSinPA

                                                                                                    This is the part I don't understand (and I don't mean this in a snarky way, I truly don't understand it)...what part of it is "happening" to you? I love food and love trying things, but especially if I'm in a place where I know I can get something I like, I don't much worry about whatever anyone else decides to order.

                                                                                                    I can see, I suppose, the desire for someone to share pleasures you yourself enjoy, but I don't see how its a problem or an issue of any sort if they choose not to.

                                                                                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                      I see what you're saying, I think. Yah, it's not a big deal, there's no injury or insult to us personally, it's more the disappointment I suppose.The happening part I was refering to is two-fold.

                                                                                                      1) I lose the argument (friendly, mind you) and we find ourselves in a run of the mill bar and grill chain, and my companion(s) rate the food no better than just OK. Well, if you don't really like the food, then why do we keep coming here?

                                                                                                      2) I finally talk a dear friend into trying a restaurant out of the ordinary - perhaps ethnic, unusual, or at least non-chain-ish. One time I even got someone exciting by grabbing a copy of the menu and sharing it with them. Then they order a burger, chicken fingers, or ask to modify a specialty (as AkiraDawn mentions). Sure, I got what I wanted, but its also a real let down that my friend was unable to bring herself to order something the place was known for.

                                                                                                      I'm not holding it against anyone, it doesn't screw up our friendship or anything like that.

                                                                                                      1. re: GDSinPA

                                                                                                        Another aspect to the disappointment is that I just really LOVE and am passionate about seeking out good food and it is something I want to share. I know for me I used to be pretty indifferent to food until I had that one "breakthrough meal" where I saw how wonderful and complex some flavors can be. I am hoping to get my best friend to that point, but who knows? In the meantime I at least know I can get her to a greek restaurant where she will stick with what she's comfortable with and I can really enjoy the food.

                                                                                                2. Who eats at OG? Ignoramuses.

                                                                                                  I was in a situation where I was in a group, I was the out of town guest - the Italian guy from NJ - and they dragged us to the local OG. It was business so I couldn't be honest.
                                                                                                  I asked for a hamburger but settled for a salad. I said I was doing Atkins which excused me from eating their horrid pasta.

                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: rockhopper

                                                                                                    I would chose a hole-in-the-wall Italian place over OG any day but I'm honestly surprised at the voracious disgust for it on CH....in my opinion it definitely is Americanized Italian but for what it is it is not all that bad! I ate there a ton of times while at college due to our poor budget/lack of options and always found the salad and soup decent, the pasta was always al dente..,thus there were always "safe" choices to be had. (I cannot say the same for some other chains) Of course the wait staff was another issue altogether....my favorite memory was when I asked for no cheese on a shrimp and linguini dish (I know I know "real" Italian restaurants would be shocked by cheese on pasta....but Americans seem to like it:} )...and guess what? My pasta dish was covered in parm. I asked the waitress and she told me it was "just a garnish". Yikes:} But again, I've always found food I can eat at OG that was at least decent, sometimes even good. I understand why many chowhounders would choose to go elsewhere, but if they don't have a choice, why the sheer dislike? On an end note, there have been several "real" Italian places I've been to in NY that were absolutely horrible- just because a place is not a chain does not automatically make it good.

                                                                                                    1. re: rockhopper

                                                                                                      How do you know OG's pasta is "horrid," rockhopper, if you didn't at least try it? It's not rocket science to turn out something simple and decent. Most ordinary folks in Italy can do it. For that matter, I ate at a terrific place last week where I've had lots of great meals and that night they missed and the malfalde was past al dente.
                                                                                                      I'm sure your business hosts were pleased when you tried to order a hamburger after they took the NJ Italian guy out for pasta.

                                                                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                        My attitude towards chain restaurants is I'll go if someone else picks it (like a relative) although given a choice I'd rather not. That said, the OG marketing is really, really annoying and I think that's what draws the strong negative reactions.

                                                                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                                                                          Given my 'druthers, I'd rather not eat at the Olive Gardens of the world either. If I'm really hungry on the Interstate, a quick pull-off at McD's guarantees a clean bathroom and a $1 menu to keep me going until I can find a good meal later. I'm not too good for that. The TGIFs, Applebees at al would have folded long ago if they had had to depend on my family but I understand their appeal. Understanding doesn't equal agreeing and embracing. It also doesn't mean that I should look down my nose at them as cretins. Some of them haven't had the same advantages that I have.
                                                                                                          I also don't enjoy it when they have the impression that some of us are just too damned uppity to understand that a plain bowl of spaghetti at a reasonable price is just fine on a Tuesday night and who do we think we are to mock them. They may think that a lot of the stuff we like is awful and that we're really annoying.
                                                                                                          Many of us came from humble backgrounds and it wasn't that long ago when we were eating pretty low on the hog. We learned to like other things. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. They've made choices that aren't ours. We don't need to insult them.

                                                                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                            "they have the impression that some of us are just too damned uppity to understand that a plain bowl of spaghetti at a reasonable price is just fine on a Tuesday night and who do we think we are to mock them. "

                                                                                                            I don't think people get it. It is torture for Italians to eat bad pasta. sure, there is something to eat at olive garden, but why should he have to order the pasta?

                                                                                                        2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                          I have eyes.

                                                                                                          Tell me, what would be your reaction if a menu listed pastrami on white bread with mayonaisse?

                                                                                                          I also had a bite in the past.

                                                                                                          If it's not rocket science then why is it so for hard for them to pull off?
                                                                                                          There is a concept problem in the first place.
                                                                                                          There is an execution problem in practice.

                                                                                                          My hosts thought it was funny. But thank you for assuming I was socially inept.

                                                                                                          1. re: rockhopper

                                                                                                            Honest to God truth is that I've never eaten at an Olive Garden. I don't even know where one is. They are successful enough from what I've read that a lot of people find them enjoyable. What does it matter? They might not like pasta done your way and you shouldn't feel that you have to justify your taste either. Like eating with somebody who doesn't like anchovies or liver. How is that possible?
                                                                                                            When you get stuck someplace, you just make the most of it. It's just one meal. Hold the mayo. Dressing on the side. Try the house special. Whatever. Laughter always helps.

                                                                                                              1. re: rockhopper

                                                                                                                Bravo. I'm the first to drive miles out of the way on a CH tip, but there's something a little--what's the word---annoying about the Board's fairly regular lapses into self-congratulation. I may pick up the tab at the occasional family Cracker Barrel meal and enjoy only the iced tea, but it's compensated for by the pleasure everyone else seems to be enjoying, inexplicable as that may be to some.

                                                                                                                1. re: obob96

                                                                                                                  Not inexplicable. We all like to see others enjoy food. I feel bad when I do persuade others to try my choice of a restaurant and almost everybody says, "Hey, good food!" except for one person who picks at the bread basket because they can't find anything acceptable on the menu. Surely they could try something. Are they being passive-aggressive because they didn't get their way? It's just one meal.
                                                                                                                  I try to ignore it but since it was my choice of restaurants, I can't help but feel a twinge of responsiblity.

                                                                                                      2. How come you consider ordering a chicken dish "playing it safe" at Texas Roadhouse? Wouldn't it have been safer to order something they're known for? Or had you been disappointed by all their more popular offerings in the past? Not trying to be contrary, but honestly curious.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: operagirl

                                                                                                          I knew I wouldn't like their steaks and there wasn't much on the menu that appealed. to me. It had been a long day and I needed some protein so I was thinking that the chicken would be the safest dish and hopefully something they wouldn't mess up. It was the smothered chicken with onions and mushrooms, both of which I love. But I was wrong...I should have just gone with a salad.

                                                                                                        2. Learn to "just say no." Then go eat by yourself, or take along any 'hounds in your group whom you may (quietly) want to invite.

                                                                                                          "But people will think I'm unfriendly..." - so? People think I'm any number of things for similar reasons. I don't care.

                                                                                                          1. My basic watchwords for food is that I'm easy to please but difficult to impress -- so when I go out for food with others I presume it will be the former. On a business trip to VA we were taken out to a Texas Roadhouse -- I don't even remember what I got, but we had a great time. And it was free!

                                                                                                            My kids love OG, TGIF, Red Lobster, etc. We went out last night to the Pasta House. It was fine; my 16 year old had returned from camp and we looked at pictures, etc. It's life. I took the leftovers and doctored them up -- I'll get three meals out this, two of which (if i do say so myself) are pretty good! And we had a coupon!

                                                                                                            I do agree, however, that planning ahead and having concrete suggestions may help. The same people that brought us to the Roadhouse brought us to some much better places in Las Vegas. And if you do get a chance, strike out on your own or with a like minded companion. My best chances to try different places are at lunch.

                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Richard 16

                                                                                                              This is an interesting thread on a number of levels. I am intrigued by a couple of Hounds who found things they liked at Cracker Barrel. What are they? I will return and try them if a reliable hound leads the way. Surely given the monkey and a typewriter concept the chains must do a few things right.

                                                                                                              Perhaps we should have a thread on "Is there Chow at the Chains?" I know I have had excellent meals, judiciously selected at some chains, burgers at Red Robin, Mexican at Adobo, ribs at Famous Dave's, steaks at any number of places. I know CH tends to focus on finding the jewel in the rough or the needle in the haystack but isn't it all about geting some good food?

                                                                                                              I'm hungry!

                                                                                                              1. re: gargantua

                                                                                                                you made me laugh at the though that it's completely random that a chain could get food right.
                                                                                                                there is a thread right now on the chain's board about decent meals.

                                                                                                                1. re: gargantua

                                                                                                                  While chains are never my first pick, I can almost always find something that is decent. Here's the thread Fara mentioned: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/18937

                                                                                                              2. Good topic, thanks for starting this! I work for a multinational corporation and travel internationally a lot on business, and it's rarely a problem, most of my colleagues both American and otherwise have a taste for adventurous food. But I can't help remembering the time I was in Madrid several years ago with a tech support guy who was just VERY uncomfortable leaving home - I thought he was going to starve to death until he discovered a Tony Roma's a few blocks from our hotel!

                                                                                                                1. I wasn't along for this one, but a friend of mine went to Turkey recently(she is also sort of vegan/vegetarian/somewhere between the two) and I asked her what she ate while she was there, expecting an answer about amazing food, etc. She told me that she ate "a lot of eggplant" because that was all she could really eat. In Turkey! I guess it would be hard for someone who is trying to be vegan, but I was just thinking about everything she missed out on...