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The Claim Jumper, are all chains like this???

We were visiting family in Las Vegas and got dragged to Claim Jumper last night because of a $50 gift certificate. I admit I was curious. You see, I have never been to a chain restaurant except some burgers 10 years ago, a Kentucky Fried in the early 70's and a Pizza Crud in the sixties. My expectations rose as we were pleasantly greeted at the front desk, in a very large rustic looking lodge type structure, I was amazed at the crowds (another good sign?), given a red plastic buzzer, told of a 30-45 min. wait and went to the bar for some Fat Tires. I looked around the bar and noticed a fairly young, well dressed cosmopolitian looking crowd and my hopes rose, The buzzer sounded and like Pavlovian dogs we were herded into a cavernous dining hall and seated at an immense table. Our server was very pleasant we were given these over sized menus, our drink orders and a request for calamari for an app. was taken. After leaving the west 30 years ago I was very much looking forward to a chicken fried steak and my Yankee wife was about to try her first one in a restaurant. We ordered and in fairly short order, the food began to arrive. The huge plate of calamari was the worst we have ever eaten straight, bland and a terrible batter crust, left unfinished. My wife's small order of country fried steak was huge, and mine immense and one look down and alarm bells went off and I was not salivating, The slab of meat looked like the sole of a size 18 shoe and very dark brown. I took one bite of the end and sure 'nuff, tough and over cooked. I summoned the waiter and told him I had waited 30 years for this and it was inedible and not a chicken fried steak.. He apologized and said this had happened before w/ people from Texas. I ordered a burger instead and was given a complimentary glass of wine; fair enough. Our friend's fish and chips app. was meager. A couple of dog turd looking fish fillets and some limp looking greasy french fries. My sister-in-law's chicken pot pie was large and looked decent and the burgers were good, but w/ insipid flour crusted shoe string fries. My question is, was this experience true of most of the other chains? Large fancy structures, housing very large portions of, mediocre at best, food? Newness is goodness, but bigness is better the credo? Take me back to small town Maine and my forests, mountains and the sea and small restaurants w/ home cookin'.
Proud to be a Bumpkin

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  1. What no dessert?
    The main draw of Claim Jumper's is their humongous portions as large as your head. The chicken fried steak used to be my favorite entree to get there and the other day I ordered it and it was exactly as you described.....dark and overcooked (and I was at a Claim Jumper 300 miles from the one you ate at). Don't ask me what they did, but it used to be better.

    7 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Everytime I"ve went i was satisfied -- they know how to grill a steak and roast a rib rack. The other things, like anything besides meat, is not so good, although in excess portion. As far as I am concerned, their beef ribs are the best I've ever had. Expensive though, and you have to wait.

      1. re: scrambledeggs

        I agree. I wish all chains were like Claim Jumper. The OP should have done some homework before going. Yeah, there are some bad items on the menu but that is even more true at most mom & pops. So they do not know how to make a CFS and they should not sell fish -- ok. But what they do right they do very right and the desserts are at the top of the list.

        The “I Declair” is so eye pleasing and fun to eat that it is sinful. A giant éclair filled with custard and vanilla bean ice cream and the sides are covered with whipped cream and topped with hot fudge.

        That “Chocolate Motherlode Cake” is awesome. 6 layer chocolate cake w/ chocolate frosting covered w/ chocolate chips and walnuts.

        The vanilla ice cream sundae covered w/ hot fudge is excellent. Oh, the cheese cake w/ a cup of coffee is worth a trip for that alone.

        The smothered fried chicken w/ mash and buttermilk biscuits w/ honey butter is very good – enough for two. The French Fries are good and request some of the BBQ sauce for dipping the fries – great! The Garlic cheese toast is very good. The tomato basil pizza is also good as is the chowder. There are other food items as well, like you say, they know how to grill a steak --NY and Porterhouse.

        1. re: JeetJet

          The food is better at a Jersey diner!

          If food were religion, Claim Jumper would be a fundamentalist Megachurch.

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            I agree that some Jersey Diners do a great job. If fact I know several in Mass that make some good meals. One in Maryland has some great pies and cakes too.

            I actually believe in Foodism and to me the great places of worship having something like a pipe organ or choir are the Diners with a rock ’n’ roll juke box, Dinner House w/ violinist or harpist or a Mexican restaurant w/ Mariachi. But those would all be Mom & Pop places. Now this Big Chain being a Megachurch is really a great iidea. The debate is just like with religion -- False vs.True place of worship. IMO, Claim Jumper is at least partly a true place of worship because they can get you to Heaven. Not Pie in the Sky after you die but Chocolate Motherlode Cake here and now with ice cream on top. Honor thy Motherlode.

            Now that I think about it, that “I Declair” reminds me of a model of a modern style white Cathedral. It looks like it was built for pure worship. .

            1. re: JeetJet

              I find Claim Jumper to be a false idol of corporate interests with a lot of peeople singing false Hosiahs. I prefer small local food churches w/ a committed priest and congregation where the offerings stay in town and are not sent to the food Vatican. Smallness is goodness, a devoted chef is deliciousness,
              St. Mark

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Forgive me Father for I have sinned. My Mother-in-Law is a food heretic and worships only false idols of corporate interests. Claim Jumper is her first choice for Fish and Chips on Fridays. That pretty much makes me an occasional sinner. I have been led astray by the Corporate Food Devil who took advantage of my fascination and lust for chocolate and whipped cream. My Mother-in-Law would have me follow her to Red Lobster also but I refuse to go that far into the gates of Hell (Hell being the having to eat Bad food just to maintain personal relationships).

                1. re: JeetJet

                  You have sinned my daughter. Since you have confessed, 3 lingua tacos and 4 al Pastor from a taco truck at midnight and you are for given.

                  Chains just seem fake.

    2. Chicken fried steak is very easy to cook, but very easy to screw up. I just make my own. As for chains, I had a similiar experience at Maggiano's, again the only reason I was there was a gift card. The place was packed, looking nice and dressed up in the holiday spirit. A good looking crowd, however, the food, freezer burn was the theme. Now I have a gift card with a choice of Red Lobster or Olive Garden. Any suggestions?

      2 Replies
      1. re: James Cristinian

        Red Lobster is no picnic, but Olive Garden is the worst excuse for a restaurant I have ever experienced. I would be willing to bet that every sauce there comes from a boilin' or microwave bag. Go to Red Lobster, and hope that the certificate can be used for drinks and isn't restricted to food. Stick with the simplest possible things that are the most difficult to ruin -- the fried shrimp or garlic shrimp -- and stay away from any pastas, faux lobsters, krab, or even scallops that are too easy to overcook.

        1. re: James Cristinian

          Mrs. Sippi and I went to RL for the AYCE crab legs. The waiter sized us up as people knew what good crab legs would taste like and I think he fixed us up pretty good. They weren't the best I've had but they were cooked well and steaming hot at our table.

          DT

        2. *My question is, was this experience true of most of the other chains? *

          Yes, and that's why we stay far, far away from them.

          1. Claim Jumper's might be considered by most as a "special" chain you might go to for a celebration of some kind and not a chain you'd frequent on a regular basis like a McDonalds. That being said I'd consider Claim Jumper to be one of the better chain restaurants for overall food quality and drink experience and ambience.

            Unfortunately for some people chains are a way of life.

            I'm sure that not every restaurant in your small town in Maine meets your expectations and you either patronize them or not.

            1 Reply
            1. re: monku

              I agree with you, as a chain restaurant CJ is pretty good but no restaruant is going to get everything right. At least at CJ's unlike restaurants in Malibu you dont need a wheelbarrow of cash to pay for your food and a magnifying glass to see it.

            2. yes, this is what all chain restaurants are like. it's very very strange. i don't know why these places are consistently sooooooooooooo packed with people when tasty local joints are not. it's mind boggling. i guess people's taste buds are fried numb from processed food that they like these places. they just don't know what we see in "good" food. i don't understand it, but to each his own.

              5 Replies
              1. re: bu dat

                One reason might be that the chain restaurants can afford to spend big bucks on advertising in all media and your "tasty local joints" can't afford to be in that league.

                1. re: monku

                  i guess - but i see an ad on tv for these places and the food doesn't even look good. i'm like - ugh, i know what i'm going to get there and it doesn't taste good - why waste my money? i'd rather just try something new - but that leads to some bad meals and some great meals. i'm willing to roll the dice rather than know i'm going to get an awful meal.

                  i guess what you're saying is that the mind control of advertising controls all. i guess, based on the crowds, that may be part of it.

                  1. re: bu dat

                    It's part of the equation.

                    I'm guilty...if I'm driving around and feel a bit hungry I'll pull into a MCD's and get something off the dollar menu to satisfy my appetite until I can eat some normal food.

                    You're right about mind control....anytime I see an ad for TGI Friday.....greasy food comes to mind.

                2. re: bu dat

                  Unfortunately, the bulk (connotations intended) of "average" American diners believe SIZE of entree=good. Taste is secondary. How BIG something is for what you're paying for, that's all that counts. Thus a meal as big as a newborn infant is "good" no matter what it tastes like, and a smaller, but tastier meal for the same price is a "rip off." All they judge it on is size, salt, and ability to fill you up as you quickly inhale it.

                3. Some chains actually are quite good. I have eaten at Roy's on both coasts and have been impressed by the food, the service, and the places. Of course, the price point of a Roy's is up there with fine dining independent restaurants, but while the menus and experiences have been consistent, they don't seem to be formulaic. At a price level that is similar or even less than Claim Jumper, I am a huge fan of Bonefish Grill -- I wish we had them where I live. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are under similar ownership, along with Carraba's, which is eons above Maggiano's and some of the other Italian chains.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nosh

                    Agreed about some chains being decent, especially when you live in a town where most of the reasonably priced non-chains are absolutely vile. That's the case where I live. I'd rather take something decent and reliable at a chain that have a 90% chance of ending up with something inedible at a local restaurant. We have a few decent higher end restaurants, but for the most part I think you're better off eating at home if you can and going to a chain when guests are in town and want to eat out.

                  2. I think that's one of the dangers surrounding chains; you go there expecting something you're used to from local places made by people who probably grew up learning to make it. It doesn't cross over. When I go out of town, I rarely eat at chains. I always ask for a nice local place because those are the people who righteously care about what they make. You can't grow up on the "real deal" and then go to a chain where the recipes are set in stone and made by someone who probably never heard of it before working there. Claim Jumper actually has some good things. I've just learned what not to order in chains and don't get your expectations too high.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: porkchop

                      porkchop, I agree. Before I returned to New England, I posted on the New England board and asked for late Saturday night dining recommendation near our Park 'n Fly motel in Manchester, NH, a city with which I'm not familiar. Chen Yang Li was suggested, was across the street from the motes and we had a fine meal. What a difference from the night before at Claim Jumper. Same cost (or less) different experience.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/595419
                      http://chenyangli.com/Bedford/index.html

                    2. I'm still trying to get over your statement: "You see, I have never been to a chain restaurant except some burgers 10 years ago, a Kentucky Fried in the early 70's and a Pizza Crud in the sixties." Where I live (South Orange County, California), you might starve if you had no kitchen at home and didn't go to chains. (Not really true, but distressingly close).

                      I guess everything truly is relative. I just participated in a topic on the LA Board in which a poster concluded that there was absolutely NO restaurant menu item he could find (online) in my local area (population 500,000) that he would even WANT to order. That included upscale restaurants I've come to consider the very best in our area.

                      Claim Jumper seems to be one of the busiest and (one might conclude) most successful regional chains. Part of that is due to a perceived value form the portion sizes (which are actually getting smaller than they used to be). But the food can't really be as bad as is often charged unless the majority of their customers are comparing it to McDonalds, Denny's or the like. Maybe they are??

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Midlife

                        Midlife, I spent a summer at Huntington Beach(on 13th St. w/ the Taco Bell on the corner) and know what you're saying. In our little berg of 10 K, we have quite a few good little restaurants, all locally owned from Helen's for fried clams and pie to Cleonice for tapas and local lamb, Bangkok for Thai, Green Tea for Chinese,twelve buck serloin at Riverside Cafe, bar food at Calypso and home made ice cream at Moore's. Bar Harbor has a ban on chains. Check out Hancock Co., Maine. But wear snow shoes. I just got in from walking the dog. I had to wear snow shows and take my bow saw to cut out blown down trees.
                        "Ellsworth, The Crossroads of Downeast Maine"

                      2. They are VERY inconsistant. A year or so ago i went to one location near Knotts Berry farm and had the BEST rib eye i had had in a long time. Last month i went to a new location near my house and ordered the rib eye and a lobster tail on the side ( i had a good experience last time i went so i figured id order a bit more this time). My god it was horrible. The steak was boneless (they gave me a bone in at the other location), unseasoned, and tough, and my lobster tail was overcooked. I called and complained the next day and they replaced my order with two free entres. I got the Ore cart to go which is pork and beef ribs and1/4 chicken. I probably should have ordered that the first time around minus the beef bones, i mean ribs...they had no meat on them. Claim jumper was spot on when they first opened out here in CA in the 90's. They changed their menu in around 1999, the portions got smaller and the quality of food decreased. My mom says the chicken fried steak used to be the thing to order. Chains are hit and miss, we all know that a way better and cheaper meal can be cooked in the comfort of our own homes but lets face it, sometimes visiting a chain can be far more convenient. I had olive garden take out for dinner tonight and it was GREAT, but my last dine in meal there was crappy.

                        1. "a very large rustic looking lodge type structure, I was amazed at the crowds (another good sign?)" "I looked around the bar and noticed a fairly young, well dressed cosmopolitian looking crowd." "like Pavlovian dogs we were herded into a cavernous dining hall and seated at an immense table. Our server was very pleasant we were given these over sized menus"

                          All warning signs.

                          DT

                          1. Yes, that's pretty typical of chain restaurants in my experience. I avoid them.