Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The allure of chain restaurants

My parents and I had dinner at The Crab Cooker. Again.

Yesterday, the three of us ate at Il Fornaio in Irvine. If you didn’t know, Il Fornaio is a chain (primarily West Coast) that serves Italian food.

It is also, along with Red Lobster, my favorite chain restaurant. (No rude comments about the RL, please.)

I’ve been going to Il Fornaio since college. And though I can’t remember my first visit — in San Francisco — I have memories of their lobster ravioli, chicken breast sautéed in butter, and three-layer chocolate terrine. I’ve been there with Liz, Evan, Susanne, Linda, and Scott — at different times, but usually for something at least slightly celebratory.

When I lived in L.A., I went to Il Fornaio in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. I’ve tried, over the past two decades, to get there as often as I can.

Most times, I appreciate the consistency (the sameness!) of chain restaurants. But Il Fornaio is different. Though I almost always start with their house salad (greens, garlic croutons, shaved parmesan, and their house vinaigrette), it’s not because I’m afraid of change. It’s because that’s one of the best salads in the history of salads.

So chain restaurants aren’t always about my resistance to change. They are sometimes about the anticipation of going to a place that has excellent food and great memories.


The Suitcase Lady said...

Yes, but sometimes it is about the same thing!
The Spaghetti Factory Restaurants....all over California in great, old recycled's about The Pasta and Mizithra with Burnt Butter. Over and over and over again... and always a treat.

Naomi said...

Ah, the Old Spaghetti Factory. I can't believe they closed the one in Jack London Square. That's another place that brings back college memories!

Mary said...

Naomi. You know I would never diss the RL because I LOVES me some RL once and awhile. Also, I've been to Il Fornaio as well, and I'm with you there too. Your CA vacation looks great. Funny, I was in California Feb 8th-12th myself.

Naomi said...

I just got a coupon in the mail for RL. Red Lobster *and* the US postal service? What a classic combination.