Helpful ReplyTwo days, two chains

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Ketteract
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2017/07/04 10:55:19 (permalink)

Two days, two chains

I've worked the past few days in Waterbury supporting St. Mary's switch to a new EMR. There were a few local restaurants within walking distance of the hospital, but it seemed that the good ones were closed or had reduced hours over the holiday weekend. There was also a shopping plaza, which included the casual dining chains that you might expect, such as Chili's, TGI Friday's, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Oh, and a McDonald's.
 
When the stuff from the hospital cafeteria got too gross, I considered the tiny little Subway that they had next to it, but I just couldn't.  So I took the plunge and tried a couple of places that I hadn't been to in over a decade.
 
First up, Chili's.
 

 
Southwestern Egg Rolls. Rather salty, obviously frozen. Probably better after a few drinks. The ranch was advertised as "avocado ranch", but if there was avocado, I didn't detect it.  
 

 
Ranchero Chicken Tacos. The rice was crunchy in a few spots, and one of the avocado slices had some unexpected firmness by being cut too close to the rind. The tacos themselves were fine, nothing special, your basic inoffensive Mexican-as-interpreted-by-America taste. I ended up splashing on a bunch of Tabasco, because dammit, my tacos should have some kind of kick.
 
The Triple-Berry Margarita was tasty but pretty weak.
 

 
The following night, I went to Buffalo Wild Wings.
 

 
Their basic cheeseburger. Dry patty cooked to death, but what did I expect? This ain't no Louis' Lunch. The fries managed to be the same size and shape as McD's, but with less flavor. (Yes, I use McD's fries as a standard for some things.) They were vehicles for ranch dressing and a cloyingly sweet "bourbon honey mustard".
 

 
At least they gave a few different options for the cheese. I opted for queso. Don't blame them for it being under the patty, though - that was all me.
 
Read any article about the decline of casual dining chains, and you'll get a laundry list of reasons, but the biggest one for me personally is that there's just no allure. I was forced to go by circumstance, and absolutely nothing about either place made me want to return. My experiences weren't bad - just banal. Twists on food that may have been interesting twenty years ago (Southwestern egg rolls! Bourbon honey mustard!) are now stale. If I want old-school, I know what roadside shacks and red-checkered-tablecloth Italian joints I can go to; if I want inventive modern fare, I'll head to some hip-looking place in West Hartford or New Haven. The stuff that Chili's and Buffalo Wild Wings serves up... I, and apparently many others, simply have no use for it.
post edited by Ketteract - 2017/07/04 11:05:32
#1
ChiTownDiner
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 11:06:23 (permalink)
I've been in that situation also and sometimes you got to go with the flow, just as you did.  Sometimes the change in environment and the social component partially offset the below par food.  
#2
Ketteract
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 11:11:44 (permalink)
Yeah, it really was more about just getting out of the hospital and eating somewhere other than that grim cafeteria, but there was no social component - I was a lone wolf.  The sadness of eating alone in a place like Chili's or BWW overshadows everything else pretty quickly (and sure doesn't make the food taste any better).
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wanderingjew
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 11:46:48 (permalink)
I guess I really must be truly, truly blessed. Even under the most dire of circumstances I've ALWAYS found a local restaurant that is open and serving.
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Root-Beer Man
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 12:07:59 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby leethebard 2017/07/04 12:30:36
Well, at BWW's you broke the cardinal rule, (that we have learned through experience). You didn't what they were known for. If I were to go there I wouldn't have touched anything but the wings. That's presumably what they do best. Get a burger at a burger joint. It's easier to avoid bad food that way.
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Ketteract
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 12:50:03 (permalink)
There were a couple of local places open, but they looked really, really seedy - and not in a charming Roadfood kind of way. And they didn't come recommended by those who worked at St. Mary's. What WAS recommended turned out to be closed up tight... and I was limited by what I could reasonably walk to in the sweaty heat.

Wish I liked wings. I could have gone to TGI Friday's, I guess, but I don't know that my experience there would have been any better.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 14:08:56 (permalink)
Two days, two chains, two (sic) bad.  But I've been in that boat before, too, and sometimes you just have to make do.
 
Sorry to hear that the cafeteria's not that great.  Around here the hospitals take pride in their food services and people will actually choose to eat there even if they have no reason for being at the hospital.  Next time you're in Madison give the Meriter cafeteria a try!
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Bonk
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/04 20:59:21 (permalink)
Of the casual chains, I like Chili's the best between that and O'Charley's/TGIF/Applebee's.
 
Bee-Dubs was decent in the late 90s/early 00s but really went downhill about 10 years ago. 
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wanderingjew
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/05 08:27:14 (permalink)
Ketteract
There were a couple of local places open, but they looked really, really seedy - and not in a charming Roadfood kind of way. And they didn't come recommended by those who worked at St. Mary's. What WAS recommended turned out to be closed up tight... and I was limited by what I could reasonably walk to in the sweaty heat.

Wish I liked wings. I could have gone to TGI Friday's, I guess, but I don't know that my experience there would have been any better.

 
I know that Waterbury is not the exactly the garden capital of Roadfood (or any thing for that matter) Waterbury actually makes Bridgeport look good, however in the past, others have warned me about going to certain roadfood reviewed restaurants because the area is seedy or even have described he restaurant it self is seedy, and this has come from both those who are not roadfood saavy and as well as those who are  , but  there's a possibility you may have missed out on a hidden gem, a  quick glance at yelp or trip advisor could  have swayed you.
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/05 09:21:31 (permalink)
Ketteract
.... Read any article about the decline of casual dining chains, and you'll get a laundry list of reasons, but the biggest one for me personally is that there's just no allure. I was forced to go by circumstance, and absolutely nothing about either place made me want to return. My experiences weren't bad - just banal. Twists on food that may have been interesting twenty years ago (Southwestern egg rolls! Bourbon honey mustard!) are now stale. If I want old-school, I know what roadside shacks and red-checkered-tablecloth Italian joints I can go to; if I want inventive modern fare, I'll head to some hip-looking place in West Hartford or New Haven. The stuff that Chili's and Buffalo Wild Wings serves up... I, and apparently many others, simply have no use for it.

That is the best explanation I've seen of why we no longer find fast casual chains appealing. They used to be the most convenient places to find "trendy" food, but that food is no longer the latest trend and local places can do it better if that's what we do want.
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pnwchef
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/05 10:21:20 (permalink)
This is what food tastes like when they set up a menu that anyone can prepare/ cook. This may have worked in the past but, I don't think this will last long in the future. People are on the move much more and willing to try different varieties of foods. I always notice in all of the casual dinning restaurants that management is represented very well. I think they feel the money is made in the dining room. Little do they know the real money is made when the quality of food is enhanced. I think all of these casual restaurant concepts need to concentrate on the back of the house. My wife likes Applebees, I hate it. I look at their menu and never see anything I think would even come close to being good. I am consistently disappointed but not surprised. It is what it is, I know it going in, the results are the same every time...I find myself say "It is what it is" more often. I think fast casual dining just makes me appreciate and cherish local Mom and Pop places that put their heart and soul in their business everyday. I always try to thank the cooks and/or chefs for caring enough to do it right. 
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joerogo
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/05 14:58:11 (permalink)
pnwchef
This is what food tastes like when they set up a menu that anyone can prepare/ cook. This may have worked in the past but, I don't think this will last long in the future. People are on the move much more and willing to try different varieties of foods. I always notice in all of the casual dinning restaurants that management is represented very well. I think they feel the money is made in the dining room. Little do they know the real money is made when the quality of food is enhanced. I think all of these casual restaurant concepts need to concentrate on the back of the house. My wife likes Applebees, I hate it. I look at their menu and never see anything I think would even come close to being good. I am consistently disappointed but not surprised. It is what it is, I know it going in, the results are the same every time...I find myself say "It is what it is" more often. I think fast casual dining just makes me appreciate and cherish local Mom and Pop places that put their heart and soul in their business everyday. I always try to thank the cooks and/or chefs for caring enough to do it right. 


I like my food prepared in a kitchen....not a laboratory.  Chain restaurants will risk poisoning their customers over fifty cents!  We've seen it, all too many times. 


#12
hatteras04
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/05 15:16:19 (permalink)
Root-Beer Man
Well, at BWW's you broke the cardinal rule, (that we have learned through experience). You didn't what they were known for. If I were to go there I wouldn't have touched anything but the wings. That's presumably what they do best. Get a burger at a burger joint. It's easier to avoid bad food that way.



Though I agree with you in general, at b-dubs that wouldn't have yielded better results.  Their wings used to be pretty good (like back in the 80s and 90s that is).  They were not huge but they fried them crispy (without breading which i hate) and their basic sauces were just fine.  The last two times I got them which has now been years ago they were either baked or just held way too long so the skin was just flabby.  I could only eat a couple.  You can try the boneless wings (chicken nuggets) for a slightly better experience but I've never been a fan of those.    
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Ketteract
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/05 16:33:54 (permalink)
wanderingjew
 
I know that Waterbury is not the exactly the garden capital of Roadfood (or any thing for that matter) Waterbury actually makes Bridgeport look good, however in the past, others have warned me about going to certain roadfood reviewed restaurants because the area is seedy or even have described he restaurant it self is seedy, and this has come from both those who are not roadfood saavy and as well as those who are  , but  there's a possibility you may have missed out on a hidden gem, a  quick glance at yelp or trip advisor could  have swayed you.



Point taken - if there's one thing we should have learned here at RF, it's that, no matter what, you cannot judge an establishment by mere appearance.  My unease with the whole area around the hospital probably played into it.  It is most definitely not a good neighborhood, to the point where I was advised by Waterbury locals who worked at the hospital to avoid crossing the street to the shopping plaza... even during the daytime!  " />
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the grillman
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/09 08:07:42 (permalink)
I don't get the attraction to Buffalo Wild Wings.   Sure, its a great place to watch a game, and their beer selection is good enough for me; but the food is average at best.   I usually find the chicken dry; the wide variety of at least a dozen sauces makes up for it a bit.   And I share the OP opinion on burgers; usually overcooked.   But, like I said, great place to watch a game and have a beer.
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leethebard
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Re: Two days, two chains 2017/07/09 10:26:03 (permalink)
If uou're going to eat chain wings Quaker Steak and Lube wings are much better, as is the food in general.
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