Social Circle: Thoughts on chain restaurants?
For the seventh straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2013."
This week's question garnered more than 100 responses (we posted a sampling below.)
People obviously feel strongly about chain restaurants and most are not fans of them. But a few bring up valid points like the fact that chains are often consistent and clean.
What are your thoughts on chain restaurants? Love 'em or hate 'em or simply say "meh" to them?
Reuven Cocos: "Hate 'em. I just don't go to them."
Jim Drager: "Avoid them like the plague."
Jacob Edward: "Every chain is different, and therefore should be judged on an individual basis. There's a big difference between a chain like McDonald's where everything is standardized and a chain like Capital Grill where each location is unique to the area in which it resides. In relation to other big cities, Milwaukee actually has far fewer chains than one would expect. Look at our neighbors such as Madison, Chicago and the Twin Cities for a comparison. I'm probably one of the few people who wishes we had more chains. I live in Bay View and would love it if we got a Panera or a Chipotle or even a Dunkin' Donuts in the neighborhood."
Russ Fascia: "Avoid! Certain restaurant 'groups' do an admirable job: Bartolotta's, Lettuce Entertain You."
Jasen Groves: "I go. I hate it, but I go to them all the time. I blame my kid. He eats at Applebee's for cheap, sometimes free, and he loves it. I just won't check in to Facebook while I'm there."
Nikol Hasler: "I don't think chains are very easy to eat. Not even the construction paper kind."
Cynthia Hoffman: "I'd much rather support creative, local restaurateurs. My ex-father-in-law once said that he loved Cracker Barrel specifically because he knew that the food would always be exactly the same no matter what part of the country he may visit. It was a defining moment for me: I was definitely in the wrong family!"
Deone Jahnke: "In general ... bleeech. I'd make an exception for the ones that do a lot of social justice work with their profits."
Larry Johnson: "It was a sad day when the last Burger Chef closed in Milwaukee. Sadder still was when the last Big Boy went out of business. Other than those two there are no chain restaurants I will ever miss. There are so many great places to eat in Milwaukee. I'll never get to them all, but I try."
Tom Julio: "Sounds odd, but I guess I could see it if you have an iron deficiency."
Kent Knapp: "No me gusto."
Joel Kopischke: "Avoid them if I can. Even if they are a local franchise, patronizing a locally owned restaurant is better all the way around – and we have plenty of great ones to choose from."
Margaret Krueger: "I enjoy some of them. And I'm pretty sure the people who work there are local."
Erin Shea Linnane: "90 percent of the time we eat local, that being said I love me some Red Lobster cheese biscuits!"
Brian Patrick Maguire: "You can count on chains to serve consistent food. You can also (usually) count on chains to have more strict food handling and cleaning regulations."
Pam Parker: "I prefer supporting local, however, I accept that these chains are providing jobs for many people, so I will eat there, too."
Tamila Reed: "They're good if you're traveling and want something familiar and consistent."
Ray Rees: "The amount of food on most of there entrees are enough for entire day's calories."
Christian Ricco: "I'd like it if they all stayed in Franklin or New Berlin. Places like that are their natural confines."
Mel Russell: "I typically try to eat at local places, but there's a time and a place for chains. I went to Bonefish a couple weeks ago for the first time and was really impressed."
Jen Skladanek: "As I am not a fan nor do I eat fast food, chain restaurants somewhat repulse me. Processed, microwaved and fried foods in my opinion isn't food. Plus I enjoy dining out locally and supporting what my neighborhood and East Side demographic has to offer."
It's hilarious to me when people complain about how the food at chains is processed or microwaved when plenty of local places get their food from the exact same food distributors like Sysco or US Foods and cook it the exact same way that the chains they hate so much do. Granted, there are plenty of local places that use local ingredients and do things differently, but it's dumb to just assume that all chains do things one way and all local places do things another way. I've been to plenty of chain restaurants where I've had terrible service and I've been to plenty of chain restaurants where I've had great service and the same applies to local places. Some are good, others aren't. Places shouldn't be judged on whether or not they're a chain, they should be judged on whether or not they have good food and good service.
I have never meet a person who dislikes Culvers. The Champ of Chains!
It's not always Black or White... Local doesn't always mean Better. For an example of why you sometimes should avoid local restaurants -- go to tmj4 Dirty Dining Report about Espanas Tapas House in downtown Milwaukee. This place was also featured in an article about the 10 worst restaurants in the US. *Note that Fox Dining Week (going on now) has this restaurant on its dining list :-O
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