The Secret Chain Restaurant and Fast-Food Shame of an Englishman
You see all those chain restaurants, Dallas? All those bright shiny lights, beckoning you in to eat products of a questionable providence at a price so reasonable there's no need to go home and time-consumingly construct a meal for your baying, hungry, ungrateful family? You grew up around them (the restaurants, not the family, although presumably you know them quite well too). You know what happens there, what the deal is, what to expect (still the restaurants, not the family members. Focus now). Imagine if all this was alien to you -- if everything you knew about fast food and chain restaurants had been changed.
Our Englishman loves Waffle House. English. Food. Love. Waffle House. The editor's brain is suffering snark overload.
Imagine, if you will, moving 5,000 miles away, from a country where Papa John's pizza was a new arrival that was considered really quite an exotic pizza choice, to a place such as Dallas where neon food advertising coats the sides of the road, and there is no freeway exit without something that will only serve to knock valuable years off your life. All these places would seem infinitely more appealing to you. They'd have an air of mystery, that irresistible "Americana" the world is so desperate to capture. Deep down, you'd know that they were places serving reheated frozen food via surly staff members in demeaning clothing, but that wouldn't stop you. You'd have to try them all. And so I have. Here are my findings.
Firstly, and let's get this out the way up front, Waffle House is incredible. Pancakes, waffles, hash browns, bottomless coffee, bacon everywhere you look. Always a friendly greeting, always open, it kind of melds the "I need somewhere to sober up now" venue with the "Jesus, it's three in the afternoon and I still have a hangover, let's eat something" place into one glorious palace of heart attack. That, and it's mind-blowingly cheap and cheerful. I mean, the Waffle House Index is an actual real life rating of how ravaged a disaster-hit area is, simply because they will never close, come rain, shine, plague or apocalypse. Plus, it's "real" -- customers of a Waffle House invariably look like that's where they spend a lot of their time, like if you'd cast a movie that featured a Waffle House, they would have all been chosen by the casting agent. It's far superior in my mind to IHOP, which, while fancier, is overpriced and feels more like a sanitized restaurant. Plus, the hash browns aren't as good. Four dollars for a huge plate of hash browns with everything you can find in the back of the restaurant piled on it? Sold.
Patrick Michels A Wendy's Baconator calls to Gavin
I also really like Arby's. The sheer amount of beef and cheese you can get in one of their "deli" "sandwiches" (both of those words are questionably employed) is both awful and great, much like every show on TLC. Anywhere that does a dollar Oreo milkshake in a tiny cup, and then puts a straw in the milkshake that is five times the size of the cup thus making you look simultaneously like a midget and a giant, gets my vote. It's a nightmare of perspective that tastes like cookies. Chili's is fine by me, with $4 gigantic margaritas and a plethora of cheese. My wife is scarily obsessed with their Southwestern Egg Rolls. Denny's also gets my seal of approval for the sheer brass neck of having an entire menu dedicated to bacon, topped with a maple bacon ice-cream sundae. Really, everything I hoped about America is true. I am free to combine savory with sweet, as long as the savory is bacon and the sweet will kill me.