Today we did a little sighing about a Florida community that's relying on a combination Red Lobster/Olive Garden restaurant to save its economy. Sigh, we said. But one commenter in particular rushed to the much-maligned restaurant chain's defense.
The food at both of these places is usually good to excellent. I am so tired of food snob city-dwellers who think they can't find anything worthy of their delicate palates outside Manhattan and Brooklyn.
If Olive Garden existed not as a chain, but as one restaurant somewhere—in I dunno, Newport, Rhode Island let's say—and it had the exact same menu, service and atmosphere as the chain does, locals and tourists would flock to it and come back to the city talking about this great Italian place they found in Rhode Island.
My guess is 95 percent of people couldn't tell the difference in a blind taste test between an Olive Garden entree and one from some overpriced, overhyped foodie mecca of the moment.
The major difference in chain restaurants like these and some Michelin-rated place is price. Noodles are noodles. Some just cost food snobs $150.
The real difference between chain restaurants and a favorite funky little diner no one knows about is mostly the attitude towards each of them.
As the chief snob here, I guess, let me respond to a couple of those points. First of all, I think absolutely most people could tell the difference, because usually local restaurants actually care about the practice of preparing and serving food, rather than soullessly cramming it down people's throats for no other reason than profit — money that does not, by and large, get shared with the actual community. You don't have to be a snob to care about what and where you're eating. Also, have you seen the Olive Garden commercials? I mean, the latest one with the cousins? They're the most heinously annoying things on the planet.
But, as several commenters pointed out, the biscuits at Red Lobster are pure heaven. Also, I ate at Ruby Tuesday's just yesterday. I don't know what that means, but I did.