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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Of fine dining and chain restaurants

We had a very nice Valentine's yesterday. My daughter was thrilled with all her cards and candy from school (two cupcakes even! gold for a 2nd-grader) and loved the Barbie my husband bought her. My husband loved the popcorn I got him- I even decorated the red tin myself, using paint pens. He got me some amazing chocolates and a giant winnie-the-pooh card, which for anyone who knows me, is absolutely perfect for me.

Then he took me out for Indian food. The sign on the door said, "No menu or buffet tonight," so we're thinking, "what on earth will we eat then? the napkins?"

It turned out they had a special fixed price 6-course dinner. We spent $63 including tax, tip, bottle of wine, salad, appetizer, the most delicious tomato soup I've ever had in my life, entree (I had chicken tikka masala- hot! very very very hot), Naan, and chocolate cake for dessert.

Ok, the chocolate cake was really stretching it, it's not like I've ever seen that on the menu at an Indian restaurant before. But it was a really beautiful evening, the restaurant was draped in shades of red, from the neon lights at the front window. The tables had tablecloths (not their usual attire!), candles, and flowers, and there were even little valentine's balloons floating around the room.

I commented that I actually felt like I was in New York City, it felt like the kind of restaurant you find there. I also found it interesting to watch customer's faces as they, too, realized the buffet was closed. The regular customers had never seen such a thing! No buffet?! What to eat, then? But for those who stayed, I bet they were pleasantly surprised such as we were.

We were laughing about how hard it was to get a parking space. It's in the same complex as a Red Lobster, and their line was right out the door. We didn't have a reservation nor did we have to wait for a table, and I bet our dinner was much nicer than the one at Red Lobster. I also think we probably ate that huge meal and left before most people were even able to get a table at RL.

All in all, we have become very tired of chain restaurants. I miss the eclectic nature of restaurants in Chicago, the mom and pop restaurants. The food tastes so much better at the local stores, and even a local chain is better than most US chains. I have found Italian food so delicious I don't ever feel like setting a foot inside an Olive Garden again. I've also found the chains aren't even a discount anymore. Some of the best discounts can be found at my local mom and pop stores.

What about you? Are you a foodie or are you happy with the Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters of the world?

I'm just hoping more foodie oriented restaurants are coming our way.


Anonymous Another Wendy said...

What is the name of the Indian food restaurant? I'm also in San Diego and we are always in search of good Indian food.

5:22 PM

Blogger Weniki said...

I think it is called Cafe India. They have their buffet for lunch and for dinner (all you can eat vegetarian). They have a fantastic menu. They are closed Mondays.

They are located behind the Red Lobster on Sports Arena Blvd, next door to the Sports Arena/iPayOne Center. They are easily accessible from the 5 and the 8 freeways, located near the tri-corner of Sports Arena/Midway/West Point Loma Blvd.

7:32 PM

Anonymous another wendy said...

Thank you so much! I have never been here and we'll be trying it out. I'm in La Mesa, but I head over to USD about once a week and I'll be stopping for Indian food!

9:48 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think in a city like San Diego, you're going to find a lot of Chain-type restaurants, especially as the City caters so much to Tourists.

I love Olive Garden myself-have tried just about every Italian restaurant in the area, and it's still about the best that I know of. (Their spaghetti and sausage is scrumptious!)

My favorite used to be Spaghetti Factory, another former chain restaurant but it's gone now :o(. I loved that place--was perfect for Theater night downtown! Made for a nice 11 block walk from the Civic Theater to a great dinner, and back again. Saved on parking too!

So I guess it doesn't really matter whether Chain or not, we just eat where we like the food and we also love Souplantation which is a Chain.

11:51 PM

Blogger Weniki said...

Oh, chains can be good, don't get me wrong! You must go try the restaurant Tiramisu in downtown La Mesa, and let me know what you think. I just think homemade pasta tastes so much better! I love many things about Olive Garden don't get me wrong- I used to buy their salad dressing when they used to sell it (back in the early 90's), I've willingly waited a half hour, an hour, for a table there. ESPECIALLY when you have a small child, chain restaurants are a godsend.

And America is built on franchises and chains, I agree- and there's something interesting to being 3,000 miles from home and knowing exactly what the meal is going to taste like it. Neighborhoods all across the country can feel familiar.

But every once in a while the "sameness" of it gets to me, and the "uniqueness" of a mom and pop restaurant is just what I need.

As for Souplantation? Sometimes I think we'd all starve to death if we didn't live near a Souplantation :-)

And I, too, miss the Spaghetti Factory!

10:01 AM


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