19 September 2008

The finest in casual dining

A couple of days ago, the kids and I took a jaunt down to the massive outdoor mall* near our house, which meant that we got to bite into a juicy cross section of what passes for Americana these days.

Among the stores we passed was a Chili's**, which caught D-'s eye immediately. He said, "Hey look, there's that 'rons-traunt' we went to that time." I acknowledged this and praised him as usual for his good memory, since it was quite awhile ago. He stared at the window as we (happily) passed it by, and his brain began to slowly warp itself before he continued with a second thought. I was all over it two words in-- I don't know why I'm so tuned into his brain patterns most of the time, but I just knew exactly what he was thinking.

D-: Remember we went there that time 'cause Momma's friend works there, and she...

Me: Nope, that was a different place.

D-: No! It was that place right there! We went there and Momma's friend...

Me: You're right that it's the same kind of place, but it's a different restaurant, from a different company.

D-: No it was that place! We went there that time and Momma's friend gave us cookies and they sang Happy Birthday to you!

Me: I promise you, that was a Bennigan's. This is a Chili's. They're pretty much exactly the same restaurant, with the same kind of food, but they have slightly different decorations on the walls. They're from two different companies, and they have two different names, but I can see how you could get confused.

He walked on in silence, since my Imperious Kung Fu is much stronger for the time being, but it was clear from his posture that he still believed he was right, just like I would. As I caught him gazing innocently off in the direction of the Outback Steakhouse, rather than go through this all over again, I immediately veered off the sidewalk to instead cut through the parking lot in the general direction of a big box store whose name willfully escapes me.

Who says America doesn't have any culture?

* Not to be confused with the other massive outdoor mall also in our town but another mile farther away in a different direction.

** I had to quickly double-check that it wasn't actually an Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, Chotchkee's, Flingers,
Fuddruckers, Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag, TGI Friday's, or one of the others.


unmitigated me said...

You are making me think of a massive outdoor mall in Chicagoland that starts with O. I would actually not mind shopping if that was near me! I miss it bad!

Brittany said...

Nothing is better than a nice fried Bloomin' Onion/Onion Petals/Onion Blossom.

Chris M. said...

Ooooh, the young one's Kung Fu is slowly coming along...

You should be careful with this one, DanLiteral.

If it were a Hooters, does the conversation become any different?

Weather Moose

Natalie said...

chili's, tgi fridays, bennigans...all sound yummy right about now. i wonder what we are having for dinner. since i'm the cook around here i guess i should decide!

thegirlof510 said...

Hmm...I don't think I've ever been to Bennigans...

Anonymous said...

Isn't it crazy that so many people will forego the awesome local cuisine in favor of the chains?

Although, if you're a picky eater at least you can travel the country and already know what you like on the menu.

Kat said...

Oh the joys of living in a city. I am just envious that you have a wide selection of look the same, have the same menu restaurants. 45 min drive to any chain restaurants for me, except Applebees. Ugh Applebees.

Kevin McKeever said...

Chili's is many steps up from Bennigan's! Queso galore! And the Firecrack Tilapia is tasty yet not filling. Presidente Margaritas for everyone!

Guess you can figure out where we're eating when me and Thing 1 visit you in November, huh?

Mama Dawg said...

Oh, that's sooooooo me.

My daughter also did the same thing...although she was usually right.

Goldfish said...

Love the "patriotism" label. One of my now-four-year-old's first words was "Applebees." Troubling.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to any of those restaurants, although my mom took us to Ruby Tuesdays last week when we were visiting her. Good salad bar.

Is that kinda like the same thing?


Rikki said...

I will be up in Chicago this weekend (shopping with my SIL for her wedding dress...God help me). I know there are a gazillion people in Chicago, but I if I should see you (and recognize you by your half-face), do know that I will say hi!

And Middle Aged Woman, I *heart* Oakbrook as well.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I just noticed that you have a section devoted specifically to... groin pain.

You can't bitch at me about talking about my ovulation :)

steenky bee said...

We must live near each other. I have all these fine dining establishments and stores right by MY house. What are the odds? Actually, I bet they're pretty good. I have to say though, I am oddly fascinated by the way these places name their appetizers. I would LOVE that job. I could think of seven different ways to not call a huge deep fried onion a huge deep fried onion.

Aracely said...

Uncle Moe, my sodee is too cold! My teeth hurt!

CaraBee said...

And now, despite myself, I am hungry.

Allison said...

Hey, there's nothing like a dried-out piece of salmon with "teriayki (i.e.sugar) sauce" drench all over it with a side of discount flank steak and jumbo shrimp.

Swirl Girl said...

maybe Brinker Int'l or Darden would like to bail out the Fed?

seems they've all the money these days....

Anonymous said...

Boy, LD, you're like a comment whore these days! What's the catch!?

Gucci Mama said...


People in the Sun said...

I love it when they sing Happy Birthday! And give me free bread sticks! And free refills for my coke! And watery beer! It makes me feel alive! And they give me free mints before I leave! Which makes it easier to breathe after I puke!

Leslie said...

Awesome memory, little dude!

And as for Poe...Eldest picked out a great kids anthology of his work at a bookstore when we were visiting Philadelphia. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she picked it. But I started reading poetry to them when they were wee (and I was ready to burn Goodnight Moon). I'd bet little dude could totally handle Annabelle Lee and its beautiful rhythm now. Here's my favorite anthology for kids: http://books.google.com/books?id=Hpe9UGK50yoC&dq=talking+like+the+rain+book&pg=PP1&ots=-ra3fhQ8Zw&sig=7434_VDZKsQZ-NWZJXKfRlThyro&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result

Tara R. said...

It's scary how much alike all those mall 'rons-traunts' really are. I remember a Bennigans in Knoxville, TN. I haven't seen one in Florida yet. But we do have more than our share of Chili's and Outback.

Kori said...

I love people in the sun's comment; it is almost as true and powerful as your amazing kung fu powers.

Anonymous said...

we call those Picture-Menu restaurants, and reserve them solely for road trips. Keeps 'em "special."

Gromit said...

chili's, tgi fridays, bennigans...
not matter...

i like 'them' much...
and i'M glad to hear the 'KUNG FU' sound here.hehe

Mrs4444 said...

This is not a good way to start my morning! I was hoping to avoid breakfast, given that our block party is today, and I'll be eating for about six hours tonight. Shoot.

Michael from dadcation.com said...

don't you live in chicago? why the chain restaurants?! goodness gracious. i thought that was why we live in civilized areas!

LiteralDan said...

Middle Aged Woman: This wasn't the massive outdoor mall starting with an O that I alluded to. This was the other one in town, starting with a V.

Brittany: Except for a super awesome $20 8-pound Tuesday/Friday/Thursday Burger!!!

Chris: Oh there's nothing slow about his Imperious Kung Fu development.

And the answer is: Different, but similar.

Natalie: Want me to airmail you some of our greasy food? It's chock full o' hormones! Then again, with a house full of preteens/teens, you probably don't want any more of those.

thegirlof510: If you've ever been to one of the others, then you've been to Bennigans. The time he was talking about was my only time, and we only went because J-'s friend (also a teacher, working part-time) begged her to, and bribed us with lots of free things and discounts.

Andrea's Sweet Life: Indeed, it's the essence of franchising. Who knows how different our country and our world would be if we weren't so drawn to the familiar at the expense of all else?

Kat: I got news for you, lady, if you say "ugh, Applebees", you won't be too excited about all the other ones. (I like that line, by the way.)

Always Home and Uncool: I shall refrain from comment, queso or no.

I'm no connoiseur, so I can't think of a better place (since The Berghoff closed, anyway) that isn't crazy expensive. Unless I do, then we should totally go there. I'll have to remember to do a search in the immediate area around where you said you're staying.

Mama Dawg: Never, never admit when they're right! That's Lesson 1 of parenting-- come on!

Goldfish: What could be more patriotic than patronizing franchises?

The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet: Ruby Tuesday is one of the founding pillars of this type of restaurant. So just like that, you've been to all the others. Wasn't that fun?

But groin pain is funny! Everyone loves a good whack in the nuts. Except the whackee.

Rikki: You probably won't see me at any wedding dress shops (note that I left the possibility open), but just in case, my Tribune interview has my whole face, sans the famous blue tube.

Oakbrook is nice, but that one's indoors-- I do believe she was referring to good ol' Old Orchard, the car-parker's nightmare.

jenboglass: Nicely done on both counts, my friend. You've knocked me out of character with your skills. I'll have to respond earnestly instead.

That's the beauty of the English portion (and presumably the Asian portions) of the menus shown at Engrish.com-- they are totally honest in their descriptions, though sometimes slightly off in their word choice.

A huge deep-fried onion would be called "Huge unhealthy deep fried onion of death". Personally I'd tell them to go with The Widowmaker. Then I'd demand my sandwich and alcohol.

Threeboys1mommy: Your "teef" hurt, huh? Well that's TOO freakin' BAD! I'll tell you where you can put your freaking "sod-ee", too!!

CaraBee: That's how they get you. They're like drug dealers.

Allison: I partially agree with you, but in fact there IS something like that dried-out piece of salmon-- a dried-out piece of tilapia drenched in Southwest Sauce!*. I'll take one of each of those sides, and to drink? Meatballs.**

* Exclamation point trademark of Ruby Tuesday. All rights reserved.

** Thanks to Homer Simpson for the all-time great line.

Swirl Girl: But they lose it all again on the neverending breadsticks and salad. Because they're "givers" like that.

MamaNeena: How do you mean? Giving or getting?*

* Either way, I've always been a whore, for so many things! Just not usually a well-paid one.

Stephanie: Indeed, I am also a fan. What a coincidence!!

People in the Sun: And I love reading hilarious comments like this! But I'd love it even more if someone captured the supposed essence of the experience, trademarked and homogenized it, and then spread it across every facet of my life till I felt like I couldn't breathe and was being hypocritical and misanthropic to not profess my love for it at all times!! Wouldn't you, my friend™!?!!

Laggin: He has such a good memory, sometimes he even remembers things that never happened!

I absolutely love Annabelle Lee, about as much as The Raven, as cliche as it is. It's one of those things everyone loves for good reason, so there should be no guilt in being one of a large crowd.

So why do I feel that little twinge of guilt/pathetic-ness?

Tara R.: I would love to know how many a "share" is.

Just so I have something to look forward to. Right now it's looking like somewhere in the hundreds, in total.

Kori: Nothing is nearly as true or powerful as my kung fu. Don't ever suggest such a ridiculous thing again, in my presence or out of it. You are dismissed.

├╝berburber: That's a good name for them, and that's a good strategy. Although when the kids get older, you may find them there every other day, "treating" themselves. [See: The McDonald's $800 billion strategy.]

You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Gromit: They can be good, but when they are, it just feels so wrong, somehow.

Thanks for stopping by! My dad was just in Malaysia very recently so it's a cool coincidence that you're from there.

Mrs4444: Sorry! At least I didn't go on and on about the succulence of some particularly delicious food. Or bacon.

Mmmmm... bacon.

I'm jealous you're having a block party-- those are fun. You should absolutely eat a huge breakfast as soon as possible, though, or you are going to regret it later.

You eat a big breakfast, you put your body into calorie-burning mode. You skip breakfast, you put it into emergency no-burning mode. Eating 4 meals' worth of food while in the latter mode is a bad, bad idea.

This message brought to you by the LiteralDan Committee for Hypocritical Lectures.

muskrat: I do, and we are as riddled with chain restaurants as we are non-chain-restaurants... apparently we're just supposed to eat all the time we're not shopping. And also while we are shopping.

The Microblogologist said...

Chili's is nasty and all the other places are infinitely better. Peppers are generally vile (except in italian salad dressing) and they put them in like everything. Cheese broccoli soup should NOT be made with pepper jack! I left there broke, starving and very embarrassed since I was on a double date and everyone made fun of me for not being able to eat the contaminated food and being stuck munching on a few pieces of lettuce (I ordered soup and salad, both were contaminated with pepper jack). If I ever have someone try to drag me there again I will refuse to go unless I can bring in my own food.

I don't remember a mall that starts with a V, there is Fox Valley but that technically starts with an F. I usually go to York Town since it is a straight shot down Fairview from my parents' place. I usually get lost trying to find Oakbrook Mall, I think it is off of Rt. 83... I have a talent for getting lost, even when attempting to go to a place I have gone so many times growing up in the area!

Anonymous said...

Wait... Tchotckes and Flingers are real places? I totally thought they were made up.

unmitigated me said...

Actually, Rikki was correct, it was Oakbrook I was talking about. It's enclosed around the sides, but open on top, and even in the winter, you don't need to wear a coat to shop. This is something a menopausal woman longs for.

unmitigated me said...

And I just read microbiologist's comment...Fox Valley = pretty good. Oakbrook = Da BOMB! YorkTown = very nice. And there's a WoodSometing mall near Carol Stream that's pretty good, too. I think it says something that I am much more familiar with the malls of western Chicagoland than of Motown, where I live. I'm just not sure what.

LiteralDan said...

The Microblogologist: I don't like pepper jack cheese, but I've never had it there (I believe I've been there 3 times). I just have them hold one or two things I don't want (such as mushrooms-- yuck), and I'm fine.

Should I hold an informal contest to guess the mall? I'll award the winner 100 Minion points. They will come from Mama Dawg's running tally, unless she comments back here to protest. I like to keep her on her toes.

blissfullycaffeinated: Nope they're not-- I linked those two to the Wikipedia page for Office Space, but I don't blame you for not clicking.

Middle Aged Woman: Damn you, MAW, how dare you?? You should have changed your meaning to suit my version of reality. I never would have thought of Oakbrook Mall as being an outdoor mall in a million years.

I haven't been to Fox Valley or YorkTown malls, but I think the "Wood" mall you're looking for is Woodfield Mall, in Schaumburg. But then, I've been wrong before about which suburban Chicagoland mall a blogger was intending to identify. Haven't we all?

Have you spent a lot of time out here? Shopping out here, more specifically?

Andrea said...


I say you can debate it over a plate of southwestern quesadillas and margaritas!

Thanks for the wish-it wasn't so bad. I still hate sayin' the number though-

Gromit said...

Hello literaldan, you dad came to Malaysia for holiday or biz trip?

My current place is Penang, Malaysia (it is Malaysia Free Industrial Area), and my hometown is Pahang, Malaysia. (you can't miss out Taman Negara (National Park) is the first and the oldest official Protected Area in the country, originally named King George V National Park.

welcome to Malaysia.

unmitigated me said...

Before Husband and I were married, his family moved from Motown to Wheaton. They spread out to Schaumburg, Geneva, Carol Stream, and St. Charles at various times. We've spent lots of Christmases out there with the family, necessitating either transporting lots of gifts by car or frantically shopping in Chicagoland. Frantic shopping wins out over crowded, four-hour drive.

Ringleader said...

My 6yo loves "Applefeast" and any joint that has a "Juicebox" (jukebox). Oh, and any place that has teeny corndogs on the menu.

Anonymous said...

I'm a tard. No excuse. Also, I did just skim the footnotes. My bad.

Irrational Dad said...

All company owned Bennigan's locations are closing/have closed (franchises are staying open)... so if you want to enjoy their food (I had a juicy sammich there a couple months ago called the Turkey O' Toole. Yummy!!!), you better do it quick.

LiteralDan said...

Andrea: Queso is the key-so to my heart.

It'll come, in time. Like 10 years or so... :-)

Gromit: Hi there! My dad was over there for business. It was his second trip, and both times he came back talking about how nice the country and the people are.

I'd like to make it over there some day, for sure.

Middle Aged Woman: Ahh, Wheaton. Is there any more wholesome-sounding town?

Next time you're frantically shopping all over Chicagoland, be sure to stop by my house with a tribute.

Ringleader: Hey, jukebox, juicebox-- it's all good to me. I haven't seen teeny corndogs anywhere that I recall, but I think our kids would definitely be in love with those.

blissfullycaffeinated: There's always an excuse! Have you learned nothing from this blog?? The other lesson is that you NEVER only skim the footnotes. Unless I'm just rambling. Then totally just skim them and don't hold it against me.

Same goes for comments.

Joe: I heard that when J-'s friend lost her job-- I'm still not clear on what they did to piss off the owner's leinholder. How can they deprive so much of the country of faux-Irish-pub-ness at the drop of a hat?

Seriously, though, my meal there wasn't bad, just unremarkable. Other than the many remarks I had to make about it.

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that we have reached the point where technology has become one with our lives, and I am 99% certain that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further advances, the possibility of transferring our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could experience in my lifetime.

(Posted using RPost for R4i Nintendo DS.)