|My favorite food critic - Antone from Ratatouille|
- We know where they are. They have big lighted signs and they put them in places we can find them like next to a mall or Wal-Mart. Middle class people don't have the time or energy left after a hard day of real work to run all over town looking for snobby restaurants. We want something good, something nice and something we can find.
- We can afford them. Most of these cost a few bucks more, but the service and the tastiness of the food makes us feel special.
- We know what we're getting. If you're going our to eat and going a little over budget to boot, you want to know what to expect. The lack of nasty surprises is part of the charm in going out to a "nice" restaurant in the first place.
- They give us a safe place to celebrate the special events of our lives. Middle class people like to go out to eat on birthdays, Mother's day, Father's day, anniversaries and the like. We'd rather go someplace nicer than McDonald's or the Sonic Drive-In to mark these occasion. We'd rather not risk spending a lot of money and then not enjoying it, so we tend to stick to places we know and can trust.
Red Robin: I hadn't tried out RR until a few years ago when I came up to Washington to visit my sister and brother-in-law. RR is a sort of cafe' on steroids - nice atmosphere with all sorts of interesting stuff on the walls like most of these places. If you're looking for a fancy hamburger, this place has 'em. They also do some nice dinner kinds of things too.
Chili's, Applebee's and TGI Friday's: Applebees has some really good food and their prices are reasonable. It is a bar and grill, so expect some noise from the bar area on Friday and Saturday nights. Our favorites are the steak (my wife is a closet carnivore) and the oriental chicken bowl. Very nice. I combined Chili's and Applebee's in one entry because they are a lot alike in atmosphere and menu. One thing Chili's does that I appreciate is offer a vegetarian version of any of their burgers. Just ask for the Swiss Mushroom Burger with the black bean burger. It's what I always have at Chili's. TGI Fridays has pretty good food of about the same bar/grill style cuisine as the others. Any one of them are good for after the ball game on the weekend and for miscellaneous celebratory gatherings.
If one of your favorite casual dining restaurants is missing from this list, feel free to add it in the comments section. I probably just haven't been there yet or this would be a top 20 or top 50. Hmmm. I may have to expand my list someday soon.