A few months ago, Dinerwife Antoinette and I went to Florida for a vacation with her family. I found one diner that was less than a 30 minute drive from our hotel. We arrived and discovered that they had just stopped serving breakfast. This was crushing since I had my mind set on something involving syrup.
We looked at the lunch menu and I honestly said "I don't want to eat here." It was a lot of pasta dishes--which made sense as the place had only recently gone from being an Italian restaurant to presumably a diner. We got up and left and drove to the place we saw right off the highway: Bob Evans.
I had never heard of it before but apparently it's a chain--like a BIG chain. It just does not have any locations on the west coast. I don't review big chains--a place with two or three other locations? Sure, but not CHAIN chains.
My stance on chains is not that the food is terrible or the experience lacking. It is that a chain is going to default to being "safe." That's the comfort of chains. You know regardless of where you are in the world, walking into a Dennys, a McDonalds or an Olive Garden (shudder), whatever you order is going to taste exactly the same as the last time you ordered that same dish at that same restaurant halfway across the world. I like surprises; I like taking that chance. I'm a food gambler at heart, baby. And by gambling, I'm helping in someones struggle to make their own way, not fill the coffers of a corporation. And with this blog I like to think I'm helping encourage others to take the same chance. That's why I don't like chains.
But here--in Florida--I was at a chain restaurant that I had no experience with.
A place with such great food pron pictures of pie can't be that bad right?
Something I noticed was that the menu and the offerings represented a very different sensibility than what I am used to. For instance, biscuits are their base bread. If you want regular toast, you'll have to be sure to say something.
They are very proud of their biscuits. They have them baking in a huge bread over at the front o the restaurant. They ever have biscuit bread bowl breakfast.
The appetizers read like a list of food you will find available at this Summer's state fair: apple fries, fried cheese bits, tater-tots!
The bed of lettuce is a nice touch.
They also bake their own bread. We ordered the Blueberry Poundcake for the table.
Did I mention that I gained like 5lbs on this vacation?
There were five of us there, so I can't really go into much detail about what each of us ordered, but below are the pictures.
Veggie Omelette with onion, spinach and diced tomatoes. It tasted very fresh.
Corn Meal Mash! You know when I saw that on the menu I had to get it. Ever since I first tried it at Stox, it is that weird thing I have to try at each place that has it. It was pretty good-- but not as good as Stox. I also got the hash browns, which were decent, and the sausage and cheese biscuits and gravy.
....what I said earlier--I take that back--it was more like 8lbs on this vacation.
The turkey bacon melt, could have been more "melty." Otherwise, it was decent.
Sausage Omelette with swiss cheese. The country sausage was good, while the swiss cheese did seem like Kraft singles swiss.
The real winner was Antoinette's Pot Roast Hash. A little salty, but pretty awesome. We were stuffed toward the end of our meal, but we kept eating as much of the pot roast as we could.
...It was 10lbs on this vacation. Definitely.
We left Bob Evans satisfied. I think this was a pretty typical experience from a chain restaurant. We had good service. Our food was overall good. I certainly appreciated their bottomless refills on just about all drinks (even the Caramel Mocha). I'm just not the person who is going to get excited about a place like this, but it was a interesting change of pace.
Visit their website to find a location near you.