I was out just touring the local shopping centers this morning for no good reason except to roll around a bit before the scattered or isolated thunderstorms start popping up. As usual I was thinking of things I could park the scooter in front of to have something to write about here, and I happened to find two of them right next door to each other.
Now I'm a loyal shopper. When services are great and I get a good bang for my buck I go back to a business again and again. Likewise, when I don't like an establishment the only time you'll see me setting a foot in its doors is if I have a gift card for the place in my pocket. That's generally the case when it comes to the trendy restaurants built near the malls. They're over priced, nothing special, and they won't take reservations because they figure they're going to fill the tables anyway. The wait kids are entirely too bubbly and excited in trying to get you to plunk down $7 for some exotic drink and shrink back with visible disappointment if you don't want an appetizer up front or dessert later. And the manager comes around way too late to ask, "How's everything here?" when the food and the service are both mediocre to lousy.
One such joint that I don't like in particular is the Outback Steakhouse. They don't have lunch hours. Seemingly they'd rather not bother lowering their prices to serve lunch sized portions. I remember getting a steak there that was more gristle than meat, and let's not forget those annoying commercials with the horribly fake Australian accent that grates on us. One thing I have to hand it to them for, though - getting us to spend $6 on a stinking onion that the rest of the trendy, overpriced places all try to copy now.
Right beside our Outback here is another restaurant at the bottom of my personal food chain - Olive Garden. "When you're here, you're family?" I don't know. I haven't eaten a meal with family yet where I've gotten a bill at the end, so their insincere slogan doesn't quite cut it.
In terms of what you get for what you pay, they've got to be the worst of the chain restaurants. Let's see. About 25¢ worth of salad, another quarter's worth of bread, maybe 30¢ worth of noodles and perhaps 75¢ worth of meat or shrimp and what's the price on that? No restaurant can jack up the price as much as the Italian sort with dirt cheap noodles of some sort forming the basis of just about every meal and Olive Garden serves up those ridiculous prices in spades for nothing special at all. Unlimited salad and bread sticks? Woo hoo! That's right up there with unlimited tap water. Like the Outback, though, Olive Garden makes a pretty enough backdrop for the scooter.
I got back from my morning ride in plenty of time to have a huge salad for lunch that didn't cost me $8 and with time to spare to eat it at the table on the deck before the pea sized hail started falling from one of those thunderstorms I'd been expecting.
Cheap. It's what's for dinner!