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If I had an extra couple of hours a day... [Aug. 27th, 2008|08:38 am]
I'd write a restaurant review column that focused solely on good restaurants hiding in crappy strip malls. Because truly, some of the best, reasonably priced food is lurking near you, next to the Dollar Store and that strange ethnic food store that despite five years of driving by you've never seen anyone going in and out and you can't really even tell what KIND of food they sell. Beside the carpet store and around the corner from the optometrist whose window display looks older than your gramma...if she were festooned with dead flies.

And you, you're going to BeniTuesdayFridayChilibee's. Dude....that food sucks. It does. You need to get out and eat some real food. Not food that has been pre-cooked in some central kitchen somewhere, shipped frozen to the restaurant only to be nuked or shown the grill before it arrives on your plate. How can you call yourself a restaurant when you don't even have an OVEN?

Go ahead, scrape off the sauce laden with artificial flavors, colors and thickeners and look at that chicken breast. Hey, it looks exactly the same as the chicken breast on your companion's plate. And not a whole lot like the chicken breast you cooked at home, does it? See, it's important to a restaurant like that to have a chicken breast that is always the same size, the same number of ounces. I won't bore you with the details of protein relaxers...you can get your own copy of Journal of Muscle Foods.

But really, it's not quite natural. Get thee to one of these little gems lurking in your neighborhood. They're run by families who've invested their life savings, their days and nights and weekends and holidays into making this restaurant survive and you're passing them by so that you can throw money at a chain that caters to the least common denominator of taste and flavor. (Hey, but the portions are HUGE! Oh, sweetheart, look at the size of your ass. That's the LAST thing you need.)

Sometimes the food or the atmosphere or both will not be great. But often, it will. Quit passing by a chance at possible greatness in order to spend yet another night at a chain restaurant serving the same predictable plastic food. Go find someplace where all the crap on the walls was accumulated over decades, instead of some single corporate raid on an estate sale.

Here's the thing -- you find a local, family-run restaurant and the next time you go in...they'll recognize you. You patronize them, you bring friends and neighbors there to eat and you will become part of the family. They will take care of you. (Oh, I know, you've known that waitress at Crapplebee's for years. But she's the only one there who cares if you live or die, trust me.) They value you and your business.

Be adventurous -- heck, if you live in the greater DC/Baltimore area you pass by several little restaurants tucked into strip malls, shopping areas. And yeah, you're not going to know ahead of time what the food will be like. Don't be a wuss. Give it a try. It will be something to talk about, even if it's not great. But it's probably going to be better than where you were going to go to eat.

Then, when you find a treasure, share it. Bring people to it, tell people about it. Sure, you can vote in this fall's election and your vote will REALLY count. snort! But, simply by patronizing a restaurant and helping to promote the good ones, you actually CAN make a difference -- helping local people make a living, encouraging good food and good atmosphere.

Huff, puff while I climb down off my soapbox -- but here are two if you're in the Silver Spring/Wheaton area: Cristina's, a little Italian restaurant in Wheaton on University Blvd. And last night's gem (and what got me started -- as it was just so nice to be in a restaurant where people gave a damn...enough to bring us extra Naan because we couldn't stop raving about it...and horking it down) was Bombay in the White Oak Shopping Center on New Hampshire in Silver Spring.

[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-08-27 01:12 pm (UTC)
That reminds me of Ahashi (if mistressfetch reads this she'll correct the spelling) in Laurel.

It's possibly prepackaged sort of -- it is sushi -- but if you're not eating something right they'll come over and give helpful suggestions. They smile and offer ideas if you're stuck and don't exactly want sushi either. More than once they've fixed my blank stare with something lovely that I couldn't pronounce on a bet.

I'm fairly certain they're family owned as well and yes there's reasonably nice portion control but it's on pretty plates so who cares eh?

Great - now I'm craving sushi ... and that lovely fried rice dish that goes in a pot in the oven that I can't remember the name of ...........
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