FAST FOOD & SLOW FAST FOOD
Today was a gloomy, cold, cloudy day. Not sure if it was all the drama from the Fiscal Cliff and a bittersweet end to 2012 and a much more bitter beginning to 2013, but the mood was dull at best. I stayed up too late watching all sorts of New Year Celebrations from all over the world, I knew there would be nothing to do today, so I stayed up late, slept in, then woke up to cloudy skies. I wanted something I’ve been wanting for at least a couple of years. Arby’s roast beef with Horsey sauce (horseradish sauce, its spicy and I like it) and yes, I know its probably not very good, but I miss it. My mother liked it, and since they closed their store in the local mall food court, I have to travel at least 30 minutes or more on a highway to find one.
So, I found one, and it was only ok. A little dry, well done, not like the juicy, hot, fresh ones I knew from their mall location years back. I just don’t know if the older I get the pickier I get when it come to good food, or the food is declining and cheaper ingredients are used and shortcuts are taken, or both. Even the bun was not as fresh and moist, but more a little dry and not crumbly but certainly not as fresh as I remember last. All is fine, $6 later, I was ok and drove back home.
Its 5pm now, I took a nap since I felt so sluggish. My friend calls and his wife is a manager at Chili’s and wanted to know if I cared to join them. Sure, its been 1.5 years since I’ve been there and they have an “All New” menu. “Sure” I think, but I am not in the mood to cook and I’d like to see my friends since I have not seen them in over 2 months. So, I show up to Chili’s and find they do in fact have a new menu. New burgers, new combos, even new items like jumbo soft pretzel appetizers and “Texas Cheese Fries” (basically everything they put on nachos only they put them on french fries now). They even serve it with chili and/or ranch dressing poured over it. Wow.
They have new sandwiches, some healthy(er), some not. I didn’t know that Philly Cheesesteak was TexMex, but ok. And, they have healthier salad alternative salads. But Pizza was a surprise to me, though it should not have been such a surprise, or as one other food blog puts it: “What it appears they’ve done now is to have taken parts of that menu, put them on round pieces of bread with some cheese, thrown them in an oven and called them pizzas.” Not to copy or plagiarize, so please see their entry at: http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/10/chain-reaction-we-tried-chilis-pizza.html
So, what it boils down to, is a chain making something for everyone one regardless. Domino’s has an oven, so why can’t they make sandwiches like sausage and peppers, Philly cheesesteak or meatball parm? They can, they have the bread, they have the cheese, they have the meat. Its the same with Chilis, they have the kitchen, they have the bread, they have all the pizza toppings, so what is to stop them from offering it if the public wants it? What is appalling is the the $13 for a smaller pie made with inferior ingredients because thats what pizzerias are charging.
So, I am undecided between what I do like at Chilis which is their baby back ribs, or something new for the new year like the Guacamole Burger. Its a new year, I know the ribs, so I have to try one of their new items. I go for the Guacamole burger with “hand fired” jalapenos, red and green bell peppers, onions, and cumin-lime sour cream. Here is what their menu photo looks like:
Yum, a nice, thick, even layer of guacamole, cumin-sour cream, burger on top of a bed of roasted red and green bell peppers and caramelized onions. This is what I got:
You see the onions scattered at the bottom with mostly onion only one piece of red pepper and a few pieces of green pepper? On the top you see the jalapeños and just a dab of the cumin-lime sour cream on the edge of the burger. Now, I never expect any chain or even any restaurant to serve what they show in a photo. I know its a rushed process on a busy night of getting food out of the kitchen by short order cooks and on to the table. But how hard is it to assemble a burger where you have an even layer of all the ingredients? Why do I get jalapeño on one end, guacamole on another and yet the sour cream (which tasted neither like cumin nor lime) somewhere at the end of the bun and barely on the meat? You can see for yourself, I am not lying.
Call me a burger snob but I think burgers need to be structured and “built” properly. You don’t putt the messiest/slippery ingredients on the bottom where they slide off the bun. The onions and peppers need to be on top of the burger, not underneath. It should not be a mess to eat. I should not have to cautiously nibble as to not create a mess and have it all slip out of my hands, on to the plate and have to eat it with a fork and/or my fingers. I got through it. But its not what I would order again. The burger was fine, I honestly don’t even remember tasting the cheese (or if cheese was even on it, honestly, do you see any cheese here? I certainly don’t) and the jalapeños were so hot (even for my taste) that they overpowered everything else. This is not their fault, I really really like hot food, especially jalapeños. I will be surprised if this becomes a permanent menu item. It was not a bad burger, but certainly not a good one either. It was fair at best, and if it was served on a fresher bun with the toppings a bit more well-placed, it could have won me over. But hey, its a chain, its “good food fast” (not really) so it is what it is, its just not one of their signature items I would truly embrace like their fajitas served in a sizzling cast iron skillet or their baby back ribs or even their classic nachos.
I honestly don’t go to these places looking for a great culinary experience, but I do hope they are consistent and offer quality not just in the food, but in the delivery. This cook could have made a better burger that would have swayed my critique.
So, its 2013 and for the last 24 hours I have been eating pigs in blankets, fried jalapeño poppers with cheese, Arby’s fast food with curly fries and Chili’s nachos with a guacamole burger. I can feel it in my body that this was not a good day of healthy eating. However, it was a holiday, and a good day to indulge on guilty pleasures, my only hope is that I do not wake up with a food hangover (which is real and very much possible). Its sad that the healthiest thing I had all day was a Blue Moon Ale with a slice of orange. Literally. I hope I wake tomorrow with healthier ambitions.