When selecting places to dine en route, I have tried my very best to eschew the chain restaurant on the strip mall in favor of the mom & pop shop off the main drag. The towns I passed through from western Kentucky, through Missouri, into eastern Kansas almost invariably have had a single, solitary non-chain restaurant, most often pegged as a diner. By and large, they are cozy little places with friendly owners just dying to fill you up good.
However, the food at these establishments has been, without exception, terrible. About 3/4 of the menu is breaded and fried. There are precious few vegetable choices past the potato; those that exist are generally fresh from the can. Salad, where offered, consists of iceberg lettuce, a few limp slices of tomato, and some grated American cheese. Fruit is the tinned variety, drowned in a thick coat of syrup. There is no such thing as whole grain bread, and I haven’t seen real butter for about 500 miles (“whipped spread” is incredibly popular – apparently the trans fat scare hasn’t made it here yet.) This is doubly weird because I’ve biked by a whole bunch of dairies. As a final insult, coffee is consumed only with powdered creamer; a substance that I’m pretty sure is created by some sort of refinery.
Frankly, Middle America, I’m surprised you are in as good health as you are. I suppose you probably don’t eat out that often (although the mom & pop shop always seems to have some regulars hanging out in it.) I am finally beginning to understand how chain restaurants managed to become so prevalent — that Applebee’s salad creation is starting to seem positively gourmet. Which is really depressing. Where are the mom & pop who grow fresh veggies in the back yard, bake their own bread, have a couple cows on hand for dairy? I guess that’s too much work to be cost-effective. Or maybe no one who thinks like that can limit themselves to sticking around in a one-horse town.
Posted by: sam