5 Beloved Restaurants That Are Seriously Overrated
People love food. How's that for a strong opening sentence? That's why I'm on the payroll, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway, as it pertains to America, at least, our favorite brand of food is the kind that's delivered into our mouths as quickly and hassle-free as possible. We call it fast food, and a lot of it sucks.
That said, like any other market, certain brands are revered above all others in the crowded field of Type 2 diabetes distribution. In some cases, the praise is well-deserved, but more often than not ... it's not. This is a topic we touch on in this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast (which was recorded live at the Hollywood Improv with a full band, but, hey, no big deal) ...
... where we kick off a discussion about overrated things everyone in Los Angeles loves by bashing one of the state of California's most prized franchises ...
Listen, I'm not saying In-N-Out makes a bad burger by any stretch of the imagination. They make fucking terrible fries. Like, almost the worst in existence. The burger is fine for the most part, though.
The thing is, people don't treat In-N-Out Burger like it makes a fine burger; people treat In-N-Out Burger like it cures cancer and performs other assorted miracles. I'd heard all of the over-the-top "It will change your life" kind of praise before I moved to Los Angeles, so, naturally, I was very much looking forward to investigating the hype once I arrived. I did. It was fine. Except for the fries, which, again, are total ass.
When I delivered this review to my new California friends, I was met with an almost universal response: "Well, you must not have ordered it the right way. You should have gotten it animal style."
First of all, grilled onions do not come from an animal. Also, I'd appreciate a little less pressure to put Thousand Island dressing on that shit. That is the worst dressing ever made. I would put raspberry vinaigrette on a burger before I'd consider that nonsense. Besides, that there is a "right" way to order is your first indication that you're dealing with an overrated sandwich.
There are burger places in this world that are so confident in their wares that they expressly prohibit customers from making any special requests. Extra onions? Nope. Hold the garlic pesto mayo? Hold your tongue, you heathen. Don't get me wrong, I hate that shit, too, but at least places like that earn their reputation based on the quality of the food, as opposed to the amount of prep time and detective work it takes to place a palatable order.
Speaking of that, what's with all the secrecy around the menu? If an item is available for the ordering, goddamn tell us. I shouldn't have to consult Snopes to make sure that what I'm ordering actually exists. That shit should just be on the menu where I can order it.
Then again, why do they have a fucking menu at all? From every report I've seen or heard, you can kind of walk into In-N-Out and ask for just about anything and they'll make it for you. Someone ordered a burger with 100 patties once and they made it without question. If you ask me, a business that adheres to "the customer is always right" with that much vigor probably has some kind of ulterior motive.
Also, they don't have bacon. Not on their real menu, and not on that secret menu that people love so much. Does the Internet know this? I personally feel like a lot of false In-N-Out fandom would be destroyed if this glaring lack of available salty pork was a fact more people knew about. There should be laws on the books that force burger joints to serve bacon. It is a vital part of the experience. Even if you don't initially order bacon on your burger, it's at least nice knowing there's some around if the taste goes south halfway through and you have to call in reinforcements. This is not an option at In-N-Out Burger, and that alone should be enough to remove it from contention for the title of America's best burger restaurant.
Also, Fatburger is every bit as awesome as that Ice Cube song made it seem. If you're visiting California and must eat at a burger chain, go there.
That said, California isn't the only part of the country that's a little too reverent about their relatively shitty burger chain ...
Shut. Up. That is what I say to you if you are even thinking of giving me any objection on this. There is nothing you can tell me that will change my mind about White Castle basically being the emergency rations of restaurant food. I sometimes feel like I should put "food" in quotes when I'm talking about White Castle. This is how terrible their burgers are: You can buy them in the frozen food section of most grocery stores, and they taste exactly the same as they do at the restaurant.
I'm pretty sure this, speaking in strictly technical terms, should still be scientifically impossible. If microwaveable food had reached restaurant levels of quality, we probably wouldn't even have restaurants anymore.
Do not mistake this similarity between the restaurant and microwave versions as some sort of testament to the quality of their frozen products. Basically, White Castle is a restaurant that sells microwaveable gas station food. Nevertheless, people love it. How much? Well, enough that there's an entire fucking movie about two friends trying to make their way to White Castle.
Spoiler alert: They make it, but the depiction of White Castle in that movie is far from accurate. Do not let it be the inspiration for a cross-state road trip of your own without doing a little bit of investigating first. For one thing, they make it seem like the food is edible. I'm not sure if they used CGI or what, but it's very lifelike and believable when you watch it happen in the movie. Trust me, it's a meal in hell when the cameras stop rolling.
Also, 9 out of 10 White Castle restaurants are in terrifying neighborhoods.
Sorry, franchise owners, but you know it's the truth.
It's hard to say that any frozen yogurt is truly bad. It's like ice cream's healthier cousin; not a lot can go wrong. That said, there are some chains that take the phrase "frozen yogurt" a bit too literally. I'm speaking, of course, about Pinkberry. If you don't have one in your area, you've almost certainly heard people singing its praises. It is the frozen yogurt place in California. It also tastes like frozen sour cream.
Well, I'm not being completely fair. They do have a few different flavors like chocolate and strawberry and such. Those are all well and fine. It's the "original" flavor that I take issue with.
When you see a white frozen yogurt option on a menu next to chocolate and strawberry, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that you're probably expecting that white stuff to taste like vanilla. Read the last sentence of the previous paragraph again. The vanilla-looking concoction that Pinkberry sells alongside the more traditional ice cream-like flavors will be a complete and total shock to your system if you try it for the first time without knowing what you're getting into.
The menu describes it as "tart," as if that's a sufficient tip-off that they're basically selling you a chilled condiment. You know what else people describe as tart? Lemonade. This is not enough detail to make an informed decision. Pinkberry should change the name of their original flavor to "lunch." That's a way more appropriate time to eat that shit, considering the fact that chips and salsa are the only toppings that make sense with that kind of flavor.
Beyond that, though, it must be especially delicious frozen yogurt, right? They have all sorts of neato toppings that most places don't and all that fun stuff? Nope. Just long lines and a house blend that's better suited for pairing with a quesadilla. It is a completely unremarkable frozen yogurt place in every other way. Just something to keep in mind before you commit to that 45-minute-long line, travelers.
DiGiorno Frozen Pizza
Listen, I know DiGiorno isn't a restaurant, but they sure fucking act like they are, right? Remember that "Is it delivery or is it DiGiorno?" campaign from a few years back? That takes a lot of fucking audacity. If you've ever been fooled into believing a DiGiorno pizza had been delivered from a respectable restaurant, you deserve to lose whatever else the swindler who conned you decides to take.
What makes their claims of restaurant quality even more troublesome is the fact that there are at least 15 different varieties of frozen pizza that kick DiGiorno ass six ways to Sunday. It's not the best. It's barely even good. Nevertheless, advertising is an effective tool, and now scores of uneducated shoppers think DiGiorno is the closest you can come to delivery pizza without picking up the phone.
Think about that claim for a second, though. Pizza is like a new car: Once it leaves the lot, it immediately loses like one-third of its value. The lag time between your pizza leaving the oven and the driver arriving at your door means that pizza is going to be exponentially less enjoyable than if you'd just eaten it right there at the restaurant as soon as they pulled it out of the oven.
What DiGiorno is unintentionally saying is that you can get that same drop in quality, right out of the oven. How is this a good thing? If you want to sell me on the merits of your frozen pizza, tell me it's like eating pizza at a restaurant. Implying that your food tastes like it's spent 45 minutes in the back seat of a Toyota Camry driven by the biggest Dave Matthews Band fan of all time is not a selling point.
Doughnuts are hard to do wrong, but Krispy Kreme comes the closest, in my opinion. It's the glaze. That's the problem. For one thing, it's the glaze they use to get people in the door. Have you ever been standing in line at a Krispy Kreme when they bring out the hot glazed doughnuts? It is a scene not unlike a mid-'80s era Kmart employee emerging from the back room with the last Cabbage Patch doll in the joint on Black Friday. That person is mobbed. People are going to take what they have. It is an unavoidable force of nature.
This, of course, is because those hot glazed doughnuts are insanely delicious. They melt when you eat them. I wouldn't be surprised if you could drink one if you pulled it out of the oven and got it down your gullet fast enough. It's those particular doughnuts that Krispy Kreme built their reputation on, but there's way more to a quality doughnut experience than glaze. Regular glazed doughnuts are the vanilla ice cream of doughnuts. You need something to accompany that shit. Krispy Kreme, unfortunately, addresses this concern by putting that stupid glaze on everything. For all intents and purposes, every Krispy Kreme doughnut is a glazed doughnut. Blueberry cake? Glaze it! Maple bar? Throw some glaze on that bitch! Large coffee? Leave room for glaze!
That's not how doughnuts are supposed to work. Glazed doughnuts are not a practical treat, and practicality is half the charm of eating doughnuts. You can eat them on the go like no other breakfast food. They come with a built-in handle, for the love of God. Krispy Kreme ruins this. The glaze that they insist on coating all of their food in sheds like glitter at a strip club.
Eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut on the run and you'll be pulling flakes of doughnut glaze out of your leg hairs for the next six weeks.
I get the inclination to double down when you've hit on a good thing (like how KFC brought back the Double Down chicken sandwich recently), but Krispy Kreme takes that shit too far. In my utopia, Dunkin Donuts would replace them all.
Want more? Read a sixth entry about Chipotle at Adam's own website. You should also follow Adam on Twitter. After that, check out his podcast on Stitcher, iTunes and Soundcloud. Then, ideally, that should inspire you to come see him tell jokes in person sometime at Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. That's all.