I have a confession to make: I am a food snob.
This epiphany hit me over the weekend, as I was eagerly researching local restaurants here in the Orlando area for the upcoming five year anniversary with BF. I have two requirements as I plow through this search:
- No chain restaurants
- I refuse to pay more than $35 for an entree (call me cheap, but you shouldn’t have to pay more than that for a delicious and memorable meal)
I’ve run into this problem in Orlando before, but it’s never hit me quite as hard as it did when I was perusing Yelp and Urbanspoon. And Orlando Magazine. And Seminole Magazine. I discovered two things:
- Orlando is a land of chain restaurants
- Many people in Orlando equate price with quality.
As you can tell, these directly contradict my restaurant requirements above.
I figure this post might raise a few hackles, but seriously. Check out UrbanSpoon’s list of best restaurants in Orlando. Almost half of the top 20 are chain restaurants.
I am not trying to argue that chain restaurants are always crap (although the ubiquitous TGI Friday’s and Applebees are reliably terrible). In fact, I dined at Bahama Breeze last night, and had an enjoyable meal. The one time I’ve been to Seasons 52, it was wonderful. Outback often makes a great steak for the price.
But if someone from out of town were to ask me for one restaurant recommendation for the town I lived in, and the best I could muster was a chain restaurant, I’d be pretty embarrassed.
To prove my point: Check out Orlando Magazine’s restaurant rankings for 2009. Best take-out? A GROCERY STORE. Best Chinese? P.F. Chang’s. Best Mexican food … TIJUANA FLATTS? I love some TJ’s, but when it’s ranked as the best Mexican food in all of Orlando, you’ve got a problem. (To friends not from Central Florida, Tijuana Flatts is a chain kind of like Chipotle.)
Also, when I finally get a recommendation for a “great” restaurant around here, it’s usually obnoxiously expensive, and/or underwhelming. Case in point: Ravenous Pig, Ceviche, Hue, Spice, Citrus. Certainly the food was tasty at each place (most of the time … SPICE), but I think it’s telling that when I have the opportunity/desire to go out for a meal, none of these places come to mind. The food simply isn’t worth the price, to me.
To those who cry that I haven’t been to Texas De Brazil, Del Frisco’s, Charleys or Houston’s … the same principle applies. $150-200 worth of food does not a great anniversary meal make.
So, yes, I have moved beyond just being a “seafood snob” (if you have never eaten Atlantic salmon, DON’T), and into food snob land.
And, if you care, we’re going to Melting Pot for our anniversary. Last year, their high-walled booths, decently-priced bottles of wine, and the fun of fondue itself created one of my favorite anniversary dinners ever.