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February 26, 2008

Top Ten Mid-Scale Restaurant Chains

Bonefish.jpgHere's how I ended a review of a chain restaurant one time:

Sometimes I want quirky individuality and local color. Sometimes, when I'm tired, I just want a decent, trouble-free meal at a place that keeps the water glasses filled.

I think many of us have been at that point, especially if we have kids. As Happy Eater Rob said when we were talking about the problems with making up this list, "The times I ate in chains was when I was schlepping a kid to and from a sporting event."

That's pretty much true of me, too. Without a kid at home, I can eat anywhere I want to, so some of the places on this list haven't been visited lately. I also haven't eaten at some of the places some of you recommended, like Kobe.

One caveat about the few chains I've reviewed for the paper: I've heard some chains bring in their best staff from other locations to open a new restaurant, so it's never as good as it was in its first few months of existence. If so, that would give me a slightly skewed perspective, because that's when I would be reviewing.

Remember, these are moderately priced, sit down and be served national restaurant chains. That eliminates Ruth's Chris, Chipotle, and the regional chains like Paolo's.

Here's my list: ...

These are the three chains I reviewed and gave three stars to:

* Bonefish Grill. I praised the grilled fish.

* M & S Grill. I liked it better than its parent company, McCormick & Schmick, because it's a little more intimate. The prices seem to be lower.

P. F. Chang's China Bistro. I like the menu of specialties from a particular province.

* When I reviewed Romano's Macaroni Grill we weren't giving out stars, and it was a long time ago, but I enjoyed it more than the other moderately priced Italian chains, such as Olive Garden.

* I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Chili's because when we were on the road for my daughter's junior tennis tournaments, she could find food she liked while I had fajitas and a margarita.

* Don Pablo's is another good choice for Tex-Mex. It's a cuisine that chains seem to do very well with.

* I sometimes eat breakfast at Cracker Barrel on road trips for one reason: They serve real butter. Also I have a fondness for turnip greens, pinto beans, and cornbread made with white cornmeal and no sugar. The negative: My husband and I may be the only two people ever kicked out of a Cracker Barrel for bringing in a bottle of wine.

* Our food was decent at Bahama Breeze (Caribbean-style shrimp, chicken, mango, avocado, coconut, lime, pineapple), but it was so big and so crowded we never hooked up with our guests, who were seated in another part of the restaurant, so I gave it a mixed review.

* When I covered the wholesale furniture market in High Point, N.C. for the paper, the only restaurant within walking distance of my hotel was a Bennigan's. (I didn't have a car.) It was cozier than many chains, they were nice to a single woman, and it seems to me I got a ribeye steak there that was pretty good.

*I shudder to think of recommending a chain barbecue place, but Famous Dave's did get Midnight Sun Sam's vote over several local places for best ribs when he was doing the takeout column for the food section.

(Kim Hairston/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:04 AM | | Comments (79)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


I find that I think of Bonefish and PF Changs as restaurants and Macaroni Grill and Don Pablos as McItalian and McMexican. Not sure what the divide there is but that's the way my brain and palate work! I do have to admit though, that much to my surprise, when I went to Olive Garden when I was lost in Virginia and it was the only restaurant I could locate, I was surprised by some of the offerings. I got an osso bucco type dish with lamb shanks that had a sort of a middle eastern flavor with orzo and a deliciously paired wine. That dish really did dispel a lot of my notions of gluey pasta dishes and yukky soups!

That's interesting. I haven't eaten in one in a long time, so I'm glad you went on the record with your impressions. I'm guessing a lot of the chains are trying to keep up with what they see as more sophisticated tastes developing in the American palate.

I like Cracker Barrel for just the reasons you mentioned. Those turnip greens with corn bread are worth the stop. They remind me of the food that came out of my mother's kitchen. Coupled with the hash browns casserol and the pinto beans and I am a happy traveler

Maybe Bennigan's in NC was nice and cozy, but I have nothing but bad things to say about the Golden Ring location. Bad service, tough and overcooked steaks, limp and lifeless sides. We went there because firends wanted to and we have never gone back.

I disagree with the comment that M&S Grill is better than the parent company. When I was there, the service stunk, the busboy was dragging an enormous trash bag through the dining area, thier floor was filfthy dirty, and the food was horrible. I have never had any of those experiences at McCormick & Schmick.


Bahama Breeze? Hmm, never been to one of those. Actually, I have never heard of it. I'll have to find one!

We usually do Bonefish Grill with my parents. My mom likes all the flavored martinis and there is usually something for everyone on the menu.

Chili's holds a soft spot for me too. We used to do Chili's in college. My husband and I went with another couple (they live right by the Avenue in White Marsh) to Chili's on Sunday night. I couldn't believe how crowded the place was for a Sunday night! Well we got the Presidente margaritas and it was like old times!

Hmmmm...a top ten of mid-scale chains. What an erudite topic.

I hope next week that we can rank the top soft rock acts of the 1980's. I wonder if Air Supply or Billy Ocean will take the number one spot.

And yes, I am feeling a bit cranky today.

And yes, I secretly love the Cracker Barrel.

Hey, we haven't even down the downscale chains yet. And don't you just love ABBA?

BTW, when just now I went to the ABBA Web site to check on the capitalization, it totally froze my Mac Mini. I had to shut it down. That's never happened before. My Mac is simply too cool to let users go to the ABBA Web site. It's probably built into the operating system.

Mmmm.... Cracker Barrell.... Biscuits.... Ham.... Butter....Cheesy country store attached. My fave!!

Seriously? An article on chain restaurants? Boring and tastless, just like their food.

Stuckey's! No trip south of Maryland on 95 south is completed without a stop.

In regards to Kim's comment, Bahama Breeze is a Darden chain (Olive Garden, Red Lobster). It's supposed to be a Caribbean-type restaurant. There is one in Towson. The original one was on International Drive in Orlando and you still have to get there early to get a table at that one.

Elizabeth, have you been to a Mimi's Cafe, yet? They recently opened one in Elkridge, right off I-95 and 175.

I haven't been.

I've found the food at Don Pablos overly salty the two times I was conned into going - has anyone else noticed this? I know mexican food is usually salty by nature, but this was excessive.

I'd take Chevy's as a mexican sit-down moderately priced chain any day over Don Pablos. The smoky salsa and fresh chips alone are worth it. I am surprised you overlooked it...

I didn't overlook it; I've just never been. That's what you're here for. :-)

I shudder at some of the inclusions:

Bennigans, didn't even realize there were any still open. Land of deep fried everything. Maybe they are in cahoots with Paula Deen?

Don Pablo's, the only seasoning they use and use it in layers is cilantro. They do a good maragarita though.

Chili's, once again the ones around MD seem to stink, yet the ones in FL are good... makes no sense yet gets some redemption.

I totally forgot to suggest the chain, Smokey Bones. There aren't many around yet I think their ribs and selection of bbq meats beats Famous Dave's hands down (make that hands on wet naps). Their St. Louis style are delicious!

I agree that Don Pablo and Chili's are consistently good. I've only been to Macaroni Grill once, but still remember the excellent bread--could've made dinner off that and a side salad. My husband and I enjoy Cracker Barrel when we're on the road--tasty food, good service, in and out quickly without feeling rushed. And I love to check out the "heirloom" candy.

I would add Carrabba's for good food and service, but I'm glad Outback didn't "make the cut"--grossly overrated.

Obviously you've never tried Carrabba's. they blow Mac grikll away hands down. carrbba's is my favorite of all the moderate-priced national chains.

I tend to think of Bonefish Grill and McCormick and Schmicks as their own restaurants even though I know they are part of a chain. I liked the Bahama Breeze in Towson the few times I've been. The bread at Macaroni Grill is a step above bread just about everywhere else. Cracker Barrel--don't know about the greens and beans, but their breaksfasts are definitely better than just about anywhere else--I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks of this a highlight of a trip. Bennigans? I'm with others on this--never truly awful, but never truly good either in my experience.

Famous Daves! Oh goodness. How could Sam Sessa possibly think a chain barbecue joint had better baby back ribs than local spots like the Fireside Inn and the Charred Rib?!?!? His taste buds must not be trusted.

Notice how I let you take the shrapnel. :-)

Hey RoCK of Love. how about an Alice in Chains restaurant chain. Sorry I'm all out of love. Hey, your Largeness, how about food SONGS? I don't know if there's enough restaurant songs. I want my baby back, baby back, .... ribs!

Sunset Grill, Mashed Potatoes, Margaritaville, Milkshake: That's all I can come up with off the top of my head.

I love Bonefish - the pomegranite martini is refreshing and I'll have the mussels as my main course with big hunk of bread to mop up the sauce.

Mimi's Cafe is also good. I love their buttermilk spice muffins.

In my opinion I think Carraba's is better than any of the above mentioned. I tried the Chilean Seabass simply thinking "they can't make everything good", and it was the best I have ever had.

I like PF Changs (who doesn't) but my blood pressure goes through the roof from all the sodium. I think they could dial it down just a notch, and still have delicious flavor.

What about Red Robin? Bottomless baskets of fries, and I love that burger with pineapple on it. Can't remember the name. It's just as good as burgers I've had at much pricier and "unique" outfits. Otherwise, you hit the highlights: PF Chang's and Cracker Barrel.

I don't know if this counts, but I love Red Robin. In general, I don't eat at chains at all, but that is my exception. The ones on the west coast are more fun -- each one has a different theme -- there's a sci fi themed one on the Seattle piers.
Reasons? The unlimited and good fries (served with Ranch instead of ketchup), the unlimited and great strawberry lemonade, the fact that any burger can be made with a Boca patty.
On the west coast, they also feature a portabello sandwich that is outstanding.

Count me in the you-must-be-joking-about-Bennigan's crowd, but I was also going to speak up (before someone else beat me to it) about Carabba's for chain Italian. Certain dishes there have become favorites, and the bread alone is worth the trip.

I like Cracker Barrel's breakfast (BTW, ever see a Cracker Barrel anywhere except alongside a major highway?), but I've also had a few decent breakfasts at Bob Evans.

I thought I had reviewed Carabba's, but when I went back to the archives, I couldn't find the review, so it must have been some other restaurant. I ate a salad at the bar at Carabba's once when I was waiting for Verizon ha ha to fix my phone, but it wasn't very good. Maybe it was an off evening for them.

Alice's Restaurant

How could I have forgotten.

Oh, no, not Don Pablos. Ick. My husband and I went there once several months ago (we usually avoid chains, but there weren't many choices where we were at). It was the worst meal I've had in probably 15 years. It was actually inedible...something I've never experienced before. After the first bite (we both ordered the same thing) we paused, looked up from our plates and both started laughing. We couldn't believe we were actually going to have to pay for the "food."

what about Carrabas???

I'll take Famous Dave's smoked meats any day over the Charred Rib or Corner Stable with their oven baked ribs. Since I discovered Mari Luna I have not been back to Don Pablo's. I do like certain Chili's but they are inconsistent between locations. My wife and several friends get together for lunch at Bahama Breeze lunch and enjoy it. My favorite chain is Rock Bottom Brewery. Unfortunately the nearest one is in Bethesda.

As someone who plans menus for a hungry brood all the time, I say songs are too easy, how about a post where posters must submit an entire meal of songs. That should keep it more thoughtful and shorter.

Let's limit it to pop music.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Houlihan's. I've only been to their downtown location, but was surprised at the quality of food and the design of the restaurant, given that it's a national chain. They also have a good lunch special, with special pricing on entrees and a "15 minutes to your table" guarantee.

I'd also cast another vote for dropping Bennigan's and adding Carabba's.

I totally forgot about Houlihan's, and I would have included it if I remembered. I officially substitute it for Bennigan's since I've never been to the Bennigan's around here anyway, and apparently ymmv.

Elizabeth, ABBA is a 70's disco pop band, so I'm not sure they would fit into the category of 80's soft rock. I mean I think we're talking apples and oranges when we try and discuss Dancing Queen and Waterloo with I'm All Out of Love and Carribean Queen.


Bleh. I do NOT understand people's enchantment with PF Changs. The food is mediocre at best, and nasty at worst (the aftertaste on a lot of their food is just foul). But I second the earlier poster's nom for Red Robin. Yum.

Nothing gets the gastric juices flowing like EL's weekly top ten. As always, the chain restaurant comments were divided between "Were you in your right mind when you picked that slophouse?" and "Thank heaven someone else appreciates the culinary delights of..." All fair game except for the guy who accused the topic of being "boring and tasteless." Hey, lighten up, fella' We're not debating the global economy here. Just where to get a get a decent chain restaurant meal. With that in mind, Ms. Large, I'll join the chorus. How could you have left out Red Lobster? Sure, the fish is just ordinary. But think of the biscuits...the salad...the convenient free parking...and the cheerful if sometimes confused servers, earning the cost of their college tuitions.

It sounds great. Maybe I should try it. Especially since it was Tim Swift's description of its cheesy bread that got this Top Ten started.

That's funny how someone said that Outback was way over-rated but both Bonefish and Carrabba's are Outback ran restuarants along with Roy's Hawaian Fusin and Flemings. If the Wife and I don't want to spend more that like $75(including tip) Bonefish is our place. They have great bread and pesto and bang bang shrimp are killer. I rather have an Outback burger over a Red Robin burger any day of the week. This is a good subject though

Eli, I agree about PF Chang's. Everything seems oddly sweet, even the supposedly spicy dishes. It's ok. But for the price I'll go with my corner Chinese take-away.

I prefer Maggiano's Little Italy - it's a shame that there's isn't one in Maryland.

Bravo is a great Italian chain- none in this area- always ate at them in Ohio in college! Their bread is the best!!

How about Buca di peppo? It is a great chain, family style Italian. Extremely fun environment. It is big in Ohio but I do believe there is one in Gaithersburg. It is worth the trip. Great place to have a group dinner/lunch.

We often stop at Glory Days across from Marley Station on our way home from Navy football games. We're always tired, often cold, and definitely in casual mode. The drinks and burgers are good, the service is usually timely and attentive, and it's fun to see what some of the other teams are doing.

I love Bahama Breeze. It is always clean the prices are reasonable.

The conch chowder at Bahama Breeze is better than any I've had in the Keys. Also love the loster raviloi at Macaroni Grill.

I'm not a fan of Red Lobster (at all!), but was surprised/impressed to find out from a person who used to be a cook there, that all of their seafood is shipped in fresh, not frozen. I still won't be going though...

If we are talking about BBQ you have to include Red Hot and Blue. The place is great! Best BBQ around. The dry rubbed ribs and the potato salad get me every time.

mmm...Red robin burger with egg on top! can't beat it!

how about a top ten mexican?

What about Bertucci's? I LOVE the Margherita pizza, which is minimalist excellence. I have gotten a few entrees, and they were great. But what I appreciate most of all are the atypical vegetable side dishes and appetizers, like roasted artichokes and sauteed spinach. California Pizza Kitchen is also good, for many of the same reasons. And I join the Cracker Barrell fan club, mainly for the fried okra and catfish, but a stop there always seems to take a whopping 2 hours out of our trip, which is too long.)

I'm also surprised The Cheesecake Factory didn't make the list. There's a reason it's a 2 hour wait every time you try to go at peak hours, no amtter what the day, and no matter what state it;s in. The food is good, they give you PLENTY of it, they have a huge variety of options, and it's reasonably priced.

I think the Washington Post or the Washingtonian has raved about the live lobster at Red Lobster. Since RL can buy in such bulk, you can get a quality lobster there at a decent price.

I think the quality of PF Chang's has really gone downhill recently. My wife and I had dinner there a month ago and overall, we found that it wasn't as good as going to Pei Wei, which is also owned by the company that owns PF Chang's. Plus, our brown rice smelled of cigarette smoke, which was truly horrible. We would much rather go to Pei Wei, get bigger portions for a much cheaper cost.

As for ribs, I can't disagree about Smokey Bones. That place is very good, although I love the dry ribs at Red, Hot and Blue.

Bonefish is also very good. The best of the Outback chain of restaurants in the Baltimore area. If they would only bring Lee Roy Selmon's BBQ from Tampa Bay up here, I would be in heaven.

What about Bertucci's? By the way love Chile's, Bahama Breeze cool as well.

So, is Carrabas going to be added? Outstanding service, bread and dipping oil and a very reasonably priced fresh menu.

This is for OMG:

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate

The gates of Hell have opened wide.

Carrabbas is our favorite chain . Have you tried their really great caeser salad-- wouldn't believe it was a chain's.

Cracker Barrel's food is good, but I have not eaten there for years because of their history of outright discrimination against gays and lesbians. See (controversy section) for more information. This may not matter to some patrons (or may be viewed as positive), but for the rest of us I thought I'd share the info.


Hey Jason... about Smokey Bones and dry ribs... you can get their ribs w/o sauce too!

Can we add Tutti Frutti to the song list? How about [I Met My Thrill on] Blueberry Hill?

I definitely agree with Macaroni Grill, which has a great selection of dishes, and their Tuscan Steak is delicious. Bertucci's is always good, and also has a great variety. The first time I went to P.F. Chang's, I was disappointed, but the next two visits knocked my socks off. It's not cheap, but I think it's worth the price. Will have to try Bonefish and Famous Dave's.

Cracker Barrel's history of discrimination is not limited to gays and lesbians.

OK, maybe we'd better substitute Houlihan's and Carabba's.

Food song - It's Love - Jill Scott. That song makes me wanna eat pickled beets and candy sweets.

In regards to chains, they shouldn't be allowed to charge more than $12 for an entree. An "upscale chain" is equivalent to "clean oil". People in Northern Florida are getting jipped.

What about The Cheesecake Factory?????

Good portions, very reasonably priced, and for good quality ingredients.

In fact, the place is always jumping--at least the one in Columbia. I've been to ones in Chicago and Miami as well and they were both hopping busy as well. ]

There's so much to choose from that everyone can find something they'd like.

Shame it didn't make the list.

And more songs:

Strawberry Fields
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Margaritaville [of course]

As for Cracker Barrel's discriminatory practices, is the topic social justice or mid-priced chains?

I really didn't want to write to this entry because I wouldn't have anything nice to say...

After reading the entry, I think Elizabeth that it's time you traveled to eat. Without a doubt, places like PF Changs and Don Pablo's fill a place in the American culinary landscape, but to state that these are "good" and that these foods are something that "chains seem to do very well with" tells me that you need a little perspective.

Los Angeles has some truly fantastic and authentic Mexican food that is head and shoulders above Don Pablo's. After eating truly delicious food, I can't see a major food critic giving Don Pablo anything but a merely "edible" rating.

And let's not get started on the "Good For White People Chinese Food" at PF Changs...

OMG ... Cheesecake Factory!!! Come in from the cold. A piece of your soul must be dying right now in some dank brothel or haberdashery in Istanbul or Baku. Cheesecake Factory without irony! Walk toward the light!!!

Is it for eating crackers or people who are crackers. I don't understand the name. A barrel of crackers? Is it a cracker like biscuit or some other thing.

Maybe Pierre is OMG. Woosh.

Pierre, the cracker barrel thing is an American idiom that is too obscure to explain. Let's say it's supposed to connote something quaint and folksy, but I've never been there so I couldn't tell you whether it's filled with crackers (white people) or crispy thin biscuits or both. Stay away, I'm sure you would hate it. Sacre bleu! Stuckey's offers more traditional French bistro fare.

Voodoo Pork and Jay C...thank you; reading these comments is painful; my soul is crying right now. I spent one truly soul-destroying evening at a Cheesecake Factory that still haunts me. The best part of the night was leaving. I think I got a year's worth of High Fructose Corn Syrup though.

Honestly, chains shouldn't really merit much discussion. I'd rather a discussion on what's GOOD in the culinary world, rather than paying homage to heaping oversized plates of mediocrity.

As a guest in your country, I try to hold my tongue, but this sort of celebration of mediocrity is so very American. To paraphrase Churchill: Never in the field of human cuisine was so much crowed by so many about so little. We have crap food in England too, but we don't brag about it. Americans at times are like babies; they expect to be congratulated for doing the most basic tasks adequately. Face it, Everybody Poops. Is Baltimore really such a backwater that this is the level to which one sinks? Absolutely dreadful.

There seems to be a serious divide in the choices. Perhaps there would have been more positive feedback if you could have found ten chains which use cloth napkins. That might separate the wheat from the chaff.

Look homeward Jonathon. The ironies are titanic.


Like you, I just can't do it. After learning about sourcing and quality ingredients, I just can't stomach that kind of food anymore.

Reminds me of my trip to Seattle this past November. Met up with a friend who lives in the Washington countryside and she really wanted to eat at Cheesecake Factory because they don't have one where she lives.

Give up a dinner at Lark, Matt's at the Market or Sitka and Spruce for a dinner at Cheesecake with a really lovely girl. What a dilemma.

I just couldn't stomach it then for a woman and I certainly can't stomach it now.

I was reading about the Cheesecake Factory and disablities blah blah and i found this: Ageusia - loss of the sense of taste. They should get an award for supporting people with this disability, as well as something i'm calling anhedonia denial syndrome (ADS). Like the Special Olympics, everyone who goes to the Sleazecake Factory should get a hug and a medal. Zap zap zappety brain cells, jaeger bombs last night, bluuurg.

RokChik - I feel guilty for laughing at that, but...oh, well. No one's here yet so I didn't have to explain what I was laughing at.

Sorry, but I've never had a bad meal at the Cheesecake Factory. Never.

They must be doing something right, given the 90 minute-2 hr. waits for a table on any given night. But what do I know?

Donny, what do you like to eat at the Cheesecake Factory?

Really? You must be winding me up. Elsewise, bah bah bah ... daft prole sheep. You know it has "factory" in the name? No wonder you're becoming a second rate society.

Because you're new, please let me refer you to Rule No. 2. Thanks.

Chillax London Johnny, make yourself at home. Have an Appletini and a Hot Pocket. Turn your fork around, you'll be less angry. Let yourself go, sink into the groove and ride the wave of good vibes and melted cheese. You can do it, si se puede! Remember our national motto: Hugs Are Free.

Terrier Mom --

Their burgers are good, the hanger steak isn't bad either.

I once had some wonderful fish tacos there made with a very fresh mahi. The fish was grilled not fried, so it made for a a nice light meal on a warm evening.

The Chicken & biscuts are pretty darn good as well. A very nice hearty mean on a cold night.

The Thai chicken pasta is another one I enjoy. Most of their pasta dishes (and all entrees, really) are good, well priced, and generously portioned.

So here's what makes me laugh: the offense people take at even mentioning a *gasp* chain! Ms. Large's intro and most of the comments make it clear that while they may not be in favor of chains over locals, chains exist, people do eat there, and this is a dining blog after all. The sheer ill-humour just makes me chuckle. Also, the complaints about how much time is being spent on the topic when most of the time is being spent simply complaining about the topic. At least the burger comments were mainly about burgers. Sheesh people, calm down. As far as I can tell Baltimore itself has very few chains, and most of those are in the uber-touristy Inner Harbor. The chains are largely in the burbs, which get precious little coverage for their food anyway. That would actually probably make a good TTT, places in the burbs (non-chain). I would also note that anyone seeking out a food blog is probably not a regular chain eater anyway. Regardless, it's only a blog people, it's only a blog.

For all the chain-hating, how dare you 'support' ... , don't even acknowledge chains' existence folk here's a simple question: which blog quote from Lady Elizabeth for any chain is so long and glowing that its likely to be reproduced and prominently displayed at the front door of that particular establishment? (Certainly the goal of any restaurant when getting coverage from the paper of record.) Get over it. We are going to eat at chains. While I'm not looking for a full review of every chain out there, the information provided by these several threads give enough information to allow me to have a better idea what I can order will get for my dollars.

I agree with Mr. Hudock about the paucity of national chain in the Baltimore area. (Oh that's just going to start them again.) Several times when I have eaten at Macaroni Grill(e?) [I forget and am too lazy to look it up.] I have been asked to participate in their internal survey. They ask to compare MG to a list of other chains. I don't recognize any of the names. Now it could be said I don't get out much, which while generally accurate, is not true when just looking for name recognition.

I would like to repose to the CHers [Chain Haters] (as rationally as you can) the question that in many ways started us down this road (Forgive me LE for asking this because we may break 200 posts if they take this seriously) how do you distinguish between the chain (which you allow us to hate and avoid) and your beloved local establishment that, oh by the way, has more than one location?

Damn! Now I see why OMG hangs out here. You guys really bring the crazy.

Thank you from all of us, she says modestly.

Robert TSO--

Personally I don't differrentiate at all between the two. More than one location makes you a chain, at least in my book.

And when I'm traveling an a long car ride and I want to stop for a decent meal but don't know anything about the locality, it's refreshng to see a Carrabba's, a Cheesecake factory, a Don Pablo's, or any other national chain I happen to like. It's much easier to go to a place because at least you know what you're going to get.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side? Rainbow's are visions. They're only illusions and rainbows have nothing to hide, so we've been told and some chose to believe it, but I know they're wrong, wait and see. Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me, and you naff gits.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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