Getting Drunk at America’s Finest Chain Restaurants
Perhaps it’s my advancing age, my predilection for playing the sourpuss, or merely my growing disinterest in ceremony of any sort, but I’d rather eat in the shit end of a strip mall than get gussied up for a night on the town in the kind of genericly chic hotspots that now litter America’s cities. The lamentations of my colleagues as far afield as London over the insidious creeping dread of gentrification are now as familiar to journalism as Beyonce think-pieces, pointless aggregation of Daily Show clips, and Oxford commas.
We’ve bitched about gentrification’s florid fare and prentitious air of exclusion, but what’s the alternative? The aggressive gourmet flatulence of trendy urban neighborhoods makes me long for the affordable, bland, but comforting chain restaurants of my youth. I’m talking about the kind of place where the ads implore you to “let your hair down,” “unwind,” and “be family.”
Those sentiments seem trite, but are actually what we crave the most, especially here in America. We want to belong, we want to be accepted, and we want to get drunk on cheap liquor. Those aren’t virtues anymore when fancy gastropubs charge $17 for a burger and $8 for a pint of beer. We are being robbed of the one thing that makes us American: our love of inexpensive, generic bullshit.
The first Denny’s in Manhattan opened last week, and features a $300 version of their popular Grand Slam meal that comes with a bottle of Dom Perignon. We can’t even pray at the altar of the classic American diner without being reminded of what we don’t have. Are well-heeled day traders in Manhattan going to pop in for bacon and eggs, with a side of champagne? What’s next, a Happy Meal that comes with an XBox?
Reveling in popular culture, while also suckling at the sweet, sparkling teat of opulance is de rigueur these days. Restaurants sell gussied up versions of comfort food and charge through the nose for it. But what about just having normal comfort food? Can’t I just pleasure myself on top of a greasy plate of “grub” while knocking back a few discounted Happy Hour beverages? Thatbeautiful disaster exists solely in the safe, sanitized vortex of the suburban chain restaurant.