Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My wife's birthday is coming up and she wanted to see a movie for her birthday.  With two kids, we don't go out much by ourselves.  So, we picked the theatre and used that as a way for us to choose a restaurant.  Well, things didn't go the way we planned and we got to the show late.  That meant that we had to choose another movie time and hope that we could get in and out of the theatre and home before we turned into pumpkins.

The nearest restaurant was Milestones.  I prefer not to eat at big box restaurants for a variety of reasons, most not about the restaurants themselves but about other options.  I am still trying to figure out why people choose big box restaurants.

The server was sure that they could get us in and out within 50 minutes.  In fact, it was one of the first questions asked when we sat down.  We each had a glass of wine and a main.  My wife had a California burger and I had two chicken breasts with harissa served spicy.  There was nothing wrong with the meal and the wine was good.

Any big box restaurant has a few very good things going for it.  If you are looking for solid fair, say a good steak or burger, then they may be the best place to go.  Restaurants like the Keg cooks hundreds of steaks a night and will be able to cook the steak to order perfectly seasoned.  They have timing down pat and can provide a quick efficient service.  Sometimes that service may appear a bit scripted but that is always better than poor service.  Often, an ordinary dish will introduce some novel ingredients such as harissa or pomegranate syrup.  This provides mildly adventurous diners the chance to experiment with the training wheels on by having comfortable place without food that cannot be understood or enjoyed.

Yet, all this leaves me personally, a little flat.  If I am looking for a steak, burger, or a straight forward classic, I may be tempted to dine at these restaurants but they often seem like a department store in some ways.  Mass produced goods that mimic what some of the couture shops are doing without all the handmade gewgaws and flourishes.  Hey, I tend to buy my socks and underwear at these type of stores.  But you will rarely find the daring risk taking of a chef or avant garde fashionista at the places; it is not their purpose.

My preference for smaller restaurants is more about the risk taking.  You may go to a small restaurant and have a great meal due to the small additions and flair of the chef or cook.  That is strictly forbidden at the box restaurants as all recipes are parsed at headquarters and ingredients are measured for cost.  While the small restaurant is also concerned about cost, it seems the possibility for creativity and inconsistency to the positive is available.  Granted, the possibility for horrible food is more often the case but when it reaches its' heights...

The meal cost $70 all in and was reasonable for what we wanted -- a quick meal that was pleasant and tasty before the show.  Would I recommend it?  Depends if you are looking for socks, underwear, or tshirts.