This article (via Insty) lists the top 5 restaurants that define America, and quite frankly, it made me gloomy. Here’s why.
Two of the restaurant chains (Taco Bell and Domino’s) are basically watered-down bastardizations of another country’s food type. Taco Bell is barely Mexican, and Domino’s is barely Italian — much as is the case with Spaghetti Warehouse and Olive Garden. (I do take issue with the author’s lionization of made-in-Italy pizza, by the way. I think you get better pizza in New Jersey and Chicago than anything made in Rome, for instance.) That both Domino’s and Taco Bell are so popular — despite their tenuous relationship with their specific ethnic origins — is fine, I guess; but it does point to the homogenization of the American diet, which is not so good.
Then there’s this about Starbucks:
When Howard Schultz conceptualized Starbucks, he wanted the coffee shop to be a “third place” for people. He knew that most people spent the majority of their time at home and at work. He hoped Starbucks would fill in any gaps that existed and become the place where people went when they were in between home and the office. And he succeeded.
That this defines America is a huge tell — because in almost every other Western country in the world, the “third place” is not a coffee bar but a pub. That we prefer coffee to alcohol in our “third place” is unsurprising, because we Americans (your Humble Narrator very much excluded) have a peculiar attitude towards booze in that we’re constantly at war with it (e.g. Prohibition) while at the same time we’re in love with it. Just as unfortunately, Americans prefer to consume booze to get drunk (e.g. shots, chasers and keggers) instead of using booze moderately, as a social lubricant. Worst of all, American bars have totally fucked things up either by playing loud, horrible music inside as though they’re dance clubs, or else by mounting giant TV screens on the walls to screen sporting contests (likewise played at earsplitting volume, to create the “live” atmosphere). Being deafened by rap or rock music or having one’s conversation destroyed by screaming sports fans is not supportive of socializing — which, by the way, is one thing that Starbucks did get right, by not succumbing to the bar ethic. The other thing that Starbucks got right — even though I disagree with it — is that by pricing their product so high, they’ve made coffee equivalent to booze (a Starbucks coffee costs about the same as a beer and is only marginally cheaper than, say, a daiquiri).
As for the other restaurant chains named, I find little to disagree with (except for his dig at Wendy’s). And thank goodness we have Dunkin’ Donuts, America’s answer to Britain’s Greggs chain. Maybe there is hope for us after all; but I still wish we had more of a pub culture Over Here, if for no other reason than to lessen the influence of the dreadful Starbucks.