Paging All Diners…Chicken Lettuce Wraps
The attraction of suburbanites to chain restaurants never ceases to amaze me. It’s like a magnet. What is it about a 1500 calorie oil infused Bloomin’ Onion that is just so damn enticing? Or the magic ingredient in the spinach artichoke dip that keeps people slathering it on bottomless buckets of tortilla chips? Seriously, on any given night you can pretty much find a wait at every Cheesecake Factory, Maggianos, CPK, Olive Garden or my least favorite of the bunch -Applebees- in the entire country. Is it portion size? Consistency (consistent mediocrity)? Dessert that comes with the entrée? And we wonder why our country is so fat.
Maybe it’s the pagers. Hey, I wonder if I gave my kids pagers at home if they’d be more excited to eat dinner? I may just have to try that. When they get home from school today I’ll hand them each one and send them on their merry way to do their homework. When it goes off I expect them to dart downstairs and be overjoyed by whatever it is I put on the table. This day and age is all about electronics, right?
I’ll go anywhere for a good meal from a mom and pop restaurant. I’ve been known to throw my kids in the car at 7 am on a Saturday morning and travel twenty plus miles to the absolute WORST part of town for breakfast. Somehow the worst parts of town are always synonymous with good breakfast places. Why is that? Are they good places to go after a heist?Take me to your Bloomin’ Onion
Not only do I love supporting these ventures, but corporate owned chain restaurants make me anxious. It’s almost like I see the server reading the handbook before s/he arrives at the table on how to upsell. I know this because, well, I used to be one.
I worked for many years as a waitress in high school and after college at mostly mom and pop independently owned operations. I only worked in one chain restaurant. And that only lasted one day. It was at The Hamburger Hamlet in Crystal City, Virginia. The training alone was worse than any MBA program. We had to take home packets of information, learn about every single ingredient, memorize corporate policy and adjust our sleeves according to ‘company regulations.’
But the real reason I didn’t last was because I couldn’t carry the trays. I especially couldn’t carry them using the ‘one hand plus shoulder’ technique outlined in step B-211 in the handbook. I couldn’t even carry it with two hands. So I left. And continued to wait tables in places where I didn’t have to wear a corporate-regulated uniform or pool my tips. I made lots of money. I think I should probably go back to waitressing. It pays more than writing.
Working at a restaurant also taught me so much about people. And it’s given me the utmost respect for servers everywhere. They work hard for their money. So on a side note, always treat your servers nicely. Tip well. And don’t be a jerk if you don’t like your food. It’s not their fault.
But back to the food.
There are a few dishes out there floating in the world of corporate chain restaurants that are actually pretty good. So I’ll give them the appropriate credit. One happens to be the chicken lettuce wraps at PF Changs. And since I’ve eaten there just as much as any other suburbanite I make fun of I’ve been able to replicate the recipe at home. I’ll be making them tonight. Now all I need is those beepers and I can start charging my kids $7.75 a pop. Or maybe even upsell them on our drinks and dessert specials.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps