American Nibbles

I've been travellling a lot lately for work - I've basically been gone every week since the beginning of August and have only been home on weekends. I used to think work trips were fun and exciting, but doing it as much as I have over the past while, I'm exhausted. All I see are hotels, airports and meeting rooms.

One of the advantages to travelling is being able to try new restaurants, and that's what I want to talk about today. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of any of the food (mainly because I didn't want my boss to think I was weird for whipping out my camera at every meal), so these are just my general musings from the places that stuck out in my mind.

The majority of the restaurants we ate at are fairly well-known American chain restaurants, but I did try to steer our decisions to places that we don't have in Canada. One place that I didn't get to try was Ponderosa. Every time I saw one and suggested it, anyone I was with groaned in chimed in with a variety of protests. So, to any American readers I might have on this blog I ask - is it really that bad? There seem to be enough of them around that they can't be so horrible, right? I admit I am curious. The adamant refusals to step foot inside of one makes me want to try it even more. Stubborn? Me? No, why do you ask?

Ruby Tuesday's
Probably my favourite place out of all the restaurants we went to, mainly because they have a pretty extensive salad bar that was well stocked. After eating out 3 meals a day x 329847234732 days, I craved fresh and healthy food and the salad bar was my haven. We liked it enough we tried it in two different states (NY and CT) and it was consistent in service and quality. The Watermelon Fizz was a good drink too: fresh chunks of watermelon and soda with mint leaves (with free refills!) - made it a nice change from pop or water. I also really liked the choices for side dishes becaue it went beyond fries and baked potatoes - I tried the roasted asparagus, the spaghetti squash and the roasted green beans, and all were done beautifully. There are the typical steaks, burgers, pastas etc. on the menu, so it's not an exotic menu by any means, but it was full of vegetable options to make whatever you choose feel healthier. It was exactly what I needed after many exhausting days.

P.F. Chang's
My boss really likes Asian food, so we found a P.F. Chang's one night and decided to try it out. The decor is very trendy with fountains and statues everywhere, along with chic young servers inside. I've heard a lot of people say that it's not authentic Asian food, it's not good, blah blah blah - but I actually didn't mind it. It's a lot better than the Mandarin buffet here, and the menu was extensive with lots of choices. We went for the prix fixe menu for 2 ($40) and it came with a full sized appetizer, two entrees, rice and dessert. As is typical for Asian fare, the portions were large, but everything came fresh and steaming hot to the table. Was it my mom's cooking? Not even close. Was it passable for a chain Asian restaurant in North America? You bet. I'd go back if I was craving Asian and saw one around.

The Elephant Bar
Another chain, with most locations in California, the menu here was as thick as a novel. There was everything from fancy meal-sized salads to Asian stir-frys to fajitas. It was overwhelming to go through the menu and I'm glad I had time before we were seated to look through the menu so I didn't feel too pressured when our server came to the table. One of the worries I have with restaurants that try to do too much is that they can't master their dishes and they bite off more than they can chew. Thankfully, that was not the case here because our table ordered from each of the menus (Asian, seafood, salad) and we were all happy with our choices. I do have to note that the Warm and Spicy Artichoke Dip was way better than any artichoke dip I've had here. When I mentioned this to the server, she said that the artichokes were local grown and bought fresh - my goodness, what a fantastic difference it makes! Eating fresh produce has never tasted so sinfully good.

There have been plenty of other places I got to try, but these are the ones that stood out in my mind as something I thought I should share here. Next week, I'm in Winnipeg - maybe I'll get to bring back a good story from there!


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