Let's eat. Let's eat again. Let's eat again. Let's eat again.
If you listened to an audioblog that I made on June 14, 2005, you heard me say the following:
Discovery Channel, Icing, Claires, Abercrombie & Fitch, Talbots, Gymboree...
I was describing the Pentagon City mall in Arlington, Virginia, but I probably could have been describing any mall in your hometown.
Now I actually like malls. I like Victoria Gardens. I also like Brea Downtown. But even a Founty Fascist such as myself can get a little tired of seeing the same stores everywhere, whether I'm in Brea, California; Arlington, Virginia; San Francisco, California; Crystal Lake, Illinois; or (soon) Olten, Switzerland.
If you don't read Inland Empress, shame on you. Here's what Gooch said recently:
[O]ne of the biggest drawbacks of living in the IE for me has been the dearth of good restaurants. More specfically, the lack of interesting restaurants with local flavor and personality, restaurants that are not Chili's, Applebees, Macaroni Grill or TGIFridays.
I hate to sound like a snob, but the lack of taste of some of our neighbors is just astounding. My wife and I went out to a wonderful Japanese fusion restaurant last Saturday night, which one would assume would be a big night in the restaurant business. Instead the place was practically empty, leaving little hope for its long-term survival (it was empty the last time we went there too) Yet the Red Robin neighboring the place had a line out the door.
The Empress replied:
Plosh and I go nuts trying to find decent eats in this area. Even Claremont, a college town, has only a handful of not-mediocre restaurants, and they're overpriced for the relative quality.
I interjected sumfin:
Gooch's comment triggered some thoughts in my brain. Even I, who am not completely offended by corporate power, am starting to get disgusted at the exacting sameness of nearly every mall around here. I wasn't up in arms went Starbucks entered downtown Claremont, but I can picture the day in which downtown Claremont has a Quiznos next to a Cold Stone next to a Panda Express next to a Rubio's.
The Empress returned to her previously expressed views on Victoria Gardens:
It's one of the things I objected to about the new Victoria Gardens mall too. Sure, it's perdy, in a sterile kind of way, but underneath the faux '50s facades it's the same same same.
Gooch returned to the fray:
OE, I'm not anti-corporate either, but I also find it depressing how homogenized all the cities in the Inland Empire and beyond are becoming. I swear, you could blindfold me, and drive me from my house in Temecula all the way out to Victorville and I'm not sure I'd even realize I had left since once my blindfold was removed I'd see the same Red Lobster, Best Buy, Target, Starbucks, Lowes...
I pointed out that it's not just an IE thing:
It's not just the IE. I'm seeing it in the OC, in Henderson Nevada, in Arlington Virginia...even in San Francisco.
If you don't believe me, look at the list of restaurants in the Food Court at The Mall at Peachtree City:
Atlanta Bread Company
Specialty breads, soups, sandwiches and pastries.
Atlanta Coffee Station
Freshly-ground coffee, specialty drinks and pastries.
Blue Chip Cookies
Freshly-baked cookies and pastries and freshly-brewed Blue Chip Coffee.
Home of the original boneless chicken sandwich.
Hot eats, cool treats.
Southern buffet-style hot entrees and vegetables.
Gorin’s Homemade Ice Cream
Delectable homemade ice cream and deli sandwiches.
An assortment of Greek sandwiches and salads.
J. Brenner’s Grill
Philadelphia cheesesteak, cold subs and a variety of stuffed potatoes.
Pan-Asian Cuisine; hot entrees, noodle soups and more.
The experts in specialty blended drinks.
Authentic Mandarin, Cantonese & Szechuan cuisine.
Roman Delight Pizza
Pizza by the slice and other Italian specialties such as Stromboli and Calzone.
Willy's Mexicana Grill
California-style burritos and other Mexican specialties.
South Food Court
Big Easy Cajun
A mouth-watering taste of New Orleans.
Café du Jour
Speciality salads created to order, roll-ups and hot entrees.
Japanese specialties including teriyaki, tempura and sushi.
Serving everything fresh. Everything healthy. Everything good.
We do chicken right!
The way a sandwich should be!
Long John Silver's
Can't resist the great taste of Long John Silver's.
My Friend's Place
Your neighborhood deli; soups, sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Actually, outstanding variety - no McDonalds or Hardees. Amazing.
Of course, this kind of stuff wouldn't fly in New York...well, maybe in Times Square, but not in the rest of the city. I'm sure that New York University's food court reflects the diverse nature of the city's dining...oh wait, they have a Chick-Fil-A and a Quiznos.
But of course if you go to the Luxor (an Egyptian-themed hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada), things will be radically different, won't they?
For a quick bite or gourmet coffee to go, the Luxor Food Court offers guests a wide selection of choices from Luxor Coffee Company, McDonald's, Nathan's, Little Caesars Pizza, Swenson's Ice Cream, and Quiznos Sub.
OK, Vegas is Vegas. Let's go to the Barona casino in California, where Kenny Rogers (the singer, not the baseball player) does their ads (problem gamblers who haven't lost all their assets are welcome here). Away from the glitz of Vegas, things should be fine:
If a quick snack or light meal is what you have in mind, the Food Court offers a number of exceptional eateries to choose from, including the world famous fish tacos at Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, the nostalgic flavor of Feisty Kate's Burgers & Malts and the thick, cheesy slices of The Pizza Place. The Barona Coffee Company features a variety of hand-picked and fresh-roasted specialty blends for a stimulating hot cup of fresh brewed coffee, as well as hot and cold espresso drinks and flavorful teas.
It makes you just want to flee everything modern and escape to a historical site, such as Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington. He'd notice some changes:
The Food Court at Mount Vernon offers a quick and delicious alternative for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Travelers on the go are able to select savory baked goods from a French-style cafe, gourmet burgers fresh off the grill, subs and salads from a delicatessen, personal pan pizzas from Pizza HutTM, Mrs. FieldsTM delectable cookies, and both soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream. Relax in the glass-enclosed Pavilion or sit on the beautiful terrace - 250 seats await you!
OK, let's give up on America and flee to Germany:
For all intents and purposes, The Oasis is a lovely food court in a regional mall. Its Spanish-themed decor includes whitewashed walls, palm trees, Mediterranean-style tiled roofs and a bell tower. Twelve food vendors offer an around-the-world culinary tour from McDonald's, KFC, and Singapore Sam's (Asian food) to Italian, Chinese, Mexican and German menus....
The Oasis actually is Die Oase (a literal translation), the 2,000-seat food court of western Germany's CentrO supermall near Oberhausen.
Entertainment features and programs at Die Oase help to extend shopper visits. A giant 48-screen video wall presents continuous closed-circuit programming, and the court's common area turns into a venue for fashion shows, dances and other community events.
Die Oase would look at home in a North American shopping mall, but is actually an import from England, the European country which has embraced the food court concept most enthusiastically.
Let's look at England:
As in the United States, Britain's food courts have moved away from mom-and-pop independent operators to a high proportion of branded fast-food outlets, with North American names such as Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Burger King prominent among other branded banners.
Now they're not as popular in the Latin countries because people there consider meals a long social event, not a quick bite. But even in France:
You find them mostly in tourist areas. For example, the Louvre has a food court like in the U.K. because there are a lot of Anglo-Saxon visitors there.
So it ain't just the 909 that's afflicted with food court sameness. Chances are that one, or five, or ten, or twenty of these restaurants are somewhere near you. This is a list from dietpower.com of the 100 largest fast food and restaurant chains:
Chuck E. Cheese's
Circle K (Tempe, Arizona)
Einstein Bros. Bagels
Four Seasons Hotels
Hard Rock Café
International House of Pancakes
Jack in the Box
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Lone Star Steakhouse
Long John Silver's
Old Country Buffet
Romano's Macaroni Grill
Round Table Pizza
Ryan's Grill, Buffet & Bakery
Steak 'n Shake
Uno (Pizzeria Uno)