As soon as I sat down at the bar I noticed some signs that P.F. Chang's takes their cocktail operation more seriously than might be expected: The house whiskey is Evan Williams, which is not a personal favorite but which I respect as the go-to bourbon of many a discerning bottom-shelfer. And maybe I'm a sucker for being impressed by such a triviality, but I liked that the drink prices are rendered in whole dollar amounts. In my experience a $10 drink is almost always better than a $9.95 drink. I had a good feeling about this liquid lunch.
'chain restaurants' on Serious Eats
Laced with plenty of butter and cheddar cheese, the biscuits at Red Lobster are pretty freakin' tasty. The rest of the food? Well, you can probably do better, depending where you are, but sometimes, you find yourself at a Red Lobster, and you're thirsty. We're here to help. Keep this list handy if you want to pick out a wine you won't regret.
Today we begin our foray into exploring the wine lists at popular chain restaurants. If you find yourself at The Olive Garden, there's no sommelier, and no cutesy descriptions, but you will see many of the same wines at every branch (though there may be a little variation from location to location). We tasted our way through 23 wines that you'll find at The Olive Garden in order to point you toward the best deals.
Typically, the chain restaurants that I visit serve up watered down punches full of sugar and artificial coloring. They don't have bitters, they don't muddle much, and they count on America wanting a sweet, diluted elixir to make a little bit of hooch go down. But the drinks at Dave and Buster's stand out a bit from the pack: first of all, they're mighty strong.
I have to admit up front that I'm a huge fan of the Garden; I used to eat there about twice a week in high school. Breadsticks, never-ending salad, and spaghetti with meatballs—I loved them. And I loved that every Olive Garden had the same pictures on the walls, and played the same Frank Sinatra songs ("Fly me to the moon...") But nostalgia only goes so far. The food might still be tasty, in that comforting generic-and-heavy way. But their specialty cocktails? That's another story.
Trader Vic's is Cheap Buzz with emphasis on the buzz. The drinks were powerful and—to my surprise—not too sweet. Of course, part of the fun is the presentation.