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Chain Links: Sleeping on the Job

Jeez, I don't read the news for a week and American chains take over the world.

Nepal got a Pizza Hut/KFC combo.

Pakistan is getting a Hardees.

Russia has 78 Subway shops and they're going to have 922 more by 2015.

Europe will welcome its first Chipotle in London come April.

In exchange, Soho will get an outpost of Lizarran Tapas, a Spanish chain that already has locations in California.

Hi and Bye

Ack, no time to blog or even write descriptions or properly tag these vacation photos. No matter, here is some Oaxaca randomness until I get a free moment.

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T.G.I. Thursday’s

Thansgivingpizza It's as if Thanksgiving is either for marathon kitchen duties or fine dining (even I’m guilty of perpetuating that). Who's to say you can't chain it up on our nation's day of gluttony?

Here is a selection of Thanksgiving options at chain restaurants. This is by no means exhaustive so  please let me know if you are aware of more.

Boston Market

This is kind of a duh Thanksgiving-wise since they sell turkey, gravy and the like year-round. You can eat a limited menu in-store or take advantage of their "Catered Holiday Buffets" starting at $9.99 per person that can also be delivered. Lane Cardwell, CEO of Boston Market says "Our traditional holiday meals help families spend more time making memories with loved ones and less time in the kitchen." The concept of intentionally making memories gives me the creeps.

Cracker Barrel
Starting at 11am on Thanksgiving
you’ll be able to eat enjoy oven-baked turkey breast, cornbread
dressing, gravy, baked sugar-cured ham, sweet potato casserole with
caramel pecan topping, cranberry relish, your choice of a vegetable,
biscuits or corn muffins, pumpkin pecan streusel pie and a beverage
(excluding milkshakes) for a mere $8.99. Unfortunately, the nearest
Cracker Barrel to my zipcode is 47 miles away in Mt. Arlington, New

Dallas BBQ
Wouldn’t a Texas-sized blue Hawaii (or even their new Bubbalicious cocktail with a shot of bubble gum vodka) and Hennessy wings be the perfect accompaniment for a turkey dinner? $14.99 will get you roast turkey, chicken vegetable soup, stuffing, baked sweet potato, cornbread, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie at everyone’s favorite cheapo rib joint Dallas BBQ. There appears to be no way to directly link to this special on their website but it is posted on Facebook.

No turkey pizza but…they claim they will deliver 1.1. million pizzas in the US on November 26, a 50% increase over usual Wednesdays. "Thanksgiving Eve is one of our busiest days of the year," says Jenny Fouracre, Domino's Pizza spokeswoman.

Despite no hint of its fried nature in the official name, Popeyes’ Cajun-style turkeys
have indeed spent some time in bubbling oil (though I don’t think
they’re cooked on site). You must place your order five days in
advance, but for some reason I have zero faith in the Court St.
location nearest me doing this correctly.

Ruby Tuesday
They are keeping it traditional with a $12.99 meal
that includes turkey medallions, mashers (a.k.a. mashed potatoes),
stuffing, cranberry chutney and snap peas. Not so traditional is their
apostrophe usage: "Thanksgiving Feast (Sized Just Right) for the Kid's"
You can actually reserve a table at the Times Square location (and
others) online. Fancy.

TGI Friday’s
Did someone say half-priced loaded potato skins?. T.G.I. Friday’s will be taking a contrarian approach and encouraging drinking and football over creating family memories. Says John Neitzel, president and chief operating officer, "We invite you to step away from the turkey and up to the bar this year. You'll find half-price appetizers including great new wing flavors, drink specials where they'll let us, back to back football games in HD and that 'Thank God It's Friday's' attitude you won't find anywhere else.”

Thank God that attitude will be confined to 12 confined locations around NYC.

White Castle
Every year I say I’m going to try the slider stuffing recipe and every year I don’t. This year I won’t either but I like knowing that such a creation exists.

Thanksgiving pizza photo from Junk Food Blog.

Great New York Noodletown

twoshovel New York Noodletown, or Great New York Noodletown as they’ve been calling themselves for some time, has always been a Chinatown standby and not just for late night. I haven’t been drunk in the vicinity of lower Manhattan in years. Murmurs of its decline have come and gone for ages.

Me, I’ve never had a problem with the food, though I never stray far from roast pork wonton soup, roasted meats with rice or salt and pepper soft shell crabs (though in a recent Travel & Leisure article that gathers a bunch of chefs to eat at Noodletown and discuss late night eats, David Chang declares the ginger scallion noodles his favorite—maybe I should branch out?) That’s it. And brusqueness in this genre of eatery doesn’t bother me.

I recently went straight after work before seeing The Box on opening night for reasons I can’t yet determine, not so much that the movie was weird/slow/unsatisfying but because I rarely even see movies, let alone on opening nights. Like I said, I wouldn’t call efficiency and lack of smiling brusqueness, and the burgundy-vested waiters hear everything. They’re on it. We were speculating to ourselves not loudly whether we should order the soft shell crab and were cut off by a waiter walking by, “No soft shell crab!” Ok, roast duck it was.

New york noodletown roast pork wonton soup

I forgot to take a photo of the duck, which proves how tastiness of the meat and crispiness of the skin. Or maybe I was just starving. I have to admit, though, that my soup was a little troubled. The broth was hot, maybe a little less complex and rich as ones I’ve had there before, but clearly the noodles and pork had just been sitting out as they were coldish, not even quite room temperature. The noodles were still springy and the pork had a nice charred flavor but warm would be better.

The wontons? Maybe I’ve said this before and I still can’t determine where the flavor is coming from since they look simply like shrimp encased in dough, no herbs, but they taste like marijuana. Just subtly and I’m no stoner but I swear they are like pot dumplings, if such a think existed. I’ve never heard anyone else ever say that so maybe it’s how my tongue processes a certain taste, in a soapy cilantro manner.

Previously on New York Noodletown

Great New York Noodletown * 28 Bowery St., New York, NY

Thanks for Nothing

Sushisamba Part of me wishes I were in town for Thanksgiving because I'd like to try a fancy restaurant dinner this year, Eleven Madison Park maybe, but no matter.

Here are some non-traditional side dishes from restaurants around the city that I wrote about for Metromix.

Photo by Jori Klein Jacobs

In Russia Burgers King You

Mcdonalds-size-check While McDonald's is insidious and weasels into all nooks and crannies of the globe (minus Iceland) Burger King randomly asserts itself. I would've assumed Russia already had the chain. But no, Moscow will get its first BK by end of year.

In what sounds like fake news, the mayor of Moscow apparently started a doomed chain called Russian Bistro in 1995 to compete against McDonald's. Their slogan: "It does not hurt to try."

Bun Troubleshooting Tool photo from a photo tour of a Russian McDonald's factory at Funatiq.

OBAO Preview

In 2006 I worked a block from where OBAO, Michael Huynh’s latest venture, is scheduled to open on Monday. The immediate area has shaped into a multi-culti lunching paradise (Güllüoglu, Barros Luco, Mantao Chinese Sandwiches) or maybe it just seems better in comparison to the Financial District blandness I’ve grown accustomed to. And I shouldn't complain so hard, we're getting a Baoguette down here.

Obao lamb, beef on sugarcane & pork belly

Based on the sampling at OBAO’s preview party, there is high promise. The grilled cubes of pork belly were a little sweet with nice char and good balance between the meaty and fatty bits. Lamb chops were coated in chopped lemongrass and tasted like they’d been marinated in coconut milk. Instead of shrimp paste, thin slices of beef were wrapped around sugarcane. Bacon too. Why had I never thought of that?

Obao satay & shrimp roll

Shrimp rolls and chicken satay were perfectly fine renditions, but couldn’t compete with the oomph of the pork, lamb and beef. Or maybe I just have a preference for the fatty.

Obao soup

I think this was a pho. It definitely was pho-like, but the poached egg threw me off.

The unknown element will be the noodles, which weren’t showcased at this event. I’m crazy for laksa and can’t decide if the non-traditional green tea soba noodles as they are touting will be a welcome tweak or just weird. Will the char kway teow also be an Asian hybrid? I’m sure I’ll get the answers soon enough.

Obao exterior
I imagine the signage will be complete and the garbage bin removed by opening day.

OBAO * 222 E. 53 St., New York NY

In Other Words: Chains Are the Best Alibi


If you can decipher urban teenspeak, that is. Apparently, neither The New York Times nor the New York Post published the verbatim Facebook update that cleared 19-year-old  Rodney Bradford of a robbery charge because it was "indecipherable."


The kid wants his Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n Fruity, obviously.

Oh, and I just learned a little street lingo myself. Be very careful what you ask for at IHOP

Buffalo Wilding Wings

Wildwings This is why Brooklyn can never have anything nice. There's no way a high-class chain like Cheesecake Factory would set up downtown when people are shooting and stabbing over a 40-cent Buffalo Wild Wings promotion down the street.

Celebrating my birthday at the Atlantic Center Mall Chuck E. Cheese's opening week cured me of all desires to ever set foot in that shopping center again (ok, I had to get my driver's license renewed at the second-floor DMV). Tabletop diaper poopers, animatronic abusers combined with oblivious parents create the violent hot wing-loving teens of the future.

The most trouble I ever caused at a chain in high school was sharing a plate instead of paying for my own at Izzy's buffet.

I Have a Hunch that You Prefer Subway Over Pret a Manger


Hunch is fascinating if not a little creepy (I think creating smarter, personalized search engines is how machines start rising up). When it first launched I got sucked into answering questions for over 30 minutes, partially anticipating an end result and partially because I find answering questions addictive.

They recently published a report, “How Food Preferences Vary by Political Ideology” which reinforces stark stereotypes. Apparently, food choices are cleanly divided between political parties. For instance, right-wingers prefer Velveeta, white bread, deep-dish pizza with lots of meat and liberals love Brie, multigrain, and vegetarian regular crust pizzas. Kind of like an ’80s funny-’cause-it’s-true black people dance like this/white people dance like this comedy routine.

Fortunately, we can all get along on a few culinary topics: both groups prefer romaine over other lettuces and practically everyone thinks bacon double cheeseburgers are delicious.