I didn’t come all this way just to eat at Chili’s

Chili's actually has a Travel Planner that allows you to map all the Chili's on your route. See how many times you can eat at the SAME PLACE on your way to somewhere else. Sheesh.

It’s a curse to be a foodie in a family of chicken nugget fans, especially on vacation.

How can you argue the merits of trying something new when your audience worships the consistency of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s? They take comfort in knowing exactly what they’re getting, whereas I plunge into a boredom-induced existential crisis. Food is practically the only thrill I have left. For Pete’s sake, I have the most conventional existence possible; married, two kids, a dog and a fish bowl. Let me live a little.

I’m a great believer in the “When in Rome” vacation philosophy, and my personal criteria on vacation is to try whatever is indigenous to the area. I ask the wait staff what is most popular and what is their personal favorite. If a dish boasts a house specialty, I’m in. This is the fun of dining out somewhere new. As for the kids, their dining experiment could be formally titled Proposed: A Quarter Pounder in Texas tastes just like a Quarter Pounder in Alabama. (The spouse does not object. “I get by with value combos all around? More money for golf!”)

Consistency is wonderful in certain circumstances. Interstate exits are an excellent example. No matter where you are on the highway, you can know that the exact same options are going to come around again in just a few exits. In fact, the first logo-covered “exit here” signs are just suggestions to get you craving the same outlets that lie four exits north. If you’re lucky, the corporate office will have let this particular KFC #4055 put up a few locally-inspired photos. You can be in South Carolina but eat like you’re still at home. Which, believe it or not, is what some people want.

There are some places where a no-chain-restaurant rule is impractical, like Orlando (outside the parks) or Cancun or any enclosed mall. Otherwise, the world is too full of options to be ordering a Number Four meal. My no-chain rule is generally viewed by the family as the aggressive stance of a dictator mom, like the Try One Bite of This Vegetable Rule (argument?) at home, but I’m not giving up.

Eventually it will sink in that Chili’s didn’t invent Tex-Mex Food but that neighboring cultures blended to create a whole new flavor. That’s right kids,  a WHOLE NEW FLAVOR. And you’re going to try it at someplace that doesn’t have logo coasters.

This post was inspired by a trip to San Antonio in which, but for my refusal, the Riverwalk Chili’s threatened to become a bona fide option for dinner. One hundred unique restaurants lining the internationally known Riverwalk in San freaking Antonio, and people were eating at Chili’s.