A vegetarian walks into Chili’s…

I went to Chili’s for dinner tonight, proving once again that FM radio D.J.’s are hard-living, urban warrior, rockstars.

While my friend and I waited for a table, I strained to hear their house system. The song was familiar, but difficult to identify over the sound of middle America plowing through bottomless bowls of tortilla chips. “Wait a minute,” I said, “that’s the Stranglers.”
“Huh?” he said.
“The Stranglers. ‘Skin Deep.’”
“I dunno. I’d expect something different from Chili’s. Like Rob Thomas. Or Fall Out Boy.”
My friend rolled his eyes. “I’m sure it’s just some syndicated muzak thing.”
“I’m sure it is,” I said, “but isn’t that cool?”
“I mean, it’s no ‘Golden Brown’ or ‘No More Heroes,’ but it’s still the Stranglers.”
“Whatever, James.”
“Come on…humor me.”

Even though I’m a vegetarian, I can usually find something to eat at any restaurant I go to (in a world where even Burger King has a veggie burger, it’s not as far-fetched as you’d expect). Chili’s was slim pickin’s for me; the only menu option being a black bean burger substitution for their regular meatwiches. The black bean burger was strangely kickass. For that matter, I was strangely comfortable at Chili’s.

Maybe it’s the fact that I have Indiana genes embedded into my body chemistry, but I’ve never been interested in Chicago’s trendy restaurants. The thought of waiting more than 30 minutes for a seat, then spending $40 a person to sit three inches away from a neighboring table is a complete turn-off for me. Don’t get me wrong…I like good food. I love dozens of different cuisines, from Indian to Italian, Persian to Thai. I appreciate inventive recipes and off-the-wall culinary blends. It’s the culture of dining I have no use for. Besides, why should I wait in line at a “cool” Randolph Street restaurant when my local Chili’s is playing the Stranglers?

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