Chain Gang

[ 4 ] July 6, 2011 |

Farro Salad

Call me a food snob but chain restaurants have never been my thing.  The food typically tastes like a bad combination of rubber and too much grease which is not how I want my dining experience to begin or end.  Recently, I may have had a change of heart, however, after I stumbled into the Uno Chicago Grill in Georgetown.  Craving something quick, cheap and no fuss, I took my out of town guest here in hopes of resolving these issues.  How delightfully surprised was I to taste some of the quickest deep dish pizza for under $10 on this side of town annnd it was actually good?!?  After my little visit, I did some research into the “new” chain restaurant scene.  Were they still the rubbery/greasy delicacies I had shunned for so many years? Or have they evolved into something more?

Fig Goat Cheese Pizza

My research yielded some interesting results: chain restaurants are no longer just chains.  I’m guessing a few things happened: (1) Mom and Pops are taking over the restaurant scene with authentic, fresher ingredients, (2) restaurant goers are no longer simply interested in “eating out”, it’s about the whole experience and/or (3) the sheek, independent restaurant ventures are “in” like a fresh pair of Louboutins.  With these factors weighing in, it is pertinent that chain restaurants keep their menus innovative and in-season.  Take for instance Uno Chicago Grill who recently launched a new menu lined with Fig Goat Cheese Pizza, Wild Mushroom White Cheddar Pizza and Farro Salad.  Talk about competing, that Farro Salad is not listed on many menus around the District but offers some of the freshest flavors that should line every menu.


Additionally, a week later I was perusing my daily paper and saw a summer lobster special at Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant.  A week later I received an email about the new lobster specials at Uno’s including a New England lobster roll, lobster and shrimp scampi and a lobster melt with Cabot aged cheese.  Besides caviar, lobster is one of my fave delacacies (*when done right and chosen correctly, that is…).  To see it lining these new and improved menus makes my eyebrow raise, is there something to be said about these new and improved menus?  Yes indeed.  Chain restaurants will always have their regulars i.e. families with small children, suburbanites, etc.  The question I sought out to answer was whether they would gain those outside the atypical chain diner with these new changes?  With lobster and fresh figs on their side, let’s just say they’re headed in the right direction.


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Category: Food.Fun.Stuff.

About the Author ()

Johnna French is a Harlem NY native with deep roots in Panama, Washington, DC and North Carolina. All four places have heavily influenced her life and the foods she loves today. After graduating Howard University School of Law and beginning her life as a young professional in the city she was led to start Johnna Knows Good Food in November 2007 to keep family, friends and colleagues updated on where to go and what to eat while dining in the nation’s capitol. French, who still practices law, leads a team of three writers to cover the ever expanding Washington, DC food scene. French has been featured in print and television, appearing in Washingtonian Magazine and is a regular contributor to various local TV affiliates including WUSA 9, FOX 5 DC and WJLA (ABC Affiliate) News Channel 8. During the 2016-2017 football season, Johnna aired on Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic (CSN) show, Redskins Life, as the weekly tailgate host. Johnna is currently a regular contributor to the FOX Baltimore Weekend morning show.

Comments (4)

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  1. L. Denise says:

    SOME chains have come a looong way. Olive Garden, for one.

  2. johnna says:

    Yes! Their Tiramisu is good competition for other top spots. #olivegarden

  3. karen says:

    I’d have to agree with L. Denise, and re-emphasize the word ‘some’. Folks rely on the ‘others’ to remain in their lane-of-affordable-mediocrity. Great piece!

  4. johnna says:

    Very true Karen, there are “some” that have a long way to go…Thanks for the feedback!

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