Culture

The 6 Most Overrated Restaurants

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Many nutritionists claim that Americans eat out too much. Maybe. Maybe not. What is certain is that some Americans are less than discerning about where they eat out. Considering the number of restaurants to choose from, it makes little sense for any American to spend their eating-out money on sub-par restaurants. Below are the six most overrated restaurants in America.

One note before the list, though: overrated doesn’t mean that the food is bad. It means that many people speak about these restaurants in almost reverent tones, when, in fact, better food is available at other less “celebrated” restaurants. None of the restaurants on this list deserve the lofty opinions about them held by so many.

6. Papa John’s

I get the convenience factor, but unless you’re snowed in and need food desperately or you are throwing a birthday party for a child, there’s no reason to eat anything from this mockery of a pizza restaurant. A pizza’s flavor is mainly derived from its sauce and its dough. Papa John’s sauce is way too sweet and comes out of a can. Its dough is prepared in large, assembly line bakeries and then trucked to the restaurants where it sits in the walk-in cooler waiting to be tugged and pulled into a circle by someone who knows next to nothing about baking or pizza. To top it off, most communities have pizza joints that serve truly house-made pizza for basically the same price as Papa John’s.

5. Chipotle

I first ate at a Chipotle almost two years ago. Based on the amount of hyperbolic worship heaped on the chain, I was expecting so much more than what I discovered. It took me less than a minute inside of the place to realize that Chipotle is just a pretentious Moe’s with a great marketing department. Since then, I’ve eaten at my neighborhood’s Chipotle dozens of time because my kids love the place and I love my kids. But every time I’m there, and no matter what I order, the food is always bland. It’s definitely not worth the hype.

4. Olive Garden

People who love Olive Garden have probably never eaten real Italian food. Because the food served at this overpriced chain is basically the same “Italian” food that is stocked in your local grocery store’s freezer section. Don’t misunderstand—I don’t mind Olive Garden’s food (I’ll be honest, I’m a fan of the salad), but it’s not worth the price. Olive Garden doesn’t deserve the praise that it receives from those who think the restaurant is fine dining.

3. Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is one of two restaurants on this list whose food I absolutely do not like. The only time anyone should eat at a Cracker Barrel is if they need a week’s worth of sodium in one meal. Other than that, the soggy, overcooked, overly salted mush they call food should never pass the lips of anyone who can afford to eat at a restaurant. The sad thing is that many people love Cracker Barrel (most of my extended family, in fact). People in the D.C. area, where I live, will suffer the horrendous traffic just to eat at one of Northern Virginia’s Cracker Barrels, all of which are outside of the Beltway. Driving to one requires passing hundreds of restaurants that are much better than a chain offering fake Southern food.

2. In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger is the other restaurant that serves food I don’t like. The flavor of the patty doesn’t really matter, because whatever flavor exists in the dry and skinny hamburger is drowned out by the bland, often stale bun. And don’t get me started on the undercooked joke that In-N-Out calls French fries. “You have to order from the ‘secret menu,’ John,” I hear from my In-N-Out loving friends and family members. No! I shouldn’t have to order from a “secret menu” to get edible fast food. I’ll just go to Whataburger or Five Guys instead when I want a fast food burger. 

1. Chik-fil-A

I have found that people become angry at me whenever I dare suggest that any of the restaurants on this list are not as good as purported. But none of the restaurants receive as passionate of a defense from their fans as does Chik-fi-A. Offering even the slightest criticism of conservative America’s favorite fast food joint brings with it scorn and skepticism about my conservative Christian bona fides. When I told my editor which restaurants were going to be on the list, she responded, “Chik-fil-A!!!! I should have you burned as a heretic!!!” She was joking, of course (I hope), but I’ve received similar responses from people who weren’t joking. This is why Chick-fil-A lands at #1: people act irrationally about the restaurant’s soggy, fast-food chicken sandwiches. Chik-fil-A is merely okay, and not nearly as good as advertised.