The nostalgia of chain restaurants

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I’m not afraid to say it: I enjoy the occasional trip to a chain restaurant. The guarantee that the food will be mediocre and really salty is sort of enchanting. Like a fairy calling your name from the suburban woods, telling you to come home because Grandpa’s sick and your colon hasn’t been blasted by shoddy food in a while.

Growing up in the Midwest, I took a lot of road trips. A move from Kansas to Minnesota when I was 10 meant that we were haulin’ it every summer and holiday to go home to Kansas to see friends and family.

When you’re in the car for 8-10 hours in one day with your nuclear family, staring at majestic corn fields, smelling luscious dad farts and spitefully snacking on the healthy nut mix your loving mom packed while suppressing a Preteen cry for Cheetos, there’s no room for debate about which quaint Midwest country restaurant you and yours will dine at during your trip. You need dependable food and a familiar menu before anyone has a hunger meltdown in your prestigious Dodge Caravan.

As was normal on many road trips down I-35, my parents awoke me from the third nap of the day at 12:30pm, which meant it was time to start hunting for the highway “FOOD” signs.

The way it worked was if you’ve never heard of the restaurant before, we’re not going there. Oh, no commercial on national television? In your dreams, Shane’s Rib Shack. Take a hike, Grandma’s Kitchen. Nice try, Lou’s Food Emporium. 

Back in 1998 when I was 10, there was no internet in your hand and on-the-go. Taking a risk on a lesser known restaurant was not something any travel fatigued family wanted to do. Stopping to eat takes up valuable road time and you mustn’t take chances on unknown places. What if their decaf coffee is terrible, sending mother into a tailspin worse than you letting your Gigapet starve to death? What if they don’t have chicken strips? You simply can’t take risks like that when you’re travelling with anyone. The fallout would be unbearable in such close farting quarters.

Luckily, all the Chili’s, Applebees and Pizza Huts were conveniently located next to the highway so we only had to argue over which chain to eat at, significantly lowering the number of “I’M NOT EATING THERE!!!” screams from my preteen big mouth.

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The dependable chain restaurant food was just that: dependable. The chicken strips were gorgeous, the Heinz ketchup was perfectly room temperature, and the Pepsi on tap was always a disappointment. It was heaven. Plus, where else are you gonna get a plate with cheeseburgers, criminally delicious SOUTHWEST ROLLS, and the mythically “loaded” potato skin boats all in one place? It’s the definition of heaven on a plate. The menu at any one of these fine chain restaurants is the definition of mediocre innovation–but that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.

Now that I’m older and live in a big city, of course I have better taste, I’m not a total jerk. But once in a while, something greater than me pulls my body out to the suburbs like an alien magnate, where I find myself alone and uncontrollably smiling inside of a Chili’s. Yes Amanda, I AM just a party of one. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me of being young, or maybe it’s because you can’t get good chicken strips at nice restaurants. Whatever the case, chain restaurants will without a doubt always hold a beautiful mini-chimichanga space in my heart.

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This is cool: Britney Spears, NSYNC, VMAs 1999

NUFF SAID. This is what I miss in pop music. Choreographed heavy dancing to amazing, Max Martin produced pop music. Ahh, to be in the 90s/pre 9/11 years. I will never forget this era of pop music. Never ever ever ever!!!

This was American pop at it’s height of perfection. Eat your heart out, Katy Perry!

Clarissa Explains it All, the album

YES. Clarissa as a rock star. I thought this day would never come. Image via avclub.com

THIS IS REAL PEOPLE.

Apparently Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa from the 90s darling show Clarissa Explains it All RECORDED A ROCK ALBUM. This shit is so fucking awesome. This is the legitimately coolest kid/teen album I’ve ever heard. A hip lead singer, bass, guitar and drums. It’s annoying tween problems like stupid little brothers (we’re looking at you, Ferguson) and a longform version of the famous “na na na” theme song.

The coolest part is you can absolutely picture Clarissa singing and performing in a garage. Oh if only there were a VHS that was unreleased as well. That would make my YEAR.

I’m dying!!!!!!

I’m instantly 8 years old again. With a leather jacket on, a candy cigarette and dancing in my room to a brand new CD. Seriously amazing.

Fashion Icon: Clarissa Explains it All

The absolute, hands down fashion icon of 90s children’s programming, Clarissa Darling.

Rent the discs on Netflix, seriously. The show is oddly smart for children’s shows. That’s how awesome the 90s were. Le sigh.

And her CLOTHES. Inventive, crazy, fun.

This outfit is sick.
We now know where this trend came from. Thanks, Clarissa.
We now know where this trend came from. Thanks, Clarissa.
So true
So true

Why don’t I have the DVDs of this show yet?!