Real Food is continuing its disappearing act from restaurants across America. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the restaurant is a franchise or boasts 5 stars.
At a franchise restaurant like Applebees, Chilis, or Bob Evans, you would expect that cheap, processed food dressed up with a gourmet presentation would reign supreme. Food in these types of restaurants is only a small improvement over fast food in most cases and will make you feel just about as rotten shortly afterward (unless, of course, you already feel so rotten from eating processed food much of the time that you don’t notice).
But a 5 star restaurant?
I recently learned that Bern’s Steakhouse, one of the premier 5 star restaurants in my metro area, uses bouillon cubes (aka MSG cubes) to improve the flavor of its signature french onion soup (source: Bern’s waiter). I was devastated! This was one of the few restaurants I thought I was safe to order soup!
Who cares if Bern’s serves organic baby green salad and grassfed steak sourced locally if you still get a migraine from the MSG laced bowl of soup? It makes you wonder what other corners are being cut that you don’t know about yet despite all the lip service being paid to high quality.
Earth to Bern’s: Bouillon cubes are NOT high quality and should NOT be in your french onion soup.
I was also disappointed recently when I enjoyed an evening out at one of my favorite restaurants, Boizao, a Brazilian style restaurant also considered very high end for my Mom’s 80th birthday bash. One of my favorite dishes at Boizao is heart of palm with a special dressing. While serving myself a second helping that evening, the restaurant manager happened by and I took the opportunity to ask if it were possible for me to get the recipe for the heart of palm dressing. He then told me that they buy the dressing from a food supplier and that it came in “big bottles” (translation: cheap, rancid vegetable oils included). I was shocked speechless. Even more amazing, the manager didn’t even seem embarrassed by telling me this!
Didn’t know you were talking to a Real Food blogger, eh buddy? Oops! Secret’s out now!
Am I wrong to expect a high end steakhouse to mix up its own dressings fresh with quality ingredients like extra virgin olive oil? Is this too much to ask anymore?
I have reluctantly come to the sad conclusion that pretty much all restaurants have gone to the dogs in America. The only exceptions I come across anymore are tiny little restaurants where the owner is also the chef and simply will not allow these low quality substitutions.
5 star or no stars, the American restaurant dining experience has been relegated to a processed food affair regardless of the size of the tab. Even if the meat and veggies are decent quality and prepared fresh, little effort is expended on the condiments, dressings, soups, and other extras that round out the meal and make a huge difference to the digestibility and overall nutrition of the experience, not to mention whether you will feel terrible the next day!
Bye Bye Maple Syrup
Another insidious trend taking place is the disappearance of real maple syrup from restaurants serving breakfast. In a related story, Food Renegade wrote about the disappearance of butter from restaurants in a recent post.
Well, the maple syrup has disappeared too I’m sorry to add! It used to be when my kids were begging for pancakes when we were traveling, I could at least ask for real butter and maple syrup to cover the bromated, bleached, synthetic vitamin enhanced white flour, garbage pancakes.
Not anymore! My husband was at a Conference recently at a 5 star resort and when the kids and I joined him for breakfast one morning, I was shocked to discover that only fake, corn syrup sweetened syrup was available with the pancakes or waffles.
You would think that $8 for a plate of pancakes that probably cost the restaurant about 25 cents to make could get you some real maple syrup! Of course, there was no butter to be found either.
Gotta pay all those property taxes for the golf course view, don’t we?
I saw the disappearance of maple syrup coming a couple of years ago when my family and I were eating at a fantastic little breakfast nook in downtown Sarasota FL. Upon asking for some maple syrup, I was informed that it would be a $3 additional charge per 1 oz bottle of maple syrup that was provided. Of course, the high fructose corn syrup sweetened ersatz maple syrup was free.
We paid extra for 3 tiny bottles of real maple syrup but I commented to my husband that it wouldn’t be long before even that option was no longer available.
Sure enough, here we are some months down the road and I haven’t been able to find maple syrup anywhere for quite some time. I realize the price of maple syrup has gone through the roof, but is that really an excuse?
For IHOP? Maybe.
For a 5 star resort or a specialty breakfast nook that prides itself on quality? Most definitely not.
Maybe I should start bringing my own maple syrup to restaurants tucked discreetly into my purse. But, then I would have to bring some butter and maybe some sea salt too.
Oh, forget it! How weird and OCD would that be? I’ll just eat at home!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
I regularly take my own hot sauce with me to restaurants. What bothers me most is that hardly anyone has real butter any more. I’ve been tempted to take butter with me as well, but it would probably melt before I could use it.
As for syrup, I doubt that I start taking my own, but for a different reason. With most pancakes, especially anything out of a mix, i get an allergic reaction or something that leaves me sick for about three days. I don’t even get that kind of allergic reaction from peanuts or aspirin!
I’ve heard of people taking their own cloth napkins to restaurants. I’ve never done that, but would consider taking a large bath towel to use as a napkin if I was going to be eating ribs. Maybe two big bath towels.
A very few people are known to take their own bread to restaurants, either because they don’t like the bread there or they object to eating uneaten bread from another table.
I find it sad that Cracker Barrel states that their decision to only use partly maple syrup now instead of 100% pure maple syrup because there has been a shortage of “sap.” This is absolutely not true. In Vermont, where they get their syrup from, we have had a bumper crop the last 2 years.
It’s about money and cutting costs where a big corporation is concerned!
Even if you did find a restaurant that used quality ingredients, your food is still probably cooked in Teflon pans for the sake of easy cleaning and nice presentation of food. What about the detergents they use? There’s no end…, Traditional society didn’t dine in a restaurant for pleasure either. Consider eating at a like minded friend’s house instead of a restaurant. I’m still searching for such a friend…
In my shop they sell a brand of syrup that carob fruit syrup mixed with maple syrup. Do you know if this stuff is unhealthy. The other ingredient is natural flavouring and when I asked the company what that was exactly I got no reply!