On Saturday night we went to Ali Baba Restaurant. It's on this random street next to a liquor store. There is a bar across the street and no other restaurant in sight. It doesn't offer much in the way of ambiance but I love it that it's in our neighborhood. We don't have to drive downtown and hunt or pay for parking and they serve Naan bigger then the size of my head fresh out of the oven. The food is delicous and the portions are generous. We had an authentic Mediterranean Halal food experience right in our backyard. I honestly had no clue what type of food it was but that's what it says on their website. We've been there twice now and plan to take my mother in law when she comes to visit.
Biggest Naan I've ever seen and the best
There was a time when going to TGI Friday's or Applebee's would be my top pick for dining out on the weekends but over the last year or so I've fallen out of love with chain restaurants. There is something about their mass produced energy that doesn't appeal to me so much anymore. I think it's a combination of getting older and the plethora of great restaurants in our city to explore. There are so many new ones popping up that I'll probably never get a chance to try them all. I'm also not 100% driven by price when it comes to dining out like I was in my early 20's. It's a factor for sure; but I'm not compelled to go somewhere just because I see a commercial advertising a 3 course combo for $10.99.
Or maybe my husband is starting to rub off on me. I call him a food snob. He say's he just likes good food. Or maybe he's not a food snob and I just wore him down with wanting to go the same places all the time. When we were still dating On the Border was our spot. He was still living about 1 1/2 hours away in Orange County. He'd drive down to my house on Friday's and I'd rush home from work so we could make happy hour. I got the chicken casadilla and he'd get the tacos. We'd both get a beer or sometimes he'd get a Margarita. It was cheap and tasted good to me. After he got sick of that place we went through a TGI Friday's run until he refused to go there ever again and started saying how much he hated it. Then it was Outback which is also on his hate list and in between we frequented Chili's and Applebee's quite a bit too. In his opinion the food at non chain restaurants is better and he burns out with repetition while I'm pretty easy to please and could eat the same things at the same place every day. I'm a creature of habit and not too adventurous when it comes to food but we started branching out for date nights and really haven't looked back.
When I go out I want unique decor details and menu items that you can't get anywhere else. I enjoy ambiance and an interesting vibe. I love the friendly service and homey atmosphere that I get in little mom and pop places. They seem to pay more attention to the quality of the food they serve and I like supporting small businesses. It doesn't have to be fancy or hip. We like discovering hole in the wall spots and places outside the trendy happening areas. We are always open to trying new places and if the food and service is good we'll be back. One of our new favorite spots is a place right down the street from us in a strip mall. There is nothing fancy about it but the food is good, the people are friendly and we feel at home there. MJ is such a regular they know him by name.
I haven't sworn off chain restaurants indefinitely but it's not going to be my first choice and I'm not necessarily planning to go to one anytime soon. I can't go the rest of my life without ever tasting Red Lobster's cheddar bay biscuits again and I have only found one restaurant that has lasagna I like as much Olive Garden's. I've heard it's frozen but I don't care. Even Italy couldn't outdo Lasagna Classico. And those bread sticks. Denny's is a sentimental favorite of mine too. I grew up going there and it was always my Birthday dinner pick. My how times have changed.
Maybe I'm turning into a restaurant/food snob but I like to feel like I'm having some type of culinary experience. I don't need a mouthwash dispenser in the bathroom but if I'm spending my time and money I want it to feel worth it and special in some way and chains just don't do it for me like they used to.
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