Archive for the 'National Chain' Category

Auntie Anne’s

March 1 and 2, 2007
Cuisine: American (Traditional)

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW)
Multiple locations

Phone: none

Garlic Pretzel ($2.69)

Cinnamon and Sugar Pretzel ($2.89)

I thought long and hard about whether or not to include a mall-staple like Auntie Anne’s on gas•tron•o•my. On one hand her pretzels are pretty darn good, but on the other, it’s merely food court cuisine. In the end I decided to muffle the food snob within and embrace the deliciousness of Auntie Anne’s pretzels and share my enthusiasm with the world.

The Astronomer turned me on to Auntie Anne’s early in our relationship. In fact, we used to fund our pretzel fix back in the day with gift certificates from his ex-girlfriend! Oh, awkward.

During a layover at DFW, I was in a savory mood and procured a Garlic Pretzel. For some bizarre reason, I actually thought the pretzel would contain bits of real garlic. I was sort of grossed out when I saw the woman behind the counter shaking a white powder on the pretzel. The garlic powder tickled my nose and tasted expectedly artificial. I wished I had gotten it plain because the “garlic” stayed with me for hours.

On my second layover at DFW, I ordered The Astronomer’s favorite flavor–Cinnamon and Sugar. It was warm, buttery, and sweet. On future trips to Auntie Anne’s I will avoid the pretzels that contain mysterious flavor powders (garlic, jalapeño, sour cream and onion) and stick to the real stuff (well, as real as mall food can be) like Cinnamon and Sugar.


In-N-Out Burger

January 15, 2007
Cuisine: Fastfood, Burgers

2910 Damon Ave.
Pacific Beach, CA 92109

Phone: 1-800-786-1000

Entree I: Double-Double ($2.75) with Fries ($1.09)


Entree II: Cheeseburger, Protein Style, Animal Style ($1.85)

Ever since reading Fast-food Nation, I’ve wanted to eat at In-N-Out Burger to support their high food standards and fair employment practices. The Astronomer and I met up with his friend Jason (AKA San Diego H8R) from JBS for a quick lunch at In-N-Out before exploring the wonders of UCSD.

The Astronomer ordered the classic Double-Double and a side of fries. He thought the burger was delicious, even with the Thousand Island dressing. The fries were “nothing special,” but he liked how they were free of nasty trans-fats. Me too.

I normally order a Double-Double, but wanted to try the “secret menu.” I ordered a cheeseburger “Animal Style” (A mustard cooked beef patty served on a bun with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, extra spread and grilled onions) and “Protein Style” (Instead of a bun, the burger is wrapped in lettuce). The burger was very messy to eat due to the extra spread and lack of buns. The grilled onions were fabulous and the burger overall was very good! The secret menu is quite a novelty, but next time I may just go for a plain old Double-Double with grilled onions.

Maggiano’s Little Italy


November 18, 2006
Cuisine: Italian

1201 Filbert St, Philadelphia 19107
At N 12th St

Phone: 215-567-2020

Whole grain and white bread (complimentary)

Entree I: Full Order Spaghetti with your choice of meatballs or Italian sausage; served with our meat or marinara sauce ($14.25)

Entree II: Full Order Chicken Pesto Linguine – Linguine pasta tossed with roasted chicken, pesto, and pine nuts in a Parmesan broth with a hint of lemon ($15.95)

Dessert: Homemade Profiteroles – Pastry shell filled with vanilla bean ice cream and topped with our own hot fudge and fresh whipped cream; dusted with cocoa powder and powdered sugar ($1.95)

The night before James Golden’s marathon debut, the Astronomer and I accompanied him to Maggiano’s for some pre-race carbo-loading.

James and I shared the spaghetti with meatballs, which was made with linguine. Perhaps the kitchen was out of spaghetti the night we dined? Anyhow, the linguine with meatballs was FANTASTIC. The best pasta with meatballs I’ve ever had! The meat sauce was slightly spicy because of the flavorful sausage bits, which James and I really appreciated. The meatballs were the size of my fist and were so delicious. We shared a large order, but couldn’t finish it so we split the leftovers. I enjoyed my half for lunch today and it was just as good as on Saturday night.

The Astronomer ordered a large order of his old standby – linguine with pesto. Maggiano’s interpretation of pesto is quite good, but a bit on the mild side because the sauce is brothier and less oily than the average pesto.

For dessert we all shared a profiterole. It was delicious. You can’t go wrong with ice cream, hot fudge, and a puff pastry!

Even though Maggiano’s is a chain, I can’t help but love it.

Maggiano’s Little Italy


October 13, 2006
Cuisine: Italian

1201 Filbert St, Philadelphia 19107
At N 12th St

Phone: 215-567-2020

Appetizer: Full Order Parmesan Garlic Bread ($4.95)

Entree I: Full Order Lobster Ravioli – Pasta stuffed with fresh Maine lobster, roasted corn, garlic and basil, topped with Parmesan and Romano cheese baked in a light cream sauce with roasted peppers and applewood smoked bacon ($21.95)

Entree II: Half Order Chianti Beef Stew – Tender cuts of sirloin with onions in a Chianti wine sauce, finished with portobello and button mushrooms served over a bed of pappardelle pasta ($12.95)

While I generally frown upon chain restaurants, my frown is always turned upside down at Maggiano’s. The Astronomer and I, along with the entire Swarthmore Cross Country team, dined at Maggiano’s for a pre-meet dinner. I tagged along to take advantage of the Fall Harvest Specials. I had a small order of the Chianti Beef Stew, while the Astronomer had a large order of the Lobster Ravioli. We shared a large order of the garlic bread with five others at our table.

Gastronomer: First off, I’d just like to say what a pleasure it is dining with runners. They are SUCH good eaters! Love it! Okay, now on to the food… We’ve had the garlic bread on many occasions. The Astronomer always orders it even though Maggiano’s serves bread on the table for free. While I find ordering extra bread sort of redundant, I must admit the garlic bread is very tasty. It’s moist yet crispy, not greasy, and so savory. The Parmesan cheese and parsley sprinkled on top intensifies the flavor.

Astronomer: Maggiano’s may well be my favorite restaurant ever, so needless to say I enjoyed the meal. Most of our party was new to the Maggiano’s experience, so I felt it was imperative that they try the amazing Parmesan garlic bread–a Maggiano’s staple. The garlic bread is always succulent and perfectly flavored. We gobbled it up in no time.

Entree I:
Astronomer: I was feeling “hungry hungry,” so I attacked the complementary breads. I ate so much that I was worried I might be overwhelmed by my pasta, but fortunately the full order of lobster ravioli was not too large. Unfortunately, actually. There were only THREE ravioli. They were large and delicious, and there was plentiful cream sauce and lots of bacon bits, but still, I expected a bit more from Maggiano’s. I managed to leave the restaurant feeling pleasantly stuffed, but only after dipping large quantities of bread in my extra sauce and helping to finish some leftover ice cream. Complaints about quantity aside, my ravioli was everything I had hoped for. The lobster flavor really came through nicely, and the bacon and cheese were excellent complements. I’m glad I took advantage of the Fall Harvest menu, but from now on I vow to abstain from ravioli at Maggiano for the foreseeable future.

Gastronomer: Since the ravioli portions were a bit on the skimpy side, I only had one small bite of the dish. While Maggiano’s flavors generally consist of salty and cheesy, I found the ravioli quite mild.

Entree II:
Gastronomer: I loved my pasta! I wish the Chianti Beef Stew were a menu mainstay rather than a fleeting special. Sigh… The fall harvest menu ends on the 25th, so I have about a week left to indulge. The stew was perfectly seasoned, the meat was tender and plentiful, and the vegetables (carrots and mushrooms) were lovely foils. Pappardelle is my favorite pasta shape and went perfectly with the flavorful stew. So hearty and delicious.

Astronomer: I tried a couple of bites of the Gastronomer’s beef stew. It was pretty awesome–I would consider ordering it myself if it ever becomes a permanent fixture on the menu.