Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Norms

Some might say that I am norm seeking. Others a norm deviant. I'm not sure it's germain to the conversation at hand, but in everything that is scalable there must be a scale. In anything where there is a spectrum, bads and goods, there must be an average. There must be a benchmark. There must be a norm.

For restaurants, and my 1-5 scale, these are your 2s, maybe on their best day a 3. They are where you go, spend a few dollars, and get a decent meal that *should be dependable. If you are in Tulsa or Moscow, you should be eating basically the same thing. Also, if you live in a smaller town, these might be your only options. That's ok, because they *shouldn't disappoint you.

Here are some of the more common standards I use. Also of note, something starts being "expensive" when it costs more than Outback.  Anything around the price of a meal at Applebee's is average, and fast food is cheap.  This is by no means exhaustive, but meant to be a fun little exercise...

American: Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Chili's.

Burgers: Red Robin.

Fast Food: Taco Bell, Wendy's

Fried Chicken: Zaxby's or Chik-Filet

Steak: Outback.

Italian: Olive Garden.

Breakfast/Bakeries: Panera Bread.

Sandwiches: Subway, Quiznos, Jersey Mike's, Blimpes.

Chinese: PF Chang's, and anywhere with the words Dragon, Panda, Express, Lucky, and Garden in the name.

Japanese: Anywhere with "Sushi" or "Tokyo" in the name, and mall sushi.

Thai: Anywhere with the word "Thai" in it.

Vietnamese: Anywhere with the word "Pho" or "Vietnamese" in it.

And finally, Mexican/Tex-Mex: Chipotle (often 4 stars of deliciousness!). 

You may also may enjoy a somewhat interesting quirk, I deal in the currency of Chipotle burritos when I eat out. For example, a $12 meal is two Chipotle burritos, a $30 one is five, etc. Because Chipotle is so delicious, you get a good sense of the relative value of your meal when you consider how many Chipotle burritos you are paying for it. (This is not product placement, I have not been offered any $ or burritos to talk up Chipotle. I will accept bribes in Chipotle burritos though.)


  1. Hmmmm.....I'm beginning to question your taste buds. If Applebees is a "norm", then we're all in trouble. It's really terrible. Terr-i-ble. Please refute if I'm wrong, as I've only eaten at the Applebees in Wenatchee. And I hesitate to say it, but your asian choices have me shaking my head, too.

    On a happier note, there's a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Issaqua that I thought was great. Have you tried it? I don't know the name, but it's on the south side of the freeway in a strip mall. I would love to hear what you have to say about it, so stop by on one of your trips to or from ML!

    1. Brenda. I am so unaccustomed to comments, apart from those provided by my most faithful reader Jane, so you'll have to excuse my tardy response.

      Norms do not necessarily mean good. They just mean, average, or relatively not disappointing. I've noticed many places vary from location to location, Bennigan's for example. There was one truly heinous one with terrible, terrible service in Maryland. Also, some Chipotles are less delicious than others, with less flavorful ingredients, and some serve quesadillas.

      The chains, or random Chinese places, do have standards though. They teach them either corporately, or are forced from patrons who stop going and drive a place out of business. For sure, some restaurants that are good go out of business, sell off to other management who ruin it, or face a catastrophic end, but you should be able to expect at least a certain quality of food. Ok seasoning (salt and pepper), ok food, not a bad price, no food poisoning :)

      Jane. Five Guys is delicious. They have the best fast casual fries on the planet.

  2. Where does 5 Guys fit? I thought we decided they were good, or was it their fries?!