Why do we insist on looking to chain restaurants for validation?

It’s not that I hate chain restaurants. And I don’t dislike the people that adore them so.

That preface is important to remember as we go forward. Because, as with just about every preface ever, it’s intended to lessen whatever perceived blow is about to come.

For those counting, that’s TWO prefaces, maybe three if you count this one. The first few graphs here a the carnival mirror of not trying to offend anyone. I’m a nice guy, not a JerkFace, after all, right?!

More and more, however, I find myself getting noticeably upset when I hear/see/read people clamoring for more chain food in Sioux Falls.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone lament the lack of a Chick-fil-A, a P.F. Chang’s or a Chipotle (more on that in a second), I’d probably have enough coin to start up my own Popeye’s Chicken franchise and FINALLY bring some good fried chicken to this town!

I’m being facetious, obviously, because there are multiple options in Sioux Falls for some great fried chicken and we honestly have no need for a Popeye’s Chicken. Or any of these places.

But there is a real want, even a need, for familiar, national brands to come to Sioux Falls. For instance, last week, our friends over at KSFY asked their Facebook fans what restaurant Sioux Falls needed, and you know what were some of the favorites? Cheesecake Factory and Golden freaking Corral. Even our mayor, when asked what restaurants he’d like to see in Sioux Falls, told SFBJ.com “I love home-grown restaurants better than not, but we do need a Cheesecake Factory and a P.F. Chang’s in town.”

I wish he’d have stopped at “I love home-grown restaurants.” Need? Ugh. It’s like we’re looking for some sort of validation as a city via fast food.

Which brings me back to a recent stop at the Sioux City Chipotle. I’d only been one other time while traveling, and didn’t really remember it one way or another. But the way some talk it up, I was looking forward to trying it.

Meh. The guac was good. I’d have some of that again. Megan’s barbacoa burrito spicy and definitely better than my carnitas, which was a bit flavorless. What it was not was some bastion of Mexican food, great food, or even fast food. It was just sort of there. It was no Nikki’s, and more expensive. Honestly, I don’t think it was even on par with Qdoba.

If you’re wondering if this rambling is going to have a point (I know I am), it’s this: The foil-wrapped burrito (even if sustainably sourced and scored by a Willie Nelson Coldplay cover) will not set us free. No slice of cheesecake or fil-A of fried chicken breast will anoint our city as having finally arrived.

So we should just stop wishing for mediocrity, and start supporting local restaurants whenever we can. Save the chains for emergencies or convenience.

What do you think? Am I off-base here? I know this is coming from the guy who’s been to BWW more than 100 times, but I’d argue sports bars are a bit different, and the whole wings/beer/sports combo has its own set of issues. Anyway, hit me up.