We love fancy food as much as the next San Francisco asshole, but there are times when we just want an enormous plate of mediocre slop. Every now and then we need to walk into a place that looks the same in S.F. as it does in Des Moines, and we need to order 52 plates of mozzarella sticks and a small Diet Coke that's actually the size of an NFL linebacker's thigh. We want, nay, need a zucchini stuffed with cheese, deep-fried, smothered in cheese, and then deep-fried again. Then we need it topped with whipped cream and served with a margarita the size of a hot tub. Is that so wrong?
This post right here is about chain restaurants that serve you like the American that you are. Screw Blue Bottle, we're talking blue plate specials, yo.
7. Hillstone, né Houston's
First of all, it's like walking into a power lunch in the '80s. We're Melanie Griffith about to confront Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl, ya dig? It's all dark wood, huge booths, and luscious, rich colors that are the opposite of the sparse minimalism of San Francisco's schmanciest restaurants. It's what we thought classy was when we were 10 and we're still impressed. And the food is pretty damn good, too! First off, it makes one of the best veggie burgers anywhere. It's so beloved that its legions of fans keep trying (and failing) to reproduce the deliciousness. There are tons of copycat recipes but nobody has yet to capture the magic. And all their food is like that! In fact, Hillstone's most impressive feat is that it manages to make everything taste like it's not a chain restaurant -- it tastes like a real restaurant. How does it do it!? And that eternal flame outside? Come on!
6. P.F. Chang's
We know, we know, you love the stewed tripe and stinky tofu at that one hidden gem in the Outer Richmond. We get it, you've got culinary street cred, but at night, when you're tucked safely in bed and start drifting off to sleep, we know you dream about P.F. Chang's. On weekday nights, under a cloak of darkness, you secretly take BART to Walnut Creek and wait in line with everyone in that whole damn town for just one taste of the stir-fried eggplant that can be described as being about as authentically Asian as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Your little traitor heart yearns for Paul Fleming Chang's tofu lettuce wraps and delicious Chinese-style margaritas. Continue to lie about your secret shame to friends and family, but just know that one day you'll spot the foodiest foodies you know trying to hide behind the menu while they wolf down their grilled Norwegian salmon. Finally, you're both free.