Chain Store Food

Chain Store Food

Very few chains are acceptable, but there are some exceptions. Taco Cabana, Torchy’s Tacos, What-a-burger (with jalapeños and bacon, extra spicy ketchup), Blake’s, and Jim’s.

Taco Cabana originated in San Antonio, as did Jim’s. Blake’s is a New Mexico thing, Torchy’s is from a trailer park in Austin, and What-a-burger started in Corpus Christi. For that matter, as I understand it, What-a-burger’s corporate office is now located in San Antonio, all statements with zero fact checking.

I tend to shy way from chains, as there’s a remarkable colloquial feeling I get from the one-off, the weird, the strange, the hole-in-the-wall joints. Living for all those years in Austin with such world-class BBQ at my behest? Just an example. Good coffee, too, again, not a national — or ubiquitous international — corporate giant.

Chain Store Food

One of my favorite Taco Cabana recollections was walking in the one on Riverside, old South Austin, is that place still there? The restaurant, old South Austin has already reinvented itself, and walking in, before work one Sunday morning, with a buddy — I call him Bubba — walking in to the sight, sound, then the heady aroma of meat, cheap, greasy fajita meat, on the griddle.

So much for my vegan choices for that day.

When the local events were up on 410 (number indicates a local freeway loop address), Torchy’s in San Antonio became a new favorite. Kind of too cool with its, well, everything, but the food is good. Like the sign says, “Damn Good.”

What-a-burger compares to the chain, In and Out Burger, but What-a-burger has no secret menu. Portions of the menu items are so good, though, they are now sold in grocery stores. Some place, I’ve got an image of the West Texas sunset, bruised light fading fast over that orange/white sign.

I only know Blake’s — Blake’s Lot-a-burger, think that’s the name — only know them from three, maybe four locations. One in Santa Fe, one Albuquerque, one in El Paso, then one in Artesia or Portales, NM. Get the green chill burger.

I like my eggs, when I’m having a traditional American breakfast, I like my eggs over easy, lightly cooked, but runny. Toast, buttered and near burnt. Bacon, extra crispy. Grits, usually with a side of butter, but some prefer syrup.

Jim’s is a breakfast spot, some of them are 24-hour, so order breakfast, even at supper time. Can. Not. Go. Wrong. The proof is in the way the eggs are always cooked to perfection.

Chain Store Food

With more than three decades riding back and forth across the local landscape, the American Southwest, these are chains that I know are dependable. The added bonus, they are all local, in some variation of that idea.

Vincit Qui Primum Gerit

“First to arrive gets the best deal.”

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