Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
As much as they may deny it, chefs and restaurateurs secretly enjoy national chain restaurants just like the rest of us.
Whether it's burgers, tacos, burritos, or other mass-produced fare, the Valley's food industry has a guilty pleasure or two. Where do they go to satisfy it? Here's what a few of them had to say.
Chef Payton Curry, Brat Haus
Chipotle and only because of the man, the myth, the culinary legend, Nate Appleman. I haven't eaten at a chain restaurant in three years and I don't plan on doing so in the near future; however, I respect what chef [Appleman] has done. I give him an "A" based on his cuisine in the Bay Area. His transition is one that I respect based on the change of haute alone.
Silvana Salcido Esparza, Chef and Owner, Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen off the I-17. The seafood is fresh and flavorful. The Salcido clan has shared many wonderful memories there throughout the past eight years. For a chain, it rocks. It's a family-owned chain with quality food. Cajun, baby!
Aaron May, Chef and Restaurateur
If I'm on the road and really hungry, I will track down a Waffle House late at night. Nothing wrong with that.
Joe Johnston, Owner, Joe's Real BBQ, Joe's Fresh Farm Grill, Liberty Market, Agritopia
Hillstone Corp. (Hillstone, Houston's, Bandera) run exceptional restaurants that get less press than they deserve. They'rey consistent in quality and service and spend a fortune on the build-out of their restaurants. It's family-owned and they take pride in what they do. Slightly more of a secret is my enjoyment of Taco Bell. I'm addicted to the Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos, which combine my love of snack chips with the Mex-like cuisine of everyday Taco Bell.
Jeff Kraus Chef and Owner, Crepé Bar
Buffalo Wild Wings for the wings and for the salty chips and salsa.
Deborah Schneider Chef and Partner, SOL Mexican Cocina
No secret: Rubio's does a great fish taco.
Lauren Bailey, Restaurateur, Upward Projects
I admire Chipotle both as a model for casual food service and the values they stand for. It's amazing that they are such a large company and pursue food products that are sustainable and support the environment and the farmers that grow them. They also focus on sharing these values with consumers and educating them on the food they eat both in their marketing and in-store experience.
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
Domino's. Nothing beats it when you've had a few too many late at night.
Josh Hebert Owner and Chef, Posh
Kevin Binkley, Chef and Owner, Binkley's and Café Bink
Houston's and In-N-Out Burger.
Pauline Martinez, Chef and Owner, Perk Eatery
Houston's because they are consistent, and who doesn't love an In-N-Out Burger?
Michael Brown, Chef and Owner, Jamburritos Cajun Express
Chipotle. They are the company I most would like to resemble. If I ever had a secret crush on a national restaurant chain once upon a time, it was the Cheesecake Factory. They amazed me with their ability to consistently produce gourmet meals for so many people ranging across many varied cuisines. But now, so many other national and local restaurants are doing the same -- and often with better service.
Christopher Costantino, Chef and Owner, Costantino's Kitchen
P.F. Changs. They have the best mu shu pork in town. And who doesn't like their lettuce wraps?
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Gregg Troilo Owner, British Open Pub
I must admit, I do crave the occasional Big Mac or Whopper. Please don't tell anyone for as the saying goes, "Friends don't let friends eat at chain restaurants!"