Dear Mr. Gold:

How do you feel about chain restaurants in Los Angeles? Are there any that you find satisfying? Are there lessons to be learned from large corporate feeding troughs?

–Daniela G., Los Angeles

Dear Ms. G.:

Do I go to chain restaurants? Almost never, actually. I know that they probably have something valuable to say about the state of the culture in 2010, but what they have to say – at least after a couple of Miller Lites and a glass of domestic shiraz – is too dismal to contemplate.

Sure, there's an occasional pass through a drive-thru window. Popeyes is indispensable on the two and a half occasions each a year I find myself craving spicy fried chicken, biscuits and dirty rice, and I have the native Angeleno's usual grudging fondness for In-N-Out, even Jack In The Box. On the other side of things, the El Salvadoran chain Texis does have tasty pupusas, and the squadron of oddly named Phoenix Food Boutiques are reliable sources of chilled duck tongues and wonton noodles. Zankou needs no defense. I respect but do not love Panda Express. As for the Chili's Grill and Bars, Cheesecake Factories, P.F. Chang's China Bistros, Olive Gardens, Buca di Beppos and Outback Steakhouses of the world, the less said the better. I have my own ideas about our glorious dystopic future, but none of them involve the Bloomin' Onion.

LA Weekly