November 22, 2008

This week, thanks to a lot of down time while traveling, I've had a chance to organize a bunch of new photos: Motel Safari, El Don, La Loma, and La Mesa.  I still haven't done much with the audio, though.  

What else...oh right, I wanted to post something about Ruby Tuesday's.  And what I wanted to say was, I've built an entire system of guilt and penance around the restaurant chain Ruby Tuesdays, and there's something about it that reminds me of Route 66.  What happened was, in April I drove from Dallas to Boston with a friend, and on our third day, we found ourselves in Martinsburg, West Virginia, looking for a place to have dinner.  Of course we wanted to eat at a locally-owned place, but we looked and looked and flagged down a pedestrian and still couldn't find one, so we ended up, a first for both of us, at Ruby Tuesdays.

And as soon as we walked in, I could have cried with gratitude.  We hadn't seen a fresh vegetable in days and - look, an amazing salad bar with beets and sprouts and is that edamame?  And wine.  And fish.  And both of us knew that we could never again turn up our noses at Ruby Tuesdays or anything like it, because if you live in Martinsburg, this is by far the best food you're going to find within a ten minute drive. 

But it would be a cop-out to say that it was just because of the context.  That's the point - it was well-prepared, moderately priced, simple food served in an innocuous space with a generic/modern decor that didn't bother me at all, and I would have felt the same almost anywhere.  Maybe I've lost something - become less refined or less perceptive or my standards for what constitutes an authentic experience have slipped outside the realm of the defensible.  But I can't afford to knock Ruby Tuesday's anymore.  I'm not ready to say this about every chain restaurant out by the interstate, but I would be a real jerk if I pretended that I didn't have a kind of an awakening that has blossomed into true love at Ruby Tuesdays. 

So I'm not going to hide the fact that I've been back twice in the last two months -  once in Springfield, MO and then on Wednesday in Champaign, IL.  The Champaign RT interior still had the "old" design - none the soft-edged beiges of the "new" Ruby T's, but faux-historic stuff like a Chili's on steriods.  Stained glass light shades in the booths, oversized black-and-white prints of 1920's football teams, billiard triangles mounted up on the wall.  And inexplicably, some Ren fair-y things like iron helmets and chain-mail gloves hung up over the door to the kitchen.  Not what I've come to love about my RT experience.  But our waitress said that maybe because of the economy, that particular branch hasn't been redesigned yet.  Even Ruby Tuesday's is feeling the pinch.  Maybe they need a bail-out.  I would support it.  

Copyright Anne Dodge, 2009   •   Contact acdodge at gmail dot com