As of Sunday, Chili’s took it’s place on my List of Places I Won’t Eat At On Principle (Unless I Do). This list also includes such purveyors of crap as McDonalds and Subway. Now, I generally try to avoid fast food, but when I have to eat it, I try to make sure it’s not from places on my list if humanly possible.

Well congratulations, Chili’s, you finally sucked hard enough to make the list.

It’s a sad day for me, really. Growing up, all the cool kids at church would go hang out at Chili’s after services on Sunday nights or Wednesday after youth group.

It was a huge rite of passage the first time my parents let me go with. I remember the night clearly. It was the summer before my freshman year in high school. I felt so grown up, hanging out at a sit-down restaurant with my cool high school friends!

Chili’s was where all the cool stuff happened. That’s where all the older kids would go to talk about important high school stuff. That’s where the knowing, worldly-wise kids would make knowing, worldly-wise conversation about topics of which I understood only the mysterious fringe. It was tantalizing, to say the least.

The only things on the menu at Chili's

Later, in my more mischievous high school years, we were the cool older kids. And we still went to Chili’s. We’d sit in the smoking section so we could smoke and then tell our parents we smelled like smoke cause we had to sit in the smoking section, there being no tables left in non-smoking.

Over the last few years I’ve patronized Chili’s less and less. Partially due to a refinement of taste that led me to look for more in an evening out to dinner than variations on the theme of chicken, bacon, and cheese, partially cause we get out less with two kids, partly because I realized that the price gap between Chili’s and decidedly better restaurants was more or less negligible.

Which brings us to Sunday. We received from my very gracious sister and brother-in-law, a gift certificate to Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s for our collective birthdays and decided to go out for a nice Sunday lunch.

Macaroni Grill is a little more upscale, harder place to eat with kids, plus the certificate wouldn’t have gone as far there. Maggiano’s supports Planned Parenthood (sorry to ruin that for anyone), so Chili’s it was.

1st course, the cheese dip and chips. The chips were flimsy and unsatisfying (I’m used to freshly made Mexican chips anymore), and the cheese dip tasted like it came out of a can.

Welcome to Chili's, would you like to sit in the loud section or the incredibly loud section?

Welcome to Chili's, would you like to sit in the loud section, or the unbearably loud section?

Next I decide to get my old favorite, the chicken fingers. Turns out I was wrong all these years. They were soggy and tasteless. All batter, no flavor. They serve it with technicolor corn on the cob (which must come from a laboratory) which was half cold, and fries, which were the only passable part of the meal.

Plus, it’s noisy, the walls are covered in all manner of kitschy Americana crap, and it’s just such a manufactured “Good Time”. We could not get out of that place fast enough.

It’s sad to see something you used to love gone so wrong, but I feel like I’ve finally taken the blinders off. Chili’s simply embodies everything that’s wrong with America. Gluttony, kitsch, an unrefined palate, and the insatiable hunger for “having a good time”.  I wonder how many of my past experiences at Chili’s received the shellac of nostalgia to make the awful seem tolerable.

But that’s that. I hereby vow never to eat at Chili’s again. Goodbye old friend.

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