I'm about to tell you something very important about the world, so read the next two sentences very carefully. There are two kinds of people in the Midwest: Frisch's Big Boy people and Elias Brothers Big Boy people. I am an Elias Brothers Big Boy girl.
Never forget this. Okay?
Now. Let me back up a little bit. I used to date a guy who thinks he's a food snob, and I remember very distinctly a conversation (actually, a fight) we had one night about where we were going to eat dinner. I wanted something simple, familiar, and easy, and he lost it, accusing me of liking only restaurants with--this is a direct quote--"crazy shit on the walls." He meant places like Applebees, TGI Friday's, and our local deli/grill (which, for privacy reasons, will have to remain nameless). My basic response to all of this is, "So what?" So what if I like chain restaurants? They have reliably consistent food that doesn't suck. Of course, it's not the greatest food in the world, but as I've mentioned before, my palate is pretty underdeveloped. Also, when I find something I like, I stick with it, hence my repetitive patronage of certain establishments, ESPECIALLY Big Boy.
There are two in my home town, plus many more within striking distance, including two (literally) just over the county line and one in my former home town where my grandmother still lives and which we frequent. No, I cannot explain the appeal of Big Boy except to say that if you grow up with it, it's just part of who you are, from the time you're young until the day you die. In elementary school, it's where you get the best spaghetti. In high school, it's where you hang with your friends. In college, it's the place you go because you miss everything about home. And as an adult, it's the site of everything that came before and everything that will be.
If that sounds overly nostalgic, I'm okay with that. I can't tell you why you should go there on a culinary basis, because I am so incredibly biased. What I can say is this (which will explain the first part of this post): if you grew up on one kind of Big Boy food, going into the other restaurant is literally like entering some strange parallel universe; it looks very much the same, but it tastes different, and it is so unsettling that you should only do it in times of sheer desperation, like when you've been driving all day and night and have to have some food if for no other reason than because you don't want to pass out while you make that last push to get home. (Yes, I am speaking from experience).
So if you're ever in Michigan, stop in at a Big Boy. And then come back here and let me know if their food makes you even a little bit happy. I know it thrills me.
Image via here.