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Let Us Now Praise Famous Dave’s

Had lunch at Famous Dave’s yesterday. That makes three BBQ chains I’ve visited so far, Smokey Bones and Dickey’s being the other two. I wonder if BBQ is a hot, new sub-genre of chain restaurants, or if they are just now reaching the Northeast. In other words, are more on the way? As much as I love BBQ, I’m no connoisseur and am easily satisfied; I enjoyed my pork sandwich very much. The short list of beers was uninspired, but included Newcastle Brown Ale, which I ordered. Judging from our waitress’s reaction, I may have been the first person to do. She asked me skeptically if that beer was on the list. I said yes, and she carefully wrote all three words down. When she returned with the drinks, she apologized for taking so long; they had to search for the stash of Newcastle.

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way falls into the category of gimmicks that chain restaurants do to differentiate themselves from each other (since the food itself is somewhat interchangeable). It’s the Scripted Greeting. I encountered this gimmick first at a Roy Rogers many years where I was greeted with, “HowdypartnermayItakeyourorder?” Spelling that as one word doesn't begin to do justice to the mindless, robotic delivery this poor employee had mastered after saying it so many times. I’m sure that’s not the effect that Marketing had in mind. Fortunately I don’t hear this too often, but at Dave’s we were greeted with, “Hi, I’m famous Kim.” Aw, c’mon. It’s Dave’s world. We just live in it. Only Dave gets to be famous. When I open my chain of lobster-roll restaurants, you can bet there’ll be a script (’cause I always wanted to direct), but for the greeting step it will say:

Greet the customer. In your own way.

There was one other odd thing. Kim took great pains to explain the five BBQ sauces, but when my sandwich arrived, it was already sauced! Granted, it was sauced with the one I identified as my favorite during the tasting, so maybe she was just being thoughtful.

By the way, if you want superb BBQ in a non-chain restaurant (and you know you do), please visit The Smoked Joint (1420 Locust Street) or Sweet Lucy’s. I haven’t been to Sweet Lucy’s yet, but I know at The Smoked Joint they will greet you in their own way. If they don’t, just ask them what they’re smokin’.