Five Shitty Corporate Ripoffs of Regional Food Favorites

Bagels
ProfessorSalt.com
What real bagels should look like

You know what bugs me about chain restaurants? It's the way they co-opt the names of distant regional foods and market their shitty versions as the real thing to people in a different part of the world who don't know any different and grow up thinking they're getting the real deal.

Last week's Eat Here, Not There about Quiznos' Cuban sandwiches got me thinking about five "regional" food abominations that should be purged from the face of the Earth.

5. Arby's Ultimate Angus Philly Sandwich

People from Philadelphia don't call their city's cheesesteaks "Phillys." They order a "steak," "one wit," or, if they're feeling especially talkative, "cheesesteaks," but never a "Philly." A Philly is a baseball player, or a young female horse, not a sandwich. I'm curious to know how this new item is selling in the Philadelphia metro area.

Arby's naming of the sandwich makes want to gag, and so does Arby's rubbery, thin-sliced "roast beef." How they turn red meat into latex is a mystery of industrial science that rivals McDonald's ability to turn pig stomach, heart and tripe into a McRib.

Also like last week's Quiznos Cuban sandwich epic fail, Arby's fails to understand that a major part of a cheesesteak's quality comes from using the right kind of roll. There's so much wrong with this sandwich beyond the naming that I wonder how long it'll take for executives to pull the plug on those expensive, high-frequency television ads. You realize the more an ad cycles on TV, the worse that product is, yes?

4. Domino's Brooklyn Pizza

Domino's Pizza Brooklyn Pizza
Flickr user
TAKA@P.P.R.S


Speaking of marketing coals to Newcastle, when Domino's Pizza introduced its Brooklyn pizza several years ago, the media campaign included opening a pizzeria in Brooklyn. To give you an idea how powerfully corporations co-opt regional food favorites, realize there are now 14 Domino's locations in the vicinity of DiFara's Pizzeria, the mecca of true Brooklyn pizza.

What makes DiFara's pizza great is the quality of the dough, which is hand-stretched thinly and baked directly on the brick floor of a super-heated oven. What Domino's uses is a sugar-sweetened, fast-proofed dough, baked on a mesh screen in an impinger conveyor oven, which can never get the crust as crisp as the direct contact with the hot stones of a proper deck oven. Sorry, Domino's, the farce you call a Brooklyn pizza just isn't.

The sad thing? The product is succeeding in New York City and elsewhere. The biggest problem with Domino's Brooklyn pizza is it's sold in other global markets including Japan. So Japanese kids who grow up on this garbage start thinking that's what New York pizza is supposed to be like, at least until they move to New York and realize they've been duped the whole time.

3. Noah's New York Bagels

There is nothing New York about them
Flickr user Jeremy Brooks
There is nothing New York about them
It's the same scam that Noah's New York Bagels pulls on West Coasters with its squishy, sweet, oversized rolls-with-holes. I don't care how much faux New York memorabilia you paste on your walls, Noah, but that abomination you make isn't a bagel.

Real bagels are small, dense and never sweet, unless you consider pumpernickel sweet. They have a thick crust with an outermost skin that yields to your teeth with a glassine crispness. As you tear a bagel apart with your hands, it takes effort, like tearing a small phone book in half with your bare hands. Yes, that's a good quality.

Frustrated with the absence of bagels like the ones from his New York youth, this writer baked bagels every day for a month until he figured out the techniques to make them exactly as they should be. Yes, it can be done at home with no special tools. No, it's not "the water in NYC." That, too, is a lie.

What Noah makes is a shanda fur die goy. What's fercockt is that Noah's bagels are the ones that today's kids grow up with and will remember fondly as the bagels of their youth, those poor bastards.

2. Tony Roma's

tony roma's ribs
Flickr user deeheitz
You get away with charging money for that, Tony Roma?


Speaking of lies, say hello to Mr. Tony Roma, who took spare ribs out of a smoker and put them into a stock pot. Boiling-then-burning ribs is a kitchen shortcut for cooks who don't own smokers, which is to say, most of the nation outside the Southern barbecue belt. Tony Roma's took that shortcut and spread it as the de facto American way to cook ribs in a "rib restaurant."

It wasn't until I traveled to the South and experienced real barbecue for the first time that I realized the flavor of smoke comes not from liquid smoke in barbecue sauce slathered on at the last minute, but from actual smoke penetrating the meat for hours at a time. As far as corporate food frauds are concerned, Tony Roma's runs the biggest racket, spreading its fake idea of American barbecue to 30 countries and counting.

1. Taco Bell Cantina Tacos

Taco Bell Carnitas Cantina Tacos
Flickr user theimpulsivebuy


You might remember when these nasty greasebombs hit your local Taco Bell a couple of years back, supported with as much TV advertising as Arby's Philly. Gustavo wrote about these "street tacos" that looked like hot, canned cat food on a tortilla.

How "meat" this unappealing managed to get through the gauntlet of product development is beyond me, but maybe they ought to ratchet up the random piss testing right after lunch break at Taco Bell's Irvine HQ, if you follow my drift.

Luckily, Cantina Tacos have been sent to Taco Bell's corporate graveyard, at least in the Southern California market. In other regions, franchisees might still be selling them until their consumers decide to can the Cantinas.

I don't have a problem with chain restaurants or fast food in general. I don't have a problem with a company trying to market crappy food and letting the marketplace vote with its wallet. I would prefer that corporate chains spend more effort making new products more delicious. Specifically, I have a problem when the shitty versions of regional food favorites squeeze the very thing the corporations are trying to mimic out of existence. Mom-and-pop restaurants don't have the millions of marketing dollars to fight back, and things such as real bagels die a slow death in our culture as successive generations get used to lowered standards. Maybe I'm channeling the recently deceased Andy Rooney here, but that's the way I see it.

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16 comments
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AwGrowUp
AwGrowUp

Huzzah for every one of these items! - But seriously, they're all a gateway to something more authentic that may not be available other wise.  Pizza in SoCal is mediocre at best and crap at worst. if Domino's can make a an ersatz New York style pizza, good for them ,what's my choice otherwise - Gluten Free with Low-fat cheese at Z Pizza? yecch to that.

Taco Bell Cantina tacos, outside of the Southwest, these will be the most authentic tacos available. So good that the rest of the country gets to experience them.

This article is insular Food Snobbery, it should be celebrating that all these things exist. Nobody is making you eat them.

Bill T.
Bill T.

If you don't point out the shortcomings what hope is there for improvement?

Food criticism at the OCW weekly appears to me actually more about pointing what there is that's good, whit some negative criticism, as they see necessary, to point where there are shortcomings. Actually these examples are more non-starters and don't even come up to the quality of just being short.

Sofia Kungl
Sofia Kungl

White people problem much? I'm sorry but you think it's sad that some Japanese kids eat Domino's and think that's New York pizza? You think that is a sad thing in this world? And that they'll only discover their mistake when they MOVE to NY? I just can't even comprehend the things wrong with this article. Fast food chains are just one evil in this world and ignorant people are just another.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Huh?

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

You missed the point of this post, but thanks for skimming through the shallowest parts anyway.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Actually in reply to Sofia, I presume?

Maybelle McRib
Maybelle McRib

Taco Bell, Tony Roma, Arby's, etc., serve not only lousy food in general but also particular types of lousy food? The shock and awe -- and interest -- would be if they didn't.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Corporrate think:"Wow, that product's selling really well! Let's make a dumbed-down cheap rip-off lowest common denominator product that won't offend anyone and it'll sell really well too!".

Quite often they're right because so many people take the easy way and go to Taco Smell instead of the Mom-and-Pop's that's selling the read deal. Sigh.

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

I guess Taqueria Sahuayo has a lock on pork snout tacos, then?

JB
JB

As bad as Noah's Bagels (and Einstein's Bagels) are, Professor, they aren't as bad as the tasteless atrocities served by the other Big 3 chain -- Bruegger's Bagels. 

Thinking of Bruegger's reminded me of something you omitted in your definition of a true bagel...there is no such thing as varieties like "Blueberry."  There's Plain, Sesame, Poppy, Onion, Salt, Garlic, and a few others...but "Chocolate" is not one of them.

Excellent analogy when you said tearing a true bagel apart is akin to tearing a phone book in half.  For other characteristics of a true bagel, read my comment from 2009 on...well, on your blog:

http://professorsalt.com/2009/...

John Mooney
John Mooney

Just an FYI- Zabar's has free shipping. Since H&H went under they've been my East Coast staple for stocking up on decent bagels. 

JB
JB

Grrrrrr...I'm reading this on Sunday morning, and I'm hungry!!That's torture!!

Are you sure about the free shipping?  They want $7.50 from me if I order.. 

JB
JB

I believe I read in an LA Times story on bagels that Brooklyn supplies Benjie's Deli in Santa Ana, near the Seventeenth Street exit of the 55 and not far from the 5. 

Of course, I'd want to know exactly what time the truck arrives, so as not to risk one extra minute of bagel perishability.  

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

If you're that desparate, drive up to Beverly Hills. The Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. makes a remarkably good bagel. And they are a CHAIN! I got nothing against chains, per se.

I roll my eyes at their water treatment schlock, but I understand why they do it as a chain that operates all over the country. With varying quality from Florida well water to LA River water, they at have to baseline to their water their own standards, if not New York's municipal water.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Shuji, JB,

Cost apparently trumps even the results from the taste panels, I don't see any other way that these products make it to the stores.

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

Good to have your Queens insight, as always. I didn't get that deep into bagel critique because I had to spread the venom around to other companies, but I agree on all counts. I also have problems w/ our Orange County Bruegggers employees who automatically think I want the bagel sliced, toasted, and wrapped by default when I don't.

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