I identify with this so much! I grew up in rural south-central Illinois, with a 30-mile drive to the nearest movie theater, much less non-fast food chain restaurant. Eating out, even at something like a Panera, was always a special thing. Ordering an appetizer anywhere still feels indulgent.
I’ve lived in Chicago for the past couple years, but my (probably nostalgic) love of chain restaurants remains. I have so many memories associated with Buffalo Wild Wings from college years, where my husband and I first got to know one another when the student newspaper employees met there on Thursdays after deadline, or the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback, which my mom still orders whenever they go.
I love the culinary options in Chicago — who doesn’t? — but when my husband and I hit our emergency savings goal about a month ago, we went to the only Olive Garden in town to celebrate. It still felt special.