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Taking Denny's Tour of America
Denny's - America's Diner - recently introduced their Tour of America menu. The chain attempted to capture the essence of America's diverse cuisines in seven dishes and three beverages. However, it's not really a tour if you only order one meal. That simple thought led Gadling to send me to New Jersey with Erik Trinidad, food writer for the Huffington Post and creator of Fancy Fast Food, to sample Denny's entire Tour of America menu. We ordered all ten items and took a trip around the United States without ever leaving our booth.
Were the dishes accurate representations of their regions? Does Hawaii deserve three dishes when it's the 40th most populous state? Is eating that much food at Denny's good for you?
Watch the video to see if we managed to answer any of these pressing questions and read on for more on the Tour of America.
Philly Cheesesteak Omelette
There are certain things that you expect from a Philly Cheesesteak, not the least of which is the thinly shaved beef. The omelette, however, featured chunks of prime rib. That's just not right. Add to that the noticeably modest amount of cheese (and it's not even Cheez Whiz) and lack of bread and nothing about this was related to a Philly cheesesteak. It's a good omelette, but it's not a Philly Cheesesteak Omelette.
Southern Shrimp & Grits
Erik and I were nervous about this one. I mean, it's shellfish...at Denny's. That said, this was a delightfully delicious surprise. The grits were initially bland, but once you mixed them with the bacon and jalapenos, the dish really came to life. The Lowcountry would be proud!
Georgia Peach French Toast
The french toast was bland. The peaches were most likely from a can. Nothing about this was remotely good. You want to serve a Georgia breakfast? Give me a chicken biscuit and just back away.
Midwestern Steak & Potatoes Sandwich
My favorite dish on the entire menu. How can you go wrong with chunks of prime rib (the same cuts used in the Philly Cheesesteak Omelette, only this time much more appropriate), cheese, french fries, gravy, a cheese roll and a side of mashed potatoes with more gravy. Hearty, comforting and straightforward. Just like the Midwest.
California Club Salad
You don't need to be from California or a member of any club to know that this is just a salad. A salad loaded with turkey, bacon and avocado, yes, but simply a salad nonetheless.
Hawaiian Tropical Pancake Breakfast
Only three pieces of pineapple? Seriously? The pancakes are bland (would it have killed them to mix some macadamia nuts into the batter?) and the coconut whipped topping is basically just cake frosting. Which is to say, we highly recommend eating the whipped topping and ignoring the pancakes, which are neither Hawaiian nor flavorful.
Hawaiian Tropical Pancake Puppies
OK, we get it: pineapples are Hawaiian. As are the coconut shavings on the outside of these pseudo-beignets. But we've never seen these little bite-sized confections anywhere on the archipelago. However, they are delicious and most certainly the best sweet item on the entire Tour of America menu. What they lack in authenticity they more than make up for in crunchy goodness. Aloha!
Hawaiian Tropical Smoothie
Easily the most accurate of the regional beverages on the menu. You taste pineapple, banana and other tropical fruits and it seems like it was freshly made. If I closed my eyes and took a sip, I could almost feel like I was in Hawaii...or at least in a better restaurant than Denny's.
Florida Orange Milk Shake
Quite simply, it tastes like an orange Creamsicle. That's not a bad thing, but it's also not a Florida thing. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to send us packages of oranges from Florida. We'd juice them and enjoy the fresh-squeezed citrus sensation. This drink was not fresh and it was barely orange.
Pacific Northwest Iced Coffee
Folks from Seattle and Portland take their coffee seriously. As such, they should be offended by this offering. It was quite possibly the worst thing on the entire Tour of America menu. It basically tasted like sweetened condensed milk with just a hint of coffee. People of the Pacific Northwest, write to your congresspeople....or to Denny's. Just don't drink this beverage.
Some hits, some misses. Overall, the spirit of America was felt (mostly in how this menu could make anyone morbidly obese). However, simply slapping the name of a place on a dish doesn't make it authentic. Things like Philly cheesesteaks are best left to the experts. Or at least left as sandwiches.
Representatives from New England, New York, Texas (which is its own region and not simply a part of at the South) and the Southwest were sorely missed. Hawaii is over-represented and, if I was Alaskan, I would find that insulting. Seems like we could have had some sockeye salmon in there somewhere!
It was an interesting trip, though, and isn't that all you can really ask for from any tour of America?