Rebel Yell: Not Just Idol Chatter

Special thanks to the extremely competent Carly Powell for putting up with us at Eataduck and co-writing this piece.

I’ve been known to sit round an equilateral wooden table with some of my close friends from time to time, enjoying their company over a sudsy adult beverage or four. We usually set aside time to catch up on each others lives, as this is not a regular occurrence. I ask them about their careers and they ask me what I’ve cooked or ate recently. The conversation always seems to swing that way at some point. You see, my theory is that no matter what our passions, our preferences, or how radical our processes are for searching, we are all dedicated to finding the best meal, or at the very least, something better. Just like Joaquin Phoenix trying to protect his family from an alien attack, we all began to swing away. We complained about restaurant X being terrible and restaurant Y as place made for sheep to graze. And of course we spoke at length of the most beautiful spot in town, the place that anyone with a creative or even business savvy brain would love to have as a destination eatery but is imprisoned in the form of a hobby shop. Then there’s another prime spot in my town, taken by a “Cajun-style bar and grille” that serves up piss poor performances at best, propagated particularly by patrons perusing and pursuing pathetic passes at po’ boys.   At this particular table on this particular evening, we all shared our own ambitions about how we want to see this town’s culinary land groomed. The consensus was that great strides have been taken in the last few years to add a more “local” approach to dining halls. There is an almost adequate amount of restaurants that are actually good enough to frequent, but it’s by no means enough. The biggest issue I have with a lot of these new ventures, is that the market is becoming saturated with the same approach time and again. What I am seeing is too many similarly styled eateries rolling out, only to dilute the pool of potential patrons. For example, look to La Luna, then look to the wine bars in my city. As recently as two years ago, I would say there was a lone establishment everyone knew about to get a spot of cheese and a glass of wine and just be. It was great – a place that inspired pride. Then things changed: another opened, and another, and another. If my memory serves me correctly there are now five wine bars in a city of only a hundred thousand residents. The worst part is that all these establishments are no farther apart than a few miles at most. My constituency and I all saw the big picture with the same ending. As I said about Bosphorus Turkish cuisine, there can be only one.

Idol Chatter

I feel that the ultimate cost for this boom is that four of these places will die, leaving a sole survivor walking away with a slight limp. They are simply too much of the same thing. If you look, feel, and taste too much like your neighbor, the victor will usually be the popular choice, not necessarily the best. Which leads to the question, who is encouraging these new businesses to head in the same direction? Are they going rogue, without being consulted? If so, I find that to be an irresponsible maneuver and poor planning for that matter. There is so much more that this city (Lakeland) deserves besides a free for all of Coke vs. Pepsi proportions.   A very wise person told me that competition breeds success. There’s nothing wrong with having to fight for your customers. I truly believe if there were more unique dining options in the area, (by that I mean not just downtown, on the south side, or to the north – I’m talking within a 30-minute drive) there could be twice as many restaurants that would be successful as long as the food is tasty and the drink is flowing. Just don’t give me five new burger joints in a one-mile radius!   Think about what any city needs. What it takes to put a town on the map. Pretty much, it’s just consistent buzz about unique establishments. That buzz will fizzle if actions are not taken. What do I think we need? Well you’re so sweet for asking. More than anything, we need a forward thinking modern pub that is helmed by a chef who isn’t afraid to take some liberties. Any takers? The blueprint lies inside the walls of “Rebel House”…

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