I haven’t stirred up enough trouble lately, so let’s fix that. Here is my completely subjective list of some of the most overrated and underrated brands/companies I have found.
- Raising Cane’s – People talk about how great their chicken is, and their stores keep popping up around here. Although I’ve never eaten there, Jenny and several friends agreed that the chicken is mediocre, the ONE available sauce is weird, and the menu is limited to two items: the aforementional mediocre chicken fingers and average french fries. Give me Chicken Express or KFC any day.
- Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth – Jenny’s sister LOVES this place. I must admit the huge ranch-style house that was turned into a sprawling Mexican restaurant does overflow with character, and the servers are very nice. Unfortunately, nothing else about the place appeals to me. It’s a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t serve an enchilada dinner. Are you kidding me? On my last visit, I ordered chicken fajitas instead. The fajitas were pretty good, but the salsa didn’t do much for me, and the rice was dry and overcooked. The restaurant is so busy that waits of up to two hours are not uncommon, and it’s so noisy that conversation is difficult, especially when dining in a large group. Finally, their cash-only, no-check splitting policy makes payment quite difficult for those of us who like to dine with other parties and get airline miles for our meals. Finding a better Mexican place is extremely easy to find around here.
- Dublin Dr Pepper – Sacrilege, some of you say! Take a deep breath. I like Dublin Dr Pepper, too. I just don’t understand why people idolize it so much. The Dublin version uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) like normal Dr Pepper. The taste is slightly different, but the difference is hard to describe. To me, it does taste slightly better, and the HFCS haters believe it’s healthier. But now that the Dublin plant has been forced to stop using the cane sugar recipe by Dr Pepper corporate, Dublin fans are buying up supplies like bottled water before a hurricane. Apparently one auction had bids above $8 per bottle for the stuff. If I pay $8 for a bottle of ANYTHING, it better include some fermented grape juice.
- Starbucks – As I’ve noted here before, I am not a fan of Starbucks. It’s a nice place to hang out if you can find a place to sit. It’s convenient because they have stuck a store seemingly on every street in America. But the coffee just isn’t good. Regular coffee is bitter and needs tons of help to become palatable. The specialty drinks are too sweet, too high in calories, underfilled, and/or overpriced. And despite their claims to be green, they serve coffee in disposable paper cups wrapped in a paper holder with a lid unless you specifically request a “for-here” ceramic mug, which they don’t even advertise. This Seattle company kills an awful lot of trees.
- In-N-Out – When In-N-Out announced its expansion to the DFW area, fans flipped out. I’ve been to In-N-Out a few times on business trips with Jenny out west. They make a decent burger and fries, I’ll give them that much. But the hullabaloo and huge lines just don’t match the product. One opened a couple months ago near our church, and we couldn’t find a table for Sunday dinner even weeks after the opening. It’s just a burger. I’ve had better at Braum’s. Moo-Yah. Even McDonald’s if you get one of their premium burgers. I think for many of the In-N-Out fanatics, it’s not so much the food as the connection to their past. Many are West Coast transplants, and hitting In-N-Out is like going home for an hour.
- Dallas Cowboys – Sorry guys, I know bashing the Cowboys is a hobby for at least half the local population, but let’s face it – the Cowboys don’t deserve the attention lavished upon them. I heard recently that the Dallas Cowboys are the second most valuable sports franchise in the world after the Manchester United soccer team. How is that possible for a team that has won a single playoff game in the last 15 years and is famous for not living up to its potential? I’ll always be a Cowboys fan whether they rock or suck, but it’s time to either step up and play like The Most Valuable Sports Team in America or to give another team that title.
- Andre Sparkling Wine – No, it’s not technically Champagne since it doesn’t originate in the Champagne region of France. It doesn’t appear in rap music videos. Mark Cuban doesn’t serve it to his players at their NBA championship celebration. But for $5-6 a bottle, you can have a very tasty and very affordable sparkling wine for everyday celebrations. Our favorite is the Extra Dry variety, which is sweeter than the better-known Brut.
- Buon Giorno – If you want to sit down and enjoy good coffee from a real coffee cup, head to Colleyville and visit this local coffee shop. It has the amenities you like at Starbucks – pleasant coffee smell, comfy chairs, free WiFi, live music some nights – plus great coffee and the ability to buy ground and whole bean coffee that is freshly roasted right there in the store.
- Carnival Cruise Lines – I’ve heard people deride Carnival as a fleet of party ships with riffraff clientele and too many kids, dismissing it as a step below the other lines. After cruising on Carnival twice, Royal Caribbean once, and Norwegian once, I found Carnival to be my favorite. Maybe it was the time of year (mostly fall plus one in August), but we had a fabulous time with great service and had no major complaints about our fellow cruisers.
- AT&T – It seems that everyone loves to hate AT&T, from its own customers to those of other carriers. Poor customer service seems to be the most frequent complaint. But I’ve been with AT&T for several years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad customer service experience. The reps in their stores are very nice and helpful. Their technicians show up on time for TV and internet installations and do fast, quality work. When I had a problem with fraudulent text charges, I emailed them, and they took care of it with no questions asked. My only complaint is the occasional dropped call on my iPhone, but I hate talking on the phone anyway, so who cares? =)
- Minivans – People mock them, even people who own them. Toyota even created a “Swagger Wagon” ad campaign playing on the idea. People say they ugly, big, and most of all uncool. Granted, our Grand Caravan isn’t exactly a Ferrari. But you know what is cool? Being able to drive around my wife, both kids in bulky carseats, all our stuff, plus three grandparents in the back while we do something fun as a family. We have all the room we need, plenty of power, and helpful extras like power sliding doors and tailgate. There’s a reason minivans are popular for families – THEY GET IT DONE.
Now it’s your turn. Agree or disagree with my lists? Have some others to add? I want to hear from you.