The greatest legacy of the American restaurant is that it allows its patrons to break rules everyday by ordering specifically the items and meals each customer wants.
In the 1600’s, French Chefs first created Haute Cuisine, or High Cuisine. This came as a bi-product of increasing levels of literacy which allowed chefs and servants serving the French Aristocracy to write down recipes and serving techniques. This is where today’s fine dining standards came from, which many chefs, restaurant critics and foodies use. Yet, it is rare that most Americans will ever dine in such a staged and structured style.
The 1950’s and 1960’s brought the rapid emergence of our classic American Fare. The advent of the Interstate Highway System made car travel between neighboring cities and towns easy, safe and affordable. Day trips, vacations and get-aways all became ingrained in the American psyche. The quaint places “off the beaten path” were soon replaced by eating places with the “specialty of the house.” Every town quickly asserted its bragging rights for the best steak, seafood, ribs, burgers and pastas. Hungry travelers were now tasked to validate these claims. One way restaurants reacted was offering to “cook to order.” If someone didn’t like onions or wanted more gravy, waiters and waitresses knew that they had a financial stake in insuring the customer’s order was done right the first time.
Our classic American comfort foods have all embraced the ability to customize our request to the chef. While you may be unable to fathom the idea of a pizza without pepperoni, millions are sold with only cheese or topped with veggies each day. Add a slice of cheese on top of a hamburger? It can be done right away. Want your eggs over easy, scrambled or poached? It’s just a matter of minutes. Most restaurants want you to have choices, whether it’s the dressings for your salad, style of soup, your choice of sides or how well done you want the steak.
So, next time you sit down for a meal and everyone wants the main course to suit their own taste, it just means you are enjoying a principle of classic American dining – Freedom of Choice.