Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I imagine that when you're a food critic, it's easy to get a little hoity-toity. 

You get used to the (supposedly) finer things, so the mere notion of slumming it gives you indigestion.

Who can ever forget the New York Times' Pete Wells eating some of Guy Fieri's more, um, populist fare and disgorging quite some bile?

I feared for my sensitivities, therefore, when I noticed that the Washington Post's food critic Tom Sietsema had visited the top 10 casual chain restaurants -- by sales, that is.

Would he retch upon the wretched? 

Would he scoff as he ate at the trough?

After all, these casual chain restaurants have been suffering of late, as humans turn toward fast food that seems tastier or home cooking that seems at least to offer adventure.

Oh, let's get the worst over with.

His least favorite garnered an F grade. It was Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar.

He described is as "the saddest meal of my entire year?"

The wings were "scrawny." He added that they "taste like KFC sans every single one of those secret 11 herbs and spices, save for salt."

He found it "loud, garish and thoroughly soulless." 

In other news, Arby's recently bought Buffalo Wild Wings.

No other chain got an F grade.

IHOP got a D. 

Which is suppose would make it DIHOP.

He couldn't bear the burgers, the fried fish tacos and the country-fried steak. Well, at least there were the pancakes.

Outback Steakhouse didn't fare better. Sietsema liked the wine, though.

He drifted through the mediocrity of Red Lobster, Chilli's, Applebee's and Olive Garden before he found (relative) joy.

Texas Roadhouse got a B. The stars of the menu: "Most anything starring beef, mashed potatoes, Cactus Blossom."

Cactus Blossom? That would be a lovely name for a chain restaurant. 

Denny's also scored a B. 

Sietsema lauded the "pancakes, hash browns, spaghetti and meatballs, warm chocolate lava cake." 

I fear, though, a little hankering for his more exalted life may have kicked in here.

Sietsema seemed moved when this happened: "'Lemon for your water?' a server asks, just as waiters do in more upscale settings."

Aw, sweet pea.

Oh, but did any chain get an A? The sort of A that it would surely plaster all over its windows.


 Bring out the trumpets for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. 

Yes, this venerable apogee of tradition moved the Washington Post's food critic to something approaching rapture.

"No other chain restaurant in my months-long survey comes as close to home cooking as this operation," said the critic.

He said that almost everything on the menu was "something I'd be happy to try again."

The meatloaf, the roast beef and the trout fillets had him ululating with glee to the rafters.

Wait, Cracker Barrel serves trout fillets?

I fear, though, that I cannot ever eat at this place.

No, it's not its past that was tinged with rank racist unpleasantness.

It is this one sentence from Sietsema's review: "No wine or beer to enjoy with my meals."

Yes, Cracker Barrel doesn't serve alcohol.

How can something with "barrel" in its name do that? 

I worry for the world.