Tuesday, February 26, 2013

GONE LOCAL Week Eight: Only in Generica

It’s restaurant week in York so there is a virtual smorgasbord of options in affordable, delicious local dining this week. I’m not certain why anyone would choose a chain restaurant over a locally owned restaurant. In addition to supporting your community, the food is better, and far more interesting.

Saturday night my love took me out for dinner at the WhiteRose Bar & Grill where we supped on meals served on “hot rocks” - pieces of stone heated to 650 degrees. These steaming hot stones are delivered to your table along with the fresh ingredients for your meal. You get to cook dinner yourself on your personal rock (carefully). After sprinkling the rock with sea salt, the food is placed directly on the stone. There’s no oils involved which keeps the meal fairly healthy, especially as restaurant food goes. It was an absolute treat. If you’re headed out for restaurant week (it continues until March 2), I highly recommend it.

The biggest dilemma this week has been the search for a backpack.
My oldest son has used the same backpack for the last four years. It has done its time and is literally falling apart at the seams. I’ve searched high and low, but gone are the days of the army surplus stores of my youth.  Goodwill has failed me, which it rarely does. They offered no backpacks large enough to tote the books required for a sophomore’s heavy academic load.

I will not stoop to Wal-Mart. I draw the line there. It comes down to making the best choice out of some bad options, similar to my daughter’s hair product dilemma. I’m going to check out the AAA store. AAA is a national company, but my card says “South Central Pennsylvania AAA” so at least it’s a local franchise.

A friend of mine recently posted her “hierarchy for local shopping” on her delightful blog, Creative Thoughtful Women. It listed the order in which she prioritizes the stores she patronizes based on how local and/or organic they are. Franchises are pretty low on her list, as they are on mine. But in my quest for a sizable backpack, I am dipping down my own list. Only a few months ago, I would have quickly snapped up the backpack at Target or clicked on the perfect bag on Amazon. But where’s the fun in that?

This project is slated to end on April 1, but I have a very certain feeling I will never go back to my old ways. I’ve learned too much. Supporting locally owned businesses doesn’t just put my money back in to my local economy, it does much more. It helps ensure that our community stays unique.

The locally owned stores are the color in our town. Otherwise we would be what my husband labels “Generica.” When we travel anywhere in the US and come upon a shopping center that looks like every other shopping center in the US, we find ourselves once again in Generica. You know the one – the one with Wal-Mart or Target, a hair cuttery, Subway, CVS, and all the other chain stores you find in nearly every corner of America. If you were captured, blindfolded, and transported to any one of these shopping centers, you wouldn’t know which of the 50 states you’d landed in.

Maybe for some, and I suppose it’s true for most people, there is comfort in the dependable sameness that Generica offers. You know what each of these stores will sell and at what price. You know what the menu will offer and even what the sandwich will taste like, whether you’re  in Spokane or Raleigh. There is security in knowing what to expect. I can appreciate that.

But I would make the case for variety and personalization. The service is almost always better at a locally owned establishment, too. If you care about your health, you’ll undoubtedly do better eating at a local restaurant where many times the food is freshly made and has been locally sourced.

A few years ago my husband traveled to Paris, France for a business meeting. The meeting was held at Euro-Disney and each night there was a planned dinner. When my husband called, I was excited to hear about the amazing food he’d been treated to and was sadly disappointed to hear they’d eaten at Planet Hollywood. In Paris? This is the best we can do? Apparently, the leadership leaned towards the comfort of Generica because the next night they went to the Rainforest Café. I like the Chocolate Volcano dessert as much as the next person, but it sure seemed a shame to miss out on a real French meal. The meals continued in this manner, but my husband was able to sneak out and enjoy one authentic French meal during his stay.

What is unique about your hometown? In York this past weekend in addition to experiencing Hot Rocks, I tried the freshly tapped Coffee Porter at Mudhook Brewery. I’ve already been scheming about lunch at LeftBank and dinner at Blue Moon this week. I can’t wait to eat more authentic York cuisine. Even if your town doesn’t have a restaurant week, maybe it’s time to break out of Generica and discover what the real locals eat.


  1. 1 - Thank you Cara for your kind words about my blog.
    2 - You are so right about the Generica. Someone called it the homogenization of America. We think we have lots of choices because of the overwhelming number of stores in the big malls, but they are the same stores with the same stuff everywhere. Only difference might be the high-end stores that stock somewhat regionally. Did you ever try to find the towels you bought last year at one of the chains? Out of luck because there is a different color scheme this year, just to encourage us to buy more stuff we don't need.
    3 - Forgot you had a April 1st deadline for local shopping, but you have children nagging you. I can't imagine going back to my previous shopping patterns.

  2. Thank you for saying what I've been thinking. I'm so disappointed in the loss of the farmer's market. I have brought the issue to the attention of the Hopewell Board of Supervisors (where I live) and will do so again. In the meantime, if you want to try to organize volunteers to put on the market this coming season, count me in.