We had to make a quick trip up to Boston this week – definitely not a pleasure trip – and after the 6 hour drive and checking into the beautiful Day’s Inn Danvers we headed next door to the local Denny’s Restaurant for a quick bite.

I think what I found most interesting was that we were 3000 miles away from the last Denny’s I had visited, but here were the same employees – and the same customers! Talk about being the same everywhere you go! This would make a great sociological study! Are the same socioeconomic people attracted to the exact same places nationwide?!? Well – I guess that would explain shopping malls (the exact same stores and products in every city and town in America) and every other chain restaurant there is… Some folks really do need their predictability…

I guess we’re a bit out of the loop because we rarely – if ever – go to chain restaurants. It’s nothing personal, really – it’s just that I never think to go to one. There’s plenty of them around us (we’re only a few miles from the huge King of Prussia Mall) and the area is rife with chains) but… there are too many other places around…

Back to Denny’s… I had a Chicken Ranch Melt A golden-fried chicken breast on grilled ciabatta bread with a zesty garlic spread, lettuce and tomato. Topped with melted Swiss cheese and crispy bacon. Served with a side of ranch dressing. It wasn’t bad – but I never did get my side of Ranch dressing.

Victor had the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Melt A golden-fried chicken breast covered in a spicy buffalo sauce on grilled ciabatta bread with a zesty garlic spread, lettuce and tomato. Topped with melted Swiss cheese and served with a side of ranch dressing. He did get his ranch dressing after asking… It wasn’t bad. In fact, it was actually okay. Not something I’d make a habit of having every day – and something I could make better at home – but definitely not bad…

The Ciabatta bread was a sort of Ciabatta roll – standardized sizing, of course – and not the sort of Ciabatta I generally buy or make, but it definitely beat the rolls and buns chain sandwiches usually come on. And we upgraded – for an additional 39 cents – to the “Seasoned Fries” that really weren’t worth it. All in all, it worked.

The following morning, our friend Dorrie took us to a little diner in Danvers for breakfast. (Portside Diner, 2 River Street, Danvers, MA 01923 (978) 777-1437.) She had passed by it for years, her mom had eaten there all the time back when she worked for Sylvania. But Dorrie had never been inside. It was a treat!

Typical diner in every sense of the word. It had charm that no chain restaurant could ever have – and really good food. I had eggs over easy with a great Greek Sausage (You ain’t gonna find THAT at Denny’s!) Dorrie had eggs sunny side up with bacon, Victor had French toast with a side of bacon. Breakfast for three, with coffee – $19.10. We sat for an hour getting our coffee refills and chatting away in a booth that could have been built around the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Beautiful old wood, stainless steel, and tacky Christmas decorations still up. I was in gastronomic heaven!

And therein lies one of the best reasons to eschew the chains in favor of local places. This sort of food and decor evolves over time. It can’t be created in a test kitchen, nor can the decor be reproduced from a catalog – or by a restaurant designer/consultant. It happens naturally – slowly over time.

It was the perfect way to jump-start our drive back to Pennsylvania!