Jman, I appreciate some of your frustration and will try to answer you.
Many of us came to these boards in search of independent places that serve good food and offer interesting culinary experiences. I personally love trying out regional foods and/or finding places that serve good food wherever they are. I have enjoyed the personal and on-line friendship of fellow searchers of good food. And the most common experience is that of seeking the new.
Olive Garden and other chains make a fetish of predictability. The goal is to make the meal in Berea exactly the same as the meal in Portland, Oregon, Portland, Maine or Miami. If predictability is your pleasure then you should eat at Olive Garden.
I personally seek the quirky or idiosyncratic. I love the grits at Francis restaurant in Portland, the chile cheese fries at El Burrito Loco, the Monte Cristo french toast and the dog menu at The Tin Shed here in Portland.
I am not a snob. I will eat at McDonald's or Burger King but I'm not going to post about it simply because the experience is not unique and it will be the same for almost anyone who eats anywhere in the U.S at one of these places. And I'm lucky that Portland features Burgerville, an outstanding local chain that has won much praise from the Sterns and others for its food so I can indulge in fast food that is quite good and keep my roadfood cred.
I continue to seek new dining experiences, some of which turn out very well(fried grasshoppers at La Calaca Comelona), some of which turn out horrible(bitter melon at a Filipino restaurant best forgotten). I dislike Olive Garden and Appleby's because they are boring and predictable and that is not what i am seeking when I eat out.
I, too, love to eat at new and unique places. A few years ago, my job took me all over the country and my wife swore that I went to eat rather than to work. My one rule was to never eat at a restaurant that I could find at home. When given the opportunity to try someplace new, I take it. When I find a place that I like, I go back, even if it is a chain. If someplace is convenient and the food is at least palletable, I'll eat there occasionally.
I've had some great dining experiences at indies. I've also had some less than pleasant experiences at indies.
My point is simple. Many people are happy with what they get at chains. That's why they return. Many of those same people, myself included, also enjoy going to independent restaurants. Some people on here find it necessary to always jump in with their worn-out criticisms of the various chains. We get it. Why is it necessary to continually criticize those of us who may like a particular chain? I occasionally eat at an Olive Garden. Is it the best food I've ever eaten? No, but it's certainly not the worst either.
This board is well organized and no one is forced to visit a category for which they have no interest or liking. No one is forced to post on any thread. However, this doesn't seem to stop those self-appointed food police to tell us where we should or should not like to eat. Everyone has different tastes. That doesn't make any of us wrong.
Some may take offense at what I've said, but that's OK. I just don't think that I need someone to continually tell me, and millions of others, how lacking my tastes are.
Now, excuse me. I'm heading out shortly to go to Ramsey's, a roadfood indy, for a hot brown. If they're too busy, we may jaunt over to the Olive Garden to try one of their new faux Italian dishes. ;)