Monday, November 12, 2007

Where I come from...

I've been living a lie.

If you've met me, odds are you've heard it, and simply accepted it as fact. Well, it's not.

Often, when people ask where I'm from, I say Miami. Or South Florida.

Well, both are technically true. I'm from Miami-Dade County in South Florida, but in all reality I was raised in Homestead, Florida - saying I'm from Miami is just so much easier.

Homestead now is very different from Homestead when I was there. Homestead was ground zero in the housing boom (which later became the housing bubble, which now is a housing crisis) which started around 2002.

When I grew up there, the only chain restaurants were of the fast food variety and we got made fun of for living in the "sticks".

Real progress in Homestead was measured by the little things - a new ice skating rink, the arrival of the Super Wal-Mart...but the thing that truly signaled the evolution of Homestead from a sleepy small backwater redneck town to a busy Miami suburb was the arrival of the Ruby Tuesday.

When Ruby Tuesday opened, it was the event of the year in Homestead. I remember my mom talking about all of her friends going, and my classmates lining up to get jobs there. This was the equivalent of Eric Ripert coming to DC.

Just as Homestead has evolved over the past few years, the restaurant that changed it has moved on as well. Once filled with catchy little trinkets and animal heads, Ruby Tuesday now describes itself as, "Simple Fresh American Dining" and has shed the image as the family feedbag in search of yuppier audiences.

This isn't an isolated case though, "casual dining" restaurants are making increasing attempts to keep up with a country more culinary sophisticated than ever.

I haven't been back to Homestead since this summer, but every time I go, it's hard to find something I recognize.

If you walk into a casual dining restaurant today, you'll probably feel the same way.

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