Applebee's. Outback. Red Lobster. Mediocre eateries are carpet-bombing America's landscape with the sort of scorched-earth expansionist verve that would chafe Sam Walton. How is that, exactly? To a chain, most such restaurants have been designed to look, feel, and taste the same regardless of locale. Accidental tourists who dined in a Scranton Ruby Tuesday's have a sporting chance of finding the bathroom in the Seattle franchise without asking the waitstaff. Outsized, filling portions dominate, with the quantities served constituting something of an apology for the food itself. And yet, to gorge oneself stupid on basket after basket of Riblets is to leave feeling strangely bloated and unsatisfied.
So it is with Ford's new Five Hundred. Make no bones about it: Dearborn's 'Year of the Car' centerpiece is no gourmet's feast. More to the point, the Five Hundred is a blandly flavored proposition inside and out, enticing consumers on portion size, a smorgasbord of ingredients and a low price point. Like the themed restaurants in front of which it will inevitably park, the Five-Hundred is a blatant attempt to appeal to the lowest-common denominator, blueprinted to offend as few as possible.