Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson: A dozen signs a restaurant is worth eating at

I'm a pretty simple guy and quite easy to please. So, it's not too tough for a restaurant to earn the coveted Chris Johnson Seal of Approval. If you're out there looking for the perfect place to eat, here's my handy guide to great restaurants.

1. The parking lot is full of pickup trucks. When I'm cruising through a small town, I don't know one mom-and-pop eatery from another. But if it's got a slew of dirty, working-man pickups in the lot, you likely can get a bellyful of affordable food there.

2. There are a lot of senior citizens dining there. That's a pretty good indicator that the prices are in my range -- somewhere between cheap and practically free.

3. The waitresses call you "honey" -- or sugar or darlin or sweetie or baby. Of course, if my waitress ain't a lady, this does not apply. At least not for me.

4. There's pepper sauce already on the table. I don't even like pepper sauce, but I do love the kinds of vegetables that folks like to douse with it.

5. There's no parsley on the plate. I don't like weeds taking up perfectly good space on my plate where real food could have been.

6. Its not dark. I like to see what I'm eating. Good restaurants ain't afraid for you to see what they cooked. Ben Franklin discovered electricity, so we don't need to eat by candlelight.

7. I get to pick what my entree is served with. I hate it when a restaurant has something great like blackened grouper and then tells me it's served with slaw (gag) and broccoli casserole.

8. The green beans are soft and mushy and taste like ham. More than once I've been disappointed upon ordering green beans and they turn out to be what I call "yankee green beans" -- firm, crunchy and they taste (bleck) healthy.

9. They don't do funny things to your mashed potatoes. Mashed taters ain't complicated. They don't

need chives or skins or onions in them. They just need taters and mashing. The only thing you're allowed to do to the mashed potatoes is drown them in gravy and butter.

10. Speaking of butter, there must be plenty of it within reach. If my grandma didn't teach me anything else, she hammered home that there' no such thing as too much butter. Unfortunately, my doctor and I apparently had different grandmas.

11. Refills are free and plentiful. Whether it's tea, water or Diet Coke, keep it coming. Better yet, go ahead and put it in a giant glass and save yourself some effort.

12. And perhaps the No. 1 sign that a restaurant is worth eating at, you can smell it long before you walk in the door. The first time I took my wife to my favorite restaurant, she stepped out of my truck a block away and said, "Ugh, I can smell the grease from here!" "Exactly!" I responded. The restaurant gets bonus points if folks can still smell it on you hours later.

If a restaurant meets at least nine out of 12 of these guidelines, it's probably worth eating at. If it meets all 12, hit the ATM, head there immediately and text me the address.

-- Connect with Chris Johnson at Facebook.com/KudzuKidWriting or on Twitter @kudzukid88.

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