[We're going to break convention a bit here and go with a three-venue post. I apologize for the lack of venue logos. Unfortunately, these three eateries are so insignificant on a national level that I could find no logo for any of them.]
You might be thinking, "what do a Cajun joint, a Chinese place, and a steakhouse have in common?" In doing so, you would be the umpteenth individual to make some incorrect assumptions about two of these three places. Names can be deceitful. Bourbon Street Cafe does not serve Cajun food. No Texas-style barbecue at all can be found at the alleged BBQ Factory. No, these places serve Chinese. Shitty, no-name brand, mall-quality Chinese.
That's right. In our food court, there are three identical Chinese food places. How did this come to be? I do not know. I know that Wok USA used to be a Panda Wok, and I know that I never noticed Bourbon Street Cafe until a few years ago, which is not to say that it was never there, but only that if it was, nobody I knew gave a shit. I do, however, remember the arrival of Texas BBQ Factory, and I remember it well. A few years ago, Taco Bell found itself out of a lease, and vacated its place in the food court. Shortly thereafter, a sign went up outside the closed off storefront. It read, simply, "Coming soon: Texas BBQ Factory." For several months, my friends and I were pretty excited by the prospect of eating steaks, ribs, and chicken wings in the mall. I'd never heard of this barbecue chain, but barbecue was barbecue, and this place was going to be awesome. When it finally did open, you can imagine my utter disappointment at finding out it was nothing but a third shitty Chinese food joint. What a pump fake.
I am beginning to suspect that the three no-name Chinese food places are all actually the same place. They could even share a kitchen behind the counters, as all are located right next to each other. Only a closed Pizzatella and the food court restrooms divide the trio of Chinese eateries from being one continuous string of spare rib dispensers. All three use the same pastel shades on their behind-the-counter menus, and all three are staffed entirely by Asians. Most strikingly of all though, all three places offer the same exact special.
The "special" is always hyped as "today only!" but is literally always being offered by all three restaurants. It has no name. I call it the "Four things! Two ninety-nine!" I call it this because this is what the employees at Wok USA et al. will holler at anyone passing by. Each place has one guy out front dishing out the free samples, and they're always worth taking. But be careful. Should you hesitate for even a second or glance toward the place's menu, the ladle guy will go apeshit and immediately pull out a tray while asking which four things you'd like.
Three Chinese places within fifty yards of one another. All three offering the exact same deal ("four things") for the exact same price ($2.99). I ask, how can they be competing? How can they not all be in cahoots? Why is my mall's food court slowly but surely being taken over by Asian cuisine? Like the Orient itself, the whole thing seems rather mysterious and full of secrets. One thing's for sure though: I miss Taco Bell.