The stabbing of Julius Caesar is infamous around the world; his advisors’ betrayal that saw everyone’s champion dictator succumb to an impossible mortality, and marked the beginning of the Roman Empire’s gradual sputter towards lifelessness. The moral is simple: a government turned against itself does not last long. Power for power’s sake will shrivel your best assets into nothingness. People die when they are killed.

Of course, we have to mention the pestilent elephant in the room. Coronavirus – and all the panics and shutdowns it has produced – makes up the 23 knives that stabbed the Dallas restaurant scene. One need only look at the empty retail lots! Small mom-and-pop businesses have been shuttering by the hundreds, unbuoyed by meager bailouts.

These nationwide Ides of March will not abide for months, either. People do everything they can to avoid wearing masks, social distancing has become a joke, and there’s no financial protection for Dallas restaurants that can’t afford to downsize. It’s a vicious and cruel form of cannibalism. Everything that makes this city unique and interesting will be crunched by the virus’s weight and pounded into dust, like depressed shoe Doritos.

That’s why I propose we redirect the casualties of the inevitable crunch. Let’s keep the Ino Japanese Bistros, Fish & Fizzes, and Chopped Halal Grills of our city chugging along, and turn these sharpened knives to our advantage by choosing a different figurehead. Every single stalwart of suburban mediocrity? Fuck ‘em right in the profits. Half-assed white man’s Asian salads? Throw ‘em to the virus. Seven-dollar watery margaritas? Stab ‘em right in their economic heart. Et tu, Chipotle? Then fall, Caesar salad.

Here’s a starting list for the overpowered cultural menaces I have always wanted to kick out of the lunchtime radius of the University of Texas at Dallas. I hope you’ll join me in vengefully, callously throttling these unworthy chains until better restaurants take their places. (Of course, you might like some of these places. There’s no shaming of lifestyles here – but we’ll be the first to tell you, it’s ok to be wrong.)

  1. Chili’s
    I know exactly what you’re thinking. “But everyone loves Chili’s!” You cannot deceive me. It is not possible to love Chili’s, at the very least because they have well-made drinks, or particularly flavorful food, or even a charming ambiance. No, you love the free chips and salsa, along with the ability to eat a three-course microwave meal for $10, and all the memories you have because it’s right next to campus.
    Fact: every single Chili’s I’ve ever been to has the atmosphere of an overrun airport dining room, every single dish I’ve gotten was seasoned solely with the lint from the wallets of underpaid microwave chefs, and every single drink has tasted like their tears. The single-handedly most impressive part of any Chili’s is the uncanny resemblance to that one Vine, that infamous greeting that shudders through your brain as soon as you look at the unfulfilled promise that is the Chili’s pepper and the worn-down appearance of the Chili’s waiters.
    We can do better for ourselves. And if we can’t, we can buy all the vaguely interesting Chili’s entrees from the Walmart freezer section.
  2. McDonald’s
    I don’t know what the hell they’re doing, but this ain’t it. I can’t Supersize anything. Their McChicken legitimately gives me a migraine every time I eat one. The few times I’ve been there have left me with an eerie sense of sorrow. Yet, we are nostalgic for the crispy chicken paste nuggets, the only standout on their menu aside from the fries that never rot. Our nostalgia is the only thing keeping this monolith standing.
    I once read that the McDonald’s logo was more recognizable than the Christian cross. What happened to that cultish, unstoppable monstrosity? Who let the institution of health, with its calorie counts and “real beef,” suck the life out of it? No one could say, but the Golden Arches sure lost their luster when their death-peddling empire collapsed. I’d let McDonald’s live if it made the McCafe drinks a separate concept and went right back to poisoning us the way we liked it. But the way it is now? I think it’s time to throw this economic corpse to the dogs.
  3. Twin Peaks
    I once accompanied my friend, who works at Twin Peaks, to one location of this breastaurant for the sake of utilizing her employee discount. Some grown ass men sat near us and she spent the whole night talking to them, in the hopes that they’d return again and become her regular customers. I spent my evening awkwardly responding to their three-beers-deep questions, fielding comments about how young and pretty I was (“you should work here!”), and eventually having to hug them after they’d smoked up a pack of cigarettes and decided to linger a bit too long with their arms around the girls’ waists.
    Some people may think that is absolutely nothing, and to be fair, it really is. The stories get a lot worse if you actually work there. After hearing about things like foot fetishists that make propositions to the waitresses, illicit 30-something gamblers who try to take underage women out to the clubs, and grown men who harass women for merely walking in their direction and do so while leaving shitty tips, I firmly believe that every waitress at Twin Peaks deserves to retire with a full pension and receive the legal status of a decorated U.S. veteran. If Ms. ‘Rona doesn’t get it first, we should collectively burn the whole Twin Peaks chain to a crisp.
  4. Hooters
    It’s like the Peaks, except they discriminate a little bit more against applicants and are too family-friendly to compete with their mountain lodge offshoot. Meh. Their chicken is supposedly good, but their gimmick is the breasts, and that just eats into the amount of effort they can spend improving their wings. That’s enough for me to recommend unleashing the coronavirus onto Hooters. Let’s replace it with Tallywackers, the long-lost male version of Hooters that vanished when the world needed it most.
  5. Applebee’s
    I just remembered this one. It’s like Chili’s, but owned by IHOP. While I’d keep IHOP solely for those succulent Swedish crepes, I think Applebee’s has become a thin ghost of Chili’s. Equally uninspired, with sadly no apples, and completely lacking in bees, which were really the entire draw for me. There’s nothing really tethering it to this realm, and it shows. If both restaurants go belly-up in the wake of CoVID-19, there will definitely be some kind of gap within the mediocre powers that be, and other contenders will fight viciously to fill that suburban “bold dining” void. Personally, I’d fight all the other contenders, open up a diner that sells nothing but steak and french fries, and watch the suburbanites weep with happiness. The dying wisp that is Applebee’s is not long for this world, and when CoVID-19 finally takes it down, we will all have a big sigh of relief.
  6. Chick-Fil-A
    This one’s actually one of my guilty pleasures. Something about the troubled social politics and deeply religious character of this place makes the food and the shakes taste better. There’s a vein of pure happiness running through each portion of Chick-Fil-A mac and cheese. Yet I can’t lie to myself and say that it will be safe from the apocalyptic culling of the coronavirus, because it is obviously too good to be true.
    It’s clear that God is testing us with his succulent, Christian chicken sandwiches, especially now that they claim to avoid political leanings of any kind, and we continue to fail, every single time. Chick-Fil-A has always been the apple of Eden that has ruined other fast food restaurants for us. It crept into our school sports and our fundraisers with its sad, vegetable-less chicken breadwiches. It snuck into our hearts with the best milkshakes in the game. And now, it is time for us to let it go, lest we are trapped by its deliciously bastardized chicken and perfectly hashtag-shaped fries for the rest of our lives. We need to let the virus save us, just this once.
  7. Papa John’s
    Their pizza tastes like sadness, exclusion from middle school friend groups, and the salty sweat of Papa John himself. Back in my sophomore year at UTD, this guy I knew ate nothing but Papa John’s for a month straight, which is absolutely awful, but somehow emblematic of the misery this chain inflicts on a regular basis. In fact, any love you may have for this chain is guaranteed to be a mild form of Stockholm syndrome. Think about the fact that Papa John, ever-greasy and inescapable, has a TikTok. And the fact that his chain is thriving during this pandemic, despite the fact that it’s terrible and that Papa John has a TikTok. This is the one that 100% needed to be a COVID-19 casualty, or else razed to the ground by public demand, but it fucking wasn’t.

I hate to remind everyone, but the system is completely fucked, working in favor of blandness and paternal pizza charlatans. It’s been shutdown after shutdown. We’ve already lost so much of Dallas’ unique dining scene to CoVID-19, and we haven’t gotten a damn thing out of it, even as fast food chains shake our reeling nation down for its last couple of shekels.

We deserve better than this. We deserve a coronavirus for the people; one that, instead of killing off our countrymen, wipes fecal smears like Papa John’s off the face of this Earth. A coronavirus that makes room for new growths in the place of these suburban purgatories. A coronavirus that cancels; a coronavirus that cures. By the end of this pandemic, we can force ourselves to rename this article, “7 American Restaurant Chains That CoVID-19 Did Decimate.” All we have to do is take out our twenty-three forks, stab the heart of our gluttonous fast food Caesar, and eat literally anywhere else.