Have you ever been to Spartanburg, South Carolina? It’s a beautiful, little southern town, with a history that dates back to the Revolution. Founded by Scots-Irish from the Appalachian Mountains, it was named after a regimen that fought for the colonies against the British. The old days, though, have passed, and through quaint, Downtown Spartanburg’s main street is, well, odd.
The tallest building in town is Denny’s HQ, which looms over Main Street – their old business district – like a government monolith. When you stand at the foot of the building, you notice that it’s made of granite and stone panels, not FBI/J. Edgar Hoover/Beltway concrete. They have quite a nice park laid out at the food of their building, and the company is a major employer in the town. It’s quite a nice place, actually, like a reverse Monet: horrifying from far away, but beautiful up close.
I learned all this on a trip to Spartanburg this past Mark. The impetus for the journey was an invitation from Denny’s to a press event at their HQ to unveil Baconalia, a promotional celebration of Bacon that they launched in March. I was more than happy to oblige, mostly because A) I had never been to Spartanburg, B) I love South Carolina, and C) I love Bacon. It was a fun trip, which included meeting the guys from Mr. Baconpants, sampling the food straight out of Denny’s test kitchen, and hearing about the new product creation process at Denny’s.
We tried their four new menu items for Baconalia: Bacon Flapjacks, Bacon Meatloaf, BBBLT, and the Maple Bacon Ice Cream. We also sampled the Peppered Bacon, which they’ve developed and then used to create three new Bacon and Egg platters: Pepper Bacon and Eggs, the Ultimate Bacon Breakfast, and the Triple Bacon Sampler. Those were merely variations on a theme of Bacon, Hash Browns, and Eggs with the Peppered Bacon mixed in, so they explained that, and just had us sample the bacon.
As the pictures above show, their HQ food wasn’t dramatically different or better than the food that appears in actual restaurants. As I write in my column on Serious Eats, I can never write critically about the food at a Press Event, because the audience will always be skeptical of the controlled environment, as well they should be. Surprisingly, though, Denny’s was giving us a very real look at their food. They put specially crafted an sculpted dishes out for us to photograph, with perfect sunny-side-up eggs, and what we ate was meticulously cooked in small portions.
Sadly, the whole of Baconalia was more of a “sprinkle fest” than anything else. Though avant-garde in some respects, the dishes mostly were places that bacon pieces could be sprinkled: in pancake batter, onto ice cream, our layered on to a sandwich. The Bacon meatloaf had pieces cooked into it, but the overall trend was variations with bacon, not new dishes.
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