Friday, March 20, 2009

Biggie

When Stacee and I took a bus tour of Porto Alegre in January, we passed the city’s newest megamall, Barra Shopping Sul, and I saw this loathsome sign:

McDonald’s? Too late to stop their world domination. Pizza Hut and Subway? Do we have to go there? Now Applebee’s is bringing the US to me? It’s probably arrogance on my part, but this felt like a further encroachment on my territory. I’m not a fan of malls anyway, so withholding my patronage is easy. (I know, I’m a little uppity at times.)

Fast forward to early March, when I ventured to Barra Shopping for the first time to do some aggressive cost comparing for a printer. First stop…

(entertainingly pronounced biggie in Portuguese, like the old Wendy’s value meal menu items)

…which is essentially a Super Target—electronics store, supermarket, home furnishings, pharmacy, clothing and toy store all rolled in to one massive warehouse. I confess, I actually felt impressed by it’s size when I walked in. There are 59 checkout lanes (gasp!), and the customer service staff is far more efficient than their USAmerican counterparts.

(oh, the liability!)

After scoping out the prices at about eight other shops in the mall, I did buy a printer. Once I'd spent all that savvy-shopper energy (and dinheiro), I needed a drink and a snack. Based on reasoning (i.e., the excuse) that I shouldn’t-knock-it-till-I-try-it, a short time later I was sipping a Bahama Mama and nibbling on Buffalo Wings at the Applebee’s bar. And you know what? I was surprisingly satisfied. In fact, I returned a week later with friends to celebrate USAmericana with predictable food and a night of bowling.

I dined on my own words.

Loquinha Gauchinha

P.S. Funny extras: 1) Applebee’s is three shades more posh here. We sat in a booth next to one of Grêmio’s star players, Souza. 2) Bowling alleys are uncommon outside the US, so this should have been something of a treat. I say "should have been" because we never managed to play due to our poor timing and one guy's inability to think outside the box--oh well. Maybe in a few months we'll try again--I heard the rooftop patio at Applebee's is pretty nice.