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Regional Fast-Food Chains

  • p

Last month, while traveling in Michigan, I stumbled upon an outlet of Chicken in the Rough, a small fried-chicken chain I'd never heard of before. Upon further research, it turns out that Chicken in the Rough has a long history (and a really amazing logo -- see for yourself at ckenintherough.com/History.html).

All of which has gotten me thinking about small, regional fast-food chains that have managed to hold on and hold their own against the McDonald's and Burger Kings of the world. Among those I'm aware of, aside from Chicken in the Rough:

- Kewpee Burger
- Maid-Rite
- Halo Burger
- Krystal's (not really so small, but very regional)

What other smallish fast-food chains are out there?

Inquisitively,
Paul

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  1. I'm hoping Steak 'n Shake is still going strong in the midwest -- one of my favorite places when I used to visit grandma in Illinois as a kid.
    And of course in California, we have the mighty In 'n Out.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Chowpatty

      Yes, Steak n' Shake is still thriving.

      In Hawaii, you have Zippy's and L&L. L&L is on the mainland too; don't know about Zippy's.

      1. re: bibi rose

        I've seen Steak N' Shake in North Carolina and Florida recently.

        1. re: Kevin N.

          Yep, they've been in Florida for decades.

          1. re: bibi rose

            Yep,
            Steak n' Shake is now in western PA.

          2. re: Chowpatty

            They also have a store in Syracuse, NY that just moved to a bigger location.

          3. In DC there is 5 Guys for burgers. The original few are the best, but still some of the best burgers in town.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sthitch

              In Huntsville, Al. now. I love 'em.

              It seems the quality varies from location to location.

              DT

            2. In So. Calif. there is the Original Tommy's which began near downtown L.A. in 1946 and now has several dozen locations.

              http://www.originaltommys.com/story.html

              Better known is In-N-Out Burger which began in 1948 in Baldwin Park, about 20 miles east of L.A. It has grown to around 200 locations in CA, AZ & NV. Unlike the major chains, In-N-Out's basic menu of burgers, fries and drinks has never changed. Neither have the preparation methods. Everything is made fresh to order and there are no microwaves, freezers or heat lamps. French fries are still made from freshly cut, whole potatoes and the shakes are made from real ice cream.

              For fast food, I would place both of these way ahead of the major national chains.

              Link: http://www.in-n-out.com

              5 Replies
              1. re: Sam D.

                IN-N-OUT's infamous bun-less burger was popular in 1948???

                1. re: mrnyc

                  No, and I don't think it is on the menu now. You have to ask for it. Sort of a secret menu item.

                  1. re: Sam D.

                    Don't forget So-Cal's (specifically L.A.) teeny, tiny mexican chain Poquito Mas - there were 5 or 6 of them when I left LA 3 years ago. The one in the Valley was the best of the bunch. Best burritos ever and they make their own tortillas. Makes me want to hop on a plane right now. I could be there in time for a late lunch!

                    1. re: Sam D.

                      In-N-out's Double Double cheeseburger is just about the only thing I miss about California.

                      In-N-Out is a class operation. Once when I ordered at the takeout window, I didn't get my fries. I thought I was calling that store to report it, but the number in the phone book connected me with headquarters. They were deeply apologetic, sent me a coupon for two burgers and two fries, called again about 10 days later to asked if I was happy.

                      Sure wish they'd expand to Georgia, where I live now.

                    2. Paul,
                      Chicken in the Rough made it as far south as Oklahoma City. Maid-Rite is one of the oldest franchise concepts in America. (The restaurants are individually owned but have to "conform" to Maid-Rite specifications. They only exist in very small midwest towns.) Another example is Sonic Drive In's. For years and years, they were a local chain in Oklahoma City. Then, in a matter of months, Sonic became almost fully national with national television advertising. I would love to know the story about how such a dramatic transition took place. (Their Lime-aids are terrific.)

                      1. Continuing in the fried chicken vein, Chicken Box (linked below, the cousin of Wagner's Meat, of you-can't-beat fame) is a small New Orleans chain with very good but slightly greasy chicken. Bojangle's is a mostly-East Coast chicken chain.

                        Popeye's and Church's seem to be similarly regional, though Popeye's seems to have expanded greatly over the past few years. A little research turned up that both chicken companies are owned by the same conglomerate that owns Cinnabon and Seattle's Best Coffee. I had no idea, though it certainly explains the recent proliferation of Popeye's in airports.

                        Hardee's/Carl's Jr. and Rally's/Checkers seem to have regional associations -- is this the same thing as the Hellman's/Best Foods divide?

                        Link: http://www.chickenbox.com

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Catherine

                          Kopp's Frozen Custard

                          Michael's

                          Culver's (now also in Illinois)

                          Kopp's is the best, IMO - very much worth the drive from Chicago, or a stop on the way back from a Big Ten football weekend in Madison. I'm very fond of their BIG fish sandwiches. The Brookfield/Waukesha location is the location I frequent, being that it's very close to the famed Penzey's spice emporium, as well as a great kitchen store and a wonderful produce market that also features myriad local microbrews and some hard-to-find local cheese. Pick up a 4-pack of Sprecher ale...mmmmmmm-mmmmm good!

                          Link: http://www.kopps.com/menus.htm

                        2. well cinci has the regional cinci chili parlors. biggest are SKYLINE and GOLD STAR. they are at least around ohio. i think all those regional sw taco chain places kind of blow everything away, no?

                          most interesting are the micro chains of barberton/norton style chicken. these are akron-cleveland suburbs. it's totally unique, from the odd cuts to the use of pork lard to fry. it's downhome good too. several small chains in that area.

                          fyi-- i found out mississippi food writer john t. edge wrote a new book on chicken recently. it will be released Oct. 11. it's called "fried chicken: an american story," and barberton chicken gets a full chapter!

                          1. My interest was piqued last week reading along on the bay area board about this fast-food chain called Dairy Belle Freeze in the San Jose area. It's pretty well hidden in a thread about french fries. I've taken a mental note of it and am looking forward to checking it out when I'm in the area.

                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                            1. At the Jersey Shore we have the Windmill. Great cooked to order hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. They have the best hot dogs!

                              1. r
                                raleighfoodlover

                                North Carolina has a couple of good chains:

                                BoJangles Chicken & Biscuits serves good fried chicken with a spicy coating... they also have southern fried chicken without the spice. Get the spicy.

                                Also, Smithfield's Chicken and Barbeque serves great fried chicken and wonderful pork barbeque (eastern NC style with a vinegar based hot sauce).

                                Both can be found pretty much all over the state and are consistently good. Worth a visit.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: raleighfoodlover

                                  Yeah if you need a greedy chicken fix go for Bojangles. Also check biscuitville for good breakfast biscuits. they close after lunch. A good burger chain is Cookout with locations from Concord(I believe) to Durham. and last but no least Char-Grill

                                  http://www.chargrillusa.com/

                                  in Raleigh. great thick burgers

                                  1. re: Quazi

                                    Bojangles is national, not on a scale of KFC or Popeyes but they are spread out across the country.

                                  2. re: raleighfoodlover

                                    Smithfield's is decent barbeque, I do stop there on occasion, but I wouldn't call it wonderful :) Eastern NC barbeque just doesn't take well to chains/franchises.

                                    Another good NC chain is Goodberry's, not really fast food, but they do have hot dogs to go with the custard.

                                    Cookout goes east past Durham, at least to Raleigh, but I don't know how much farther. The peach cobbler shake is my downfall any time a pass one.

                                  3. In the Buffalo area, there is Ted's for the world's greatest charcoal grilled hot dogs and Anderson's for real custard, beef on weck and Italian ices.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: sbp

                                      there's a teds in Arizona as well, Tempe, i believe.
                                      run by the same buffalo family. quality dogs indeed.

                                      1. re: sbp

                                        I still miss Ted's hot dogs - haven't been in many years. They really are the best!

                                      2. Even though I haven't lived there in about 4 years, I still get cravings for a Willy's burrito. They would make the burritos to order and all the fillings were visible so you could put in whatever you wanted, in the amounts you wanted. You would get a huge burrito for less than $5. I think they had about 4 or 5 stores in the metro Atlanta area.

                                        1. growing up in florida, we always used to go to Char-Hut, which i loved. great burgers, hot dogs, and fries.

                                          and, now that i live in NY, nathan's is pretty much the top hot dog spot, although i think it's gone national.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: funkymonkey

                                            In NY I like Grey's Papaya for hotdogs. They make a great dog, and yes, I like the papaya juice. I think that they have three maybe four outlets.

                                          2. In Seattle we have a few local burger chains--Dick's being my favorite (they have the best, greasiest fries imaginable), but Burger Master, with their spooky electric cow neon sign and drive up service isn't bad. I love their onion rings.

                                            Back in Jersey we had Stewart's drive up places, but I haven't seen them out here. Every once in a while I get a massive craving for a chili cheese dog and root beer from there.

                                            1. In Iowa, Maid-Rites are still going pretty strong. I currently am wishing for another trip to Texas just so I can eat at Taco Cabana.

                                              1. z
                                                Zach Georgopoulos

                                                I'm not sure if it's regional, but we used to have quite a few Foster's Freeze joints here in Northern California. In recent years they've dwindled down to a small number of run-down remnants. I still like them, though, and stop for a cone whenever I see one. They also have mighty good burgers on a well-toasted bun...

                                                Somebody else linked to the recent discussion of Dairy Belle in the SF Bay Area. I've made a note to try them out, too, especially for the fries.

                                                Another one I've been noticing in the East Bay in No. Cal is Giant Burger. There seems to be a smattering of them, also run-down, all dating back to the walk-up style of the '50s. I've been frequenting one in San Leandro ever since a friend of mine moved there last month. I wonder if they have some sort of Philadelphia connection, since they inexplicably also have cheese steaks and hoagies on their menu.

                                                Nation's is a small, excellent burger (and pie!) chain, also mostly confined to the East Bay. They seem to be going fairly strong compared to the others mentioned above (ie, the stores are actually clean).

                                                San Francisco's last small chains were probably Doggie Diner and Zim's, both long gone. There are a couple of Mel's Drive-Ins, still, but they aren't really drive-ins and seem to be based more on American Grafitti movie nostalgia than food...

                                                Is A&W national? They seem to be few and far between nowadays. I stop whenever I see one, for the classic Pappa Burger and some fresh root beer.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                                                  A&W is now owned by Yum Brands, they also own KFC, Taco Hell, and Pizza Hut. I stopped by one a few weeks ago trying to relive one of my favorite food memories, but alas to call it a shadow of its former self, would be an insult to its former self.

                                                  1. re: Sthitch

                                                    A&W still makes a good coney dog (chili dog) and nice fried onion rings.

                                                    1. re: Sharuf

                                                      The coney dog and rings are the basis of my A&W chow memories, and I found them very disappointing. Maybe it was that I ordered it at a Yum Brands combo unit (they also sold KFC, and Taco Bell).

                                                      1. re: Sthitch

                                                        Try them at the A&W in San Rafael, across 101 from the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Civic Center.

                                                        1. re: Sharuf

                                                          The next time I am out in SoCal I will. Currently, in Northern Virginia/DC there are no interesting A&W's left. My best memory of A&W was at an old style restaurant on the banks of the Wisconsin River in Portage, WI.

                                                          1. re: Sthitch
                                                            z
                                                            Zach Georgopoulos

                                                            San Rafael is actually in No. Cal -- just across the Golden Gate bridge from SF. The one that Sharuf mentioned is the one I've frequented most in recent years (I don't think there are any in SF itself; there was still a drive-in A&W in Healdsburg a few years ago, but I think it might be closed now). It's one of the older locations that's been around awhile. Maybe the newer ones are corporate and the older ones franchised? Might make some difference...

                                                    1. Not a chain at all but you'd swear it was,
                                                      All American Burger on Sunrise Highway on
                                                      Long Island. Walking into that place puts you
                                                      smack dab back into the 1950s in terms of the setup.
                                                      Best lunch deal in Massapequa and for most of
                                                      the south shore.

                                                      1. No one has mentioned the Texas chain, Whataburger, often pronounced whaterburger.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Evil Ronnie

                                                          I was thinking about Whataburgers. They used to have them in Colorado too.

                                                        2. "Chicken in the Rough" was offered in Glendale, California too - at a place called Henry's, a drive-in located on the SE corner of Glendale Ave and Colorado St, just a few blocks west of the original "Bob's Big Boy". There was a "Foster's Freeze across the street too. Ah, the fifties, those were the days.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: DavidT

                                                            Char-Grill in the Raleigh, NC area. Great hamburger steak sandwiches, burgers and fries.

                                                          2. Bill Miller's BBQ in San Antonio and surrounding area, and Taco Cabana in Texas. Unbelievably good.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                                              Backyard Burgers, Rib Crib, and Sonic ofc.

                                                            2. I remember a local chain of burger restaurants from my childhood (aeons ago) in western NY - Carroll's burgers. I have very fond memories - their burgers tasted very different from McD's or BK. Something about onions comes to mind, but I can't remember more. Anyone else remember them?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                Carrols weren't so local...we had one in Yonkers (southern NY).

                                                                Found some fans of the chain at: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic....

                                                                1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                  I remember Carroll's from my youth, too. They were in New England, too, Then the company picked up a BK franchise quite a few years back and all the Carroll's became BK's and they still are.

                                                                2. Lions Choice! For rare roast beef sandwiches in the st. louis metro area. I think they also have locations in Illinois and Florida now.

                                                                  1. Wienerschnitzel. Mostly a CA chain. I love their chili cheese dogs. Jack in the Box has national advertising, but as far as I can tell it's also a mostly CA chain.

                                                                    Max's Cafe in the SF Bay Area is a real treat. I also like Armadillo Willy's.

                                                                    Here in Florida, check out Tijuana Flats and 5 Guys.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                                      We had a Der Wienerschnitzel in Houston when I was a kid in the 60's. I think they were run off by local favorite James' Coney Island, but I've seen one in Chorpus Christi, but didn't eat there. We have Jack in the Box here, every time my brother comes back he goes straight for the tacos. Two for 99 cents here. I'll eat a couple every few years or so.

                                                                      1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                                        There are Wienerschntzels in TX defnitely in Bryan/College Station and there was one in Waco as well

                                                                      2. In North Carolina and Virginia, I think our best hidden gem is Biscuitville! YUM!

                                                                        http://biscuitville.com/default.aspx (and you can get *amazing* party biscuits [like ham]; a dozen for six & a half bucks)

                                                                        1. White Castle is the regional gem in my neck of the woods! Those little, steamy burgers are irresistible. It's not so small of a company - but you can only find WC in the northeast & midwest cities.

                                                                          Krystal is the South's White Castle -- but the burgers are a little bigger - and even tastier! (imho!)

                                                                          Two chains I've been dying to try for years:

                                                                          Culvers (midwest I think? I hear they have great "butterburgers")
                                                                          Arctic Circle (UT, NV... their fry sauce sounds tasty!)

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                            >>>
                                                                            but the burgers are a little bigger - and even tastier!
                                                                            <<<
                                                                            That wouldn't be hard, IMHO. When I was in Columbus, OH on business I got to finally find out what all the WC hype was about. I was under-whelmed to say the least. "Sliders" is an appropriate description.

                                                                            Arctic Circle...wow I haven't heard that name in years! Not since I was in Idaho Falls in the early 70's! As I remember, they were pretty good at the time.

                                                                          2. g.d. ritzy's

                                                                            this place looks like the slummiest of the slums from the outside, and inside it doesn't look much better, but the burgers are surprisingly good, the veggies are fresh and crisp, and the fries are tiny little potato slivers of fried love. there are few left, but they're worth scoping out.

                                                                            also have great ice cream.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: beelzebozo

                                                                              There was a G.D. Ritzys across high street from OSU in Columbus, and while they had great ice cream, they also served a natural casing hot dog that was surprisingly good.

                                                                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                GD Ritzy's! I didn't think they existed anymore. There used to be one in Myrtle Beach or North Myrtle Beach. The hot dogs and the shakes were the best!

                                                                            2. When I take my yearly trip to Florida, I like to visit Pollo Tropical. While I'm not sure how authentic Caribbean it is, the food they serve is good. They have many locations throughout Florida and a few in New Jersey.

                                                                              Another good small Floirda chain is Offerdahl's, which was founded by former Dolphin all-pro John Offerdahl. It's similar to Panera in terms of the food they serve. And quite unpretentious and not showy compared to so many athlete-run restaurants.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                Every time I go back to the upper midwest aka North Dakota, Minnesota I frequently stop at Taco Johns. Those potato oles by far are what keep me coming. I know that its a regional chain offered in 5 or 6 states.

                                                                                Another one is Big Boy. There is one lone one in Bismarck, North Dakota that is a drive thru only.

                                                                                How about Portillo's in Chicago. I know that there is one in Buena Park, CA as well.

                                                                                1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                  I'll second Pollo Tropical. Great chicken. Not a fan of yucca fries, but everything else is top notch. Usually a good selection of salsas.

                                                                                2. Oh yeah. Runza in Nebraska is also a nice regional phenomenon. Overstuffed sandwiches with the bread being baked around the filling.

                                                                                  http://www.runza.com/whatzarunza.htm

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                    Runza is great, but I hate the runzas themselves. I love the burgers, though.

                                                                                  2. I haven't lived in small-town west Texas or eastern Oklahoma for a number of years: are they still blighted by the unpleasantness that is Mr. Burger?

                                                                                    Taco Villa was very popular in Lubbock when I was in high school, but I think they're only available around Midland/Odessa these days.

                                                                                    When I was in college in eastern New Mexico, there was a small Clovis-based chain called Taco Box that I was fond of in the way that only broke and occasionally stoned college students could be.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                      ENMU, eh? Go Greyhounds. My parents were grad students and Resident Advisors in one of the dorms there when I was a toddler, and my aunt lives there to this day.

                                                                                      Speaking of Portales, Pat's Twin Cronnie is still around. Peanut butter shake, anyone?

                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                        Indeed. Never liked anything else on the menu at Pat's, but I did make a point of getting at least one or two peanut butter shakes per summer.

                                                                                        To stay on the topic of regional chains, my college girlfriend was the assistant manager of an Allsup's convenience store. During the summer intersession, when my work-study money was almost nil, a box or two of their justifiably legendary burritos would mysteriously disappear out of the freezer in the back. She never remembered the taco sauce, unfortunately.

                                                                                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                          Blakes Lotta Burger. "Voted New Mexico's Favorite Burger!"
                                                                                          Attended WNMU and an Ma from the Lobos.
                                                                                          Ain't Portales also called "Little Texas"?

                                                                                    2. There used to be Skippers Seafood 'n Chowder places all over the pacific Northwest (Orgeon, Washington, Alaska, etc.) Good (but expensive for fast food) fried fish (and my favorite Chicken strips ever!) I think they are going out of business though.

                                                                                      Cracker Barrel is an East Coast/Southern thing (racist and anti-union but tasty!)
                                                                                      http://www.crackerbarrel.com/
                                                                                      I don't know how big The Hat is? There are a few spread out in So Cal (they are HUGE portions and known for their Dip sandwiches

                                                                                      )

                                                                                      Burger Street is a Texas chain, not sure how many remain though.

                                                                                      CiCi's pizzas are east coast bound. http://www.cicispizza.com/

                                                                                      1. Greater Los Angeles has the famous ZANKOU CHICKEN places (mmmmm garlic sauce) http://www.zankouchicken.com/

                                                                                        I don't know what ever happened to RAX (I think they were a mid west chain, but we had one in Alaska too

                                                                                        )

                                                                                        DOG N' SUDS. There are a few different ones in Illinois, Michigan Wisconsin, I think owned by different people:
                                                                                        http://www.dog-n-suds.com

                                                                                        Ohio has EAT N PARK which I have always wanted to try.
                                                                                        http://www.eatnpark.com/

                                                                                        BURGERVILLE is an awesome place in Orgeon that uses all fresh/regional/seasonal ingredients. http://www.burgerville.com/

                                                                                        winner of weird name contest RAISING CAINE is a chicken fingers place in Alabama and Lousianna and I think...Virginia. http://209.240.145.143/

                                                                                        TUDOR'S BICSUITWORLD is=n W.Virginia is similar to Biscuitville, http://www.tudorsbiscuits.com/

                                                                                        GOOD TIMES BURGERS AND FROZEN CUSTARDs are all over Colorado http://www.goodtimesburgers.com/

                                                                                        POTBELLY is a sandwich place in Illinois. http://www.potbelly.com/

                                                                                        All the original and its varients are in Washington, there are a few of the fast food version of IVARS in California as well. http://www.ivars.net/
                                                                                        http://www.ivars.net/

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: JackonCrack

                                                                                          The Wikipedia article for Rax indicates that the chain still exists, albeit in a greatly diminished form from their peak. I recently found out that one of the Wendy's restaurants in this area (near Seattle) used to be a Rax at one point in time.

                                                                                          1. re: Vexorg

                                                                                            Rax used to be part of the General Foods family with Burger Chef. In fact, i think that they were part of teh reason GF got out of the business. So many of the restaurants have been recycled into different restaurants,

                                                                                        2. Jimboy's Tacos in the Sacramento area.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: tobycat

                                                                                            Amen! The locations in the Reno area, on the other hand, are terrible.

                                                                                          2. Portillo's in Chicago is one of the best examples I can think of. They've recently opened a few stores out in California too to take advantage of all the LA area Chicago transplants.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: coasterphil

                                                                                              Rubio's in Los Angeles is another one. I know its in the southern west states.

                                                                                              Golden Spoon is another one that is a California and I think Utah frozen yogurt place.

                                                                                              Pinkberry is huge in Southern California, and recently expanded to NYC.

                                                                                              Claim Jumper is big in a few states.

                                                                                              Giordanos deep dish is a huge Chicago chain that has recently started in Florida near Orlando.

                                                                                            2. This is more of a local than a regional chain, but Snuffer's in DFW has some of the best burgers around (my husband swears they are THE best, but I won't go quite that far). And their cheese fries, which they are famous for, are absolutely sinful.

                                                                                              1. Honolulu has a couple of "small chains", some with one or two mainland outlets.

                                                                                                Zippy's is the largest, best liked, and most disliked depending on your point of view. Some only have a service counter, others have a dining room as well. Food ranges from burgers and fries to various types of "plate lunch". Think Chili's/Denny's with a local twist (zippy's does have mail order food, for those of you who can't live another day without saimin, etc.)

                                                                                                Next would be L&L, primarily plate lunch. I personally dislike their food, but many people like it a lot. They tend more toward the grilled meats (bbq chicken, etc), but have a pretty good variety. Not so much of a burger joint although you can get them there.

                                                                                                The Shack has 4 or 5 locations. Really good burgers, better than decent salads, and various types of "bar food".

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                  I forgot Teddy's bigger burgers and Kua Aina, also burgers and etc. Both are good.

                                                                                                  And of course Hawaii's most upscale chain... Roy's.

                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                    I remember eating at a Kua Aina in Japan, though it may have just been a name similarity.

                                                                                                2. In NC, Smithfield's Chicken for fried chicken, bbq and banana pudding. Ryans Steakhouse for ayce buffet

                                                                                                  1. Duchess here in CT which is pretty good.

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: amanda3571

                                                                                                      I was *heartbroken* when the Duchess location in Hamden lost its lease, as I would come to town regularly and I would *have* to get my "Big D Chili Cheeseburger" (with Fried Onions) whilst in the neighborhood... Fortunately, I realized that there is a Wallingford location not *too* far out-of-the-way, and that I could also make the drive down to Rte 1 in Orange, if needed... (I believe that the majority of the locations are in-and-around the Naugatuck Valley and points south and west into Fairfield County) Anyway - here is the web address for anyone who is interested: http://www.duchessrestaurants.com/

                                                                                                      1. re: amanda3571

                                                                                                        I agree with Duchess.

                                                                                                        Another one mainly in the Northeast is Desert Moon Cafe. http://www.desertmooncafe.com/home Their guacamole is pretty good, and the meals are made fresh. It's definitely a step up from Taco Bell. I've even been to a location that served alcohol, although I didn't try it.

                                                                                                        1. re: shellyesq

                                                                                                          I forgot about Desert Moon Cafe. There was one in the mall near where I grew up, and I would eat there every time we went to the mall, until they took my favorite burrito off the menu. I forget what kind it was, something with chicken, but I remember being really disappointed. This was in NY about 50 minutes north of NYC.

                                                                                                          1. re: Solstice444

                                                                                                            Solstice - same thing happened to me! Desert Moon changed their menu about 4 years or so after they opened at my local mall. I had a fav burrito too that's no longer on the menu (the Coyote Moon, if I remember it right) and the tortilla soup recipe changed a bit - less smokiness and smaller pieces of chicken. :o( I should've let the company know I was disappointed, but I was a teenager back then - guess my mind was on other things! ;o)

                                                                                                        2. re: amanda3571

                                                                                                          When I found out there was a Duchess in CT I went nuts. Husband and I immediately looked it up and made a road trip. Well worth it :)

                                                                                                        3. Schoops Hamburgers - there are 2 in Florida, most are in the Chicago area
                                                                                                          they manage to make a thin lacy burger that tastes like it's all edge!!!!

                                                                                                          1. Here in the San Antonio area we have Bill Miller's BBQ,Fred's Fish Fry,Taco Cabana,
                                                                                                            China Rose(don't know if it's from Texas).There was a small chain here called Harvest Home which sold roast chicken,and other sides,kind of like Boston Market.However
                                                                                                            They I guess went under,just like GWJr.,which was Church's Chicken attempt to move into the hamburger market.Of course there is Whataburger, Garcia's Mexican Restaurant here in Schertz,the original one is in San Marcos and elsewhere,also Mamacita's in New Braunfels ,also mexican food, but they started in I believe Kerrville.There are I'm sure other small local chains across Texas,though Church's Chicken is hardly small and neither is Taco Cabana.

                                                                                                            1. I ate at the Chicken in the Rough in Port Huron, MI in 1997 when I first moved to the Detroit area and was out for a leisurely drive one weekend. It was a tiny place in the back of a really old-fashioned bar. To this day, that stands out as one of my "luckiest" meals, since I'd never heard of CitR before, and it was so crazy delicious.

                                                                                                              In Tulsa, there's a chain of coney restaurants called Coney I-Lander. They've been there since the 1920's (I'm not that old), and everyone I know who grew up in Tulsa has memories of going there as a child. I've not found anything comparable in any other city I've been to. It's not just nostalgia, although that's part of it, it's also a really delicious coney.

                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: stephanieh

                                                                                                                I used to work in down town Tulsa... and definitely you must eat at Coney I-lander. The one I'm thinking of you come in and go through the line... then you sit in old recycled school desks.... the ones with one seat attached to the wooden desk in front. And they mock you if you want ketchup on it... which I always do.

                                                                                                                1. re: stephanieh

                                                                                                                  Tulsa's Coney I-Lander has a lot in common with Cincinnati's Skyline Chili. Undersized hot dogs topped with Greek chili, raw onions, and finely-shredded orange cheese, with Louisiana hot sauce on the side. The chili recipes are a little different, and they don't do the spaghetti thing in Oklahoma, but there's gotta be a nexus there somewhere.

                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                    I have to ask.... what is the spaghetti thing? A lot of places here serve the 3-way spaghetti, which was new to me when i moved here.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                      Yep, that's it. Spaghetti with chili and cheese (3-way), onions (4-way), and /or kidney beans (5-way). As I recall, none of these were on the menu at Coney I-Lander (but that was 25 years ago, so my recollection may be incorrect). The first time I remember seeing chili on spaghetti was at Skyline in Cincinnati.

                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                        Firegoat, YES! I sat in those old school desks when I worked downtown, too! I'd forgotten about those. And they still have a different word jumble on the chalkboard everyday... another fond memory from childhood. I never asked for ketchup... guess we had our own version of the soup nazi at the downtown location.

                                                                                                                        Alan, sometime in those last 25 years, Tulsa's Coney I-Landers have added the 3-way to the menu. I've never ordered it, because I love the coneys, but I've seen it. The one I saw had odd looking spaghetti noodles... slightly whiter, thicker, and shorter than regular spaghetti noodles. Maybe they get them from the same mystery supplier of undersized coneys and buns (that make for perfect dog, chili, bun ratio). I don't know the owners, but I do know they are Greek. My old doctor and a friend's husband, both about 50 now, and both of Greek descent, worked at Coney I-Lander as teenagers. (They were the only Greeks I knew in Tulsa).

                                                                                                                        Another great place to get a 3-way in Tulsa is Ron's. I worked with a very straight-laced Pentecostal girl and we'd go to lunch together sometimes. Once she e-mailed me that she wanted to go to Ron's because she was dying to have a 3-way. I've never laughed so hard in my life.

                                                                                                                        1. re: stephanieh

                                                                                                                          LOL!

                                                                                                                          Ron's: now that's a regional chain for you. I left town while Ron was just talking about opening a second location. We'd drive all the way out to East 21st Street for chili cheeseburgers (with the chili dumped over the top of the bun, of course) and potatoes fried with onions and jalapenos.

                                                                                                                          Thanks for bringing back good memories. Perhaps best if they stay that way--lunch at Ron's would likely kill me now. Ah, to be young and have a cast-iron stomach again...

                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                            We love Ron's! We go there every time we get back to Tulsa... usually several times each trip. I'm not sayin' it's easy. But, it must be done.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                        Reminds me of the littany of words describing hash browns in the Waffle House, in Lewisville, Texas, when they added onions, and cheese to the hash browns and yelled out "Scattered, Smothered, and Covered"! I can just see an Italian resto yelling out "Scattered, Smothered, Covered, Greasy and Gassy!"
                                                                                                                        !

                                                                                                                  2. Props to the North Carolinians who have mentioned Smithfield's, Char Grill, and Biscuitville...we have some gooooood chains around here!

                                                                                                                    I used to really enjoy Zaxby's for lunches when I lived in South Carolina - tasty salads and chicken fingers. Not sure how widespread they are, but I've seen them in the Carolinas and Georgia.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                                                      I ate at Zaxby's on Friday night (Statesville, NC location). Couldn't write a full review because a) I was already drinking and b) I finally ended up eating in-between sentences of a heated phone conversation in the parking lot. I had chicken fingers, which were good; tenders or strips of breast, good texture and seasoning to the breading. I liked the Zaxby's sauce that came in a little tub with the chicken. I also had onion rings that were good; light flaky seasoned breading. It also came with a squat cup of coleslaw which I never opened, but it is in my fridge for later consumption. Great for a chain, and I wouldn't mind going back.

                                                                                                                      1. re: evewitch

                                                                                                                        Statesville! My grandmother grew up there and I have a ton of relatives who live there. I haven't been down there in I think 4 years, but I don't remember seeing a Zaxby's around. Of course I could've just not been in the part of tiown where it is. Do they mainly have chicken?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Solstice444

                                                                                                                          Yes. In fact, it might be all chicken. They are on the same road as Wal-Mart, off of Turnersburg Hwy.

                                                                                                                          http://www.zaxbys.com

                                                                                                                    2. el pollo loco is really good--i think they're mainly in the southwest. the farthest east i've seen weinerscnitzel is in corpus christi, tx. i wish they had one further south. i miss my chili cheeseburgers.

                                                                                                                      1. In East Texas, David Beard's Catfish King restaurants are VERY good.

                                                                                                                        1. All the great DC chain restaurants are dead: Hot Shoppes, Little Tavern. There's only one Ollie's Trolly left downtown. God knows how it stays in business.

                                                                                                                          Something happened to Five Guys in the past few years. Half of the ones I go to, either the meat is skunky or they cook all the juice out of them.

                                                                                                                          I'd kill for a White Castle or a Maid Rite.

                                                                                                                          1. In Texas, we have a small Spanish-speaking chain in town called Taqueria Arandas. Good Mex-Mex. Freebird's is like Chipotle, but soooo much better, IMHO. Also, Rudy's, Bodacious, and Dickey's for BBQ. Bush's and Chicken Express for fried chicken. DoubleDave's Pizzaworks. Katie's Frozen Custard. Braum's for burgers, ice cream, and even groceries. And Texas Burger.

                                                                                                                            Our Dairy Queens in TX are a bit different, too--I can't find a Dude (a hamburger with chicken-fried steak in place of the patty) out of state, which is a shame because that's my favorite thing there.

                                                                                                                            In Washington, there was Ivar's, Taco Time, Shari's (not fast food--sort of like a west-coast Denny's), and Azteca was starting to branch out and compete with Taco Time when I left. And I do second the love for Dick's...[insert bad pun here].

                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: puffalumps

                                                                                                                              Yeah, Seattle is a place where a guy can casually ask, "Do you like Dick's?" on a second date and not get slapped! My now-husband said just that, and my response: "Yes! The great thing about the Deluxe is there's no tomato to pick off!" was one sure sign I was the girl for him!

                                                                                                                              1. re: Jeri L

                                                                                                                                Freddy's is a small chain out of Wichita, Kansas that sells frozen custard, hot dogs, and hamburgers that is expanding into other states including Oklahoma. Spangles is another small Wichita chain found in Kansas. Braum's is an ice cream and burger chain with a small grocery section in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and maybe western Louisiana. Chicken in the Rough is a franchised name that is trademarked by Beverly's Restaurant in Oklahoma City. Beverly Osborne, the founder of the restaurant, travelled the country convincing restaurant owners to sell Chicken in the Rough. Beverly is long deceased and there is one Beverly's left in Oklahoma City at Northwest Expressway and Indepedence across from Integris Baptist Hospital.

                                                                                                                                Sonic started in Shawnee, Oklahoma and is now headquartered in downtown Oklahoma City right on the Bricktown Canal across from Toby Keith's I Love this Bar & Grill which has become a small chain found primarily in Harrah's Casinos. Ron's Hamburgers out of Tulsa has three locations in the Oklahoma City area and has one of the most unique burgers anywhere-The sausage cheeseburger made of sausage and beef. Goldie's is a popular Tulsa burger place that has a couple of locations in Oklahoma City. Johnnie's Charcoaler has multiple locations in Oklahoma City with excellent charcoal burgers and onion rings.

                                                                                                                                The Hal Smith Restaurant Group of Norman, Oklahoma owns Charleston's, Red Rock Canyon Grille, Boomerang Grill. Louie's and manages Toby Keith's and JR's BBQ which is owned WWE anouncer JR Ross. Hal Smith is a former president of Steak & Ale who has built a small restaurant empire in Oklahoma. City Bites has 13 locations or so in the Oklahoma area. They serve sandwiches on in store made hard french bread. Good stuff.

                                                                                                                                Bigray in Ok

                                                                                                                                1. re: Jeri L

                                                                                                                                  I wish someone had a recorder out when this happened...

                                                                                                                                  ...we caught our HS principal professing his love for Dick's. The whole conversation sounded way, way, way naughtier than it actually was.

                                                                                                                                2. re: puffalumps

                                                                                                                                  Azteca is still around, and they seems to be mostly limited to Washington, with a handful of Oregon locations, and (somewhat inexplicably) two locations in Florida. At the one here they used to have a machine that made their tortillas inside the restaurant (kept out as something of an attraction), but I don't believe they do so anymore. Similarly, Ivars (the fish bars, as opposed to the sit-down restaurants) is another chain limited almost entirely to Washington, but with a single one-off location in California.

                                                                                                                                  Another regional chain around here in the Seattle area is Herfy's Burgers. My understanding is that Herfy's used to be a fairly large chain with several hundred locations across several states, but by the late eighties they had disappeared. The current version of Herfy's is a revival of the brand name, which is currently limited to a few scattered locations in the Seattle metro area.

                                                                                                                                  Taco Del Mar started as a small regional chain in the Seattle area as well, but seems to have expanded into a pretty much national chain by now. I think I liked them better when they were still local though.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: puffalumps

                                                                                                                                    I listen to a Seattle-based AM radio show called Too Beautiful To Live via podcast, and at least once per episode, either the host, Luke Burbank, or his producer mention that during their next newsbreak, they're going to run across the street to Azteca to grab something for dinner.

                                                                                                                                  2. My favorite place to go when I was younger was King Taco in East L.A. the BEST carne al pastor tacos, burritos, sopes, mmm mmm. I guess now they are at the NASCAR races in Fontana!

                                                                                                                                    1. Friendly's is somewhat regional, in 16/50 states, mainly in the East. We have Stewart's in my area of NY. I now regret not trying Whataburger or Wienerschnitzel while I was living in Lubbock for 4 months since they are apparently quite regional. I find the regional food chain thing so interesting!

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Solstice444

                                                                                                                                        Stewarts really expanded over the past few years. Almost every boonie town in upstate NY has one now...and that is not a bad thing. They aren't bad for a mini-mart/gas station chain. However...

                                                                                                                                        For a mini mart/gas station chain, I don't think I have found one better than Wawa in PA.

                                                                                                                                        Yes, Friendly's is still around, but very forgettable.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                          I moved to Minnesota and I miss Stewarts so much. I love their ice cream and would kill for some of their Mint Chocolate Chip or Strawberry ice cream. I can not find any ice cream here that is even close.

                                                                                                                                      2. Schoop's Hamburgers are awesome! They are located mainly in the south suburbs of Chicago and Northwest Indiana. (one in Vegas, Texas and Florida) The burgers are different in that they are all big and thin with crispy edges. Get a Mickey with bacon and wash it down with a Green River. I go to the one in Hammond on Indianapolis Blvd off of 80/94 near the Cabela's. There are about 20 locations now, started in Hammond (not this location) 60 years ago so they must be doing something right.

                                                                                                                                        1. I liked Milo's in Birmingham, AL when I was "stationed" there for work a couple years ago.

                                                                                                                                          In Raleigh, NC, Char-Grill can't be beat. Throughout the South, Bojangles is ideal for fried chicken.

                                                                                                                                          In the Columbia area of SC, I like Rush's for a quick burger and The Lizard's Thicket for a quick meat-and-three.

                                                                                                                                          1. Rancheria Mexican Restaurants in the greater Salt Lake City area--There are 8 of them currently. I had an outstanding chili relleno burrito from their Payson store today.The chili was roasted and stuffed with hot cheese and surrounded with cold fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. No beans, no rice, no other fillers, just the good stuff in a good tortilla, about a pound of it....

                                                                                                                                            1. Donatos is an Ohio pizza chain that tested their waters in Philly just long enough to hook me, then left me wanting for crispy pepperoni..... I have to go whenever I'm midwest and fill my cravings

                                                                                                                                              I've also tried Duchess in CT, which is awesome!

                                                                                                                                              Jake's is a great burger chain in Delaware with great milkshakes and tasty, fresh burgers. A little less heavy than 5 Guys.

                                                                                                                                              1. In South Carolina there is a local fast food chain called Rush's that has really great fried chicken, burgers, and vanilla shakes.

                                                                                                                                                For non-fast food, Cheesecake Factory is one of the most consistently good chains I've ever visited. I've never ordered anything that wasn't reallly delicious, and the variety is astounding.

                                                                                                                                                1. New Mexico: Blake's Lottaburger
                                                                                                                                                  New Jersey: Checker's Burgers and 5 Guys.
                                                                                                                                                  Maine: Pat's Pizza
                                                                                                                                                  Allentown Pa.: Yacco's Hot dogs.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                    Ooh, burgers with Hatch chiles. Count me in!

                                                                                                                                                  2. Mighty Taco is a Western New York regional chain. A step up from Taco Bell, but not as good as Chipotle.

                                                                                                                                                    1. In New England, D'angelos -- still my favorite steak and cheese.

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mnadel

                                                                                                                                                        I miss D'angelos! I also went for their tuna salad in a pita.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: krisrishere

                                                                                                                                                          I miss D'angelo''s too...and their companion store, Steve's Ice Cream.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                            Yes! How could I forget about Steve's! So good.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Living in Knoxville, TN now...but I grew up in Lansing. My great uncle was the butcher supplying meat to Kewpee Burger. That was the best burger!! and I don't even know if they are still in existance since Uncle died in the late 60's. They had a "olive sauce" they put on the burger that was out of this world. Greasy....yummy and top it off with onion rings and a shake. Good eating. http://kewpees.com/menu08.pdf

                                                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                                                        kewpee
                                                                                                                                                        Lansing, MI, Lansing, MI

                                                                                                                                                        1. There are NO regional fast-food chains in New England (except maybe Duchess, which I really wish would expand), and I've never been able to figure out why that is.

                                                                                                                                                          Redstone

                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Redstone

                                                                                                                                                            Del's Frozen Lemonade in RI is a great summer treat.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Redstone

                                                                                                                                                              I think the closest thing NE has is Dunkin Donuts. Yeah they're more "all of the East Coast" but i have never seen SUCH FREAKIN' DONUT DENSITY than New England in my life.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Redstone

                                                                                                                                                                I think Kelly's Roast Beef might qualify as a mini-chain at least in the Boston area. The original location on Revere Beach has now expanded into 5 locations from north shore to metrowest.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                                                                                                  It's not a chain, although I wish it was - Harrison's Roast Beef in Andover. Yum.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Here in Southern VA we have Pollard's Chicken and Chick-Fil-A. Both fantastic chicken places.

                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: krisrishere

                                                                                                                                                                  Chick-fil-a started in Atlanta, grew to be Southern-regional, but is now pretty much a national chain. They aren't as big as McD's, and I don't think they're in every state (may be wrong though). They've done pretty good business with airports and cafeterias, which has helped the growth I'm sure.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                                                                                    Chick what? Yankees are not big chicken eaters.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                      Reminds me...a friend of mine who neither understands nor likes the French language either mistakenly or deliberately pronounces this food outlet's name as "Chick Fill-Uh" rather than "Chick Fee-lay".

                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not even going to go into it with him. :D

                                                                                                                                                                2. Newly opened Freddy's Custard and Steakburgers has come to TX in Euless, a suburb between Dallas and Ft. Worth. Similar in style to Steak n Shake with the paper thin burger, although Freddy's doesn't seem to have the same "grease" factor as SnS. Went for the first time today, got the single combo with a shake - 7.50. It was ok, but doubt I'll be a regular.

                                                                                                                                                                  They're very generous w/2 slices of tomato and an entire slab of onion. The burger was tasty, but salty. The patty had been smashed out such that it hung over the edges of the bun. Shoestring fries were mounded into the basket. The "shake" was a glass of soft-serve ice-cream (custard?) - much too thick for a straw and certainly nothing special for CUSTARD to be part of their name.

                                                                                                                                                                  On a recent drive to Ft. Worth, I also noticed a Krystal's just off 121 - I believe it was at the Beach St. exit. I haven't seen/had one of those since living outside of NOLA - too long ago to remember.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Firehouse Subs - I know they are in a few states but not everywhere. Awesome subs!

                                                                                                                                                                    Fatburger - I've only ever seen this in California

                                                                                                                                                                    James Coney Island- Chili dogs, chili burgers etc. in Texas.

                                                                                                                                                                    And my favorite:

                                                                                                                                                                    Oporto - Only in Australia, but my favorite chain restaurant of all time. I lived there for a year and with all the amazing food I couldn't help but hit this place up constantly. I have heard they are trying to break into the US. Remember the name!!!

                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jensvp

                                                                                                                                                                      Fatburger has locations in 12 states, all the way across the continental US with a location 10 minutes from my house in Jersey

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: roro1831

                                                                                                                                                                        I tried the local Fatburger for the first time today. Very nice quality ingredients, but $3 for a tiny, tiny burger about the size of the 99 cent Wendy's Double Stack. All in all, I'd have to say not worth the money.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: jensvp

                                                                                                                                                                        Your OPorto mention made me think of New Zealand based chain (but also in Oz) Burger Fuel (http://www.burgerfuel.com/flash.html) and it's competitor chain Burger Wisconsin (http://www.burgerwisconsin.co.nz/) which I loved when I went to Auckland on business. They're both into "wholesome"/fresh ingredients. Mmmmm burger.

                                                                                                                                                                        Another Kiwi chain is Hell Pizza https://hellpizza.co.nz/

                                                                                                                                                                        It's not regional but I found it interesting that the DENNYS in Auckland was not like any other Dennys I've een to. It *looked* the same (kitsch faux retro diner) but the menu was completely different! Lots of pan-asian dishes ad sauces and such.

                                                                                                                                                                      3. Me 'N' Ed's Pizza in Central California. It's my all time favorite (and I live in NYC now!). I think it's because I have so many childhood memories of going there after little league games and seeing the Ye Olde John and Ye Olde Jane signs - they still crack me up! Oh, and the pepperoni and black olive pie is not to be beat!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Buffalo's Ted's (hotdogs), Mighty Taco (duh) and Andersen's (custard and bbq beef). I try to eat at all of them when I visit.

                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                                            Ted's didn't impress us but we both like to hit a Mighty Taco if we're in a FF mode.

                                                                                                                                                                            DT

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                              Whoa; you didn't like Teds but you like Mighty Taco? As much as I love Mighty it's really just a slightly better Taco Bell.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                                It's not so much that I didn't like it. It's just didn't impress me. I've stopped at places for hot dogs and have enjoyed them much more. I'm not trying to imply that it's bad. Just not great IMHO.

                                                                                                                                                                                We don't really have anything like MT other than Taco Bell. MT beats that handily.

                                                                                                                                                                                DT

                                                                                                                                                                            2. How many makes a chain? More than 2?
                                                                                                                                                                              In the Bay Area we have a few for pizza; Pizza Antica, Tomatina, Zachary's. I love piadine sandwiches and garlic rolls at Tomatina and when Armadillo Willy's (mentioned elsewhere here) meat is fresh, their bbq is great. For hot dogs, Top Dog, preferably the one on Durant or behind that, Center Street. Chow is very good although I have only eaten at the one in Lafayette. Cam Hung for bahn mi sandwiches, Thai King of Noodles red curry and roast duck rice plate.

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. Red Robin has finally made it to Knoxville. Should be open in a month or so. Just a matter of time.....

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. The small places I love:

                                                                                                                                                                                  Golden Krust: In the Bronx I grew up on their meat-filled slices of pastry heaven. The business has grown over the years but still my favorite. Not the typical mud that fills other Jamaican patties, especially that filth sold at pizza joints.

                                                                                                                                                                                  El Pollo Rico: In Arlington, VA and Wheaton, MD this place rocks the house. Dirt cheap Peruvian chicken that's better than the hundred-plus imitators.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Sonic: Maybe its all over the place but I can't find it every where. Burger are eh... but man a shake or icee on the right day hits the spot!

                                                                                                                                                                                  Murrays's Wings and Ribs: In Central Florida this was the place that would make your nostrals run sitting in your car at the stop light in front of the store. Perfect crispy wings not too big not too little and none of that orange crap from Hooters. With ribs that melt off the bone on a windy day!

                                                                                                                                                                                  Cozy's Soup and Burger: couple NY stores with mammoth nasty burgers. What I miss is the split pea soup and key lime pie . Perfect Winter/Summer pairings

                                                                                                                                                                                  Already Mentioned:
                                                                                                                                                                                  Papayas
                                                                                                                                                                                  Steak and Shake
                                                                                                                                                                                  White Castle

                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bumpthekoala

                                                                                                                                                                                    Sonic is finally coming to NY! Kingston, which is about 40 minutes north of me. Apparently it should be open any day now. And I heard that one will be opening in my town, Wappingers Falls, in July, which would be amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Solstice444

                                                                                                                                                                                      There's one opening in Peabody MA in August, and a local blog provided a link to a story in a business journal that said the franchisees plan to open up to 15 stores in the Boston metro area in the next few years.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                                                                                        Will they have car hops in winter in Boston as they do out west? A frigid thought.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Miami Subs, of course a Florida-based chain. I first encountered them in Boca Raton while on business, and was elated when they opened an outpost in Lower Manhattan opposite the WTC. Of course it's been gone since 2001, but there are two here in NJ:

                                                                                                                                                                                    **Newark Int'l. Airport, Terminal C
                                                                                                                                                                                    **Route 18 South, East Brunswick, NJ

                                                                                                                                                                                    Their gyros will never hold a candle to those in a genuine gyro establishment, but they're still pretty good. Of course they have a full range sub menu aside from gyros... :) As I recall, their fries were good, also.

                                                                                                                                                                                    AFAIK, they're still nowhere near having a national presence.

                                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                                                                                                      I/m sorry but Miami Subs may be the wost dining experience in memory. We got into Nork late and it was the only place open besides Lugar's. Two bad gyros and 2 buds $27. Lugar's would have bee better food value.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Peter Lugae's

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't know what they're charging for a gyro pita (not the platter) at the Airport location, but I can only assume the Buds were a significant part of the bill. I can't recall paying much more than $5-6 for the gyro.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Peter Luger is at Newark Airport?!?!?

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                                                                                                          I think so or another famous NY steak house. Jet Lag.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                            Whoa! After you posted "Jet Lag" I checked. Gallagher's Steakhouse is in Terminal C! I may just have to be sure my next homebound flight is Continental, and gets in around dinnertime. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, Gallagher's. Considering the prices of junk food, not a bad deal at all.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Do you know how hard it is to get connecting flights to Bangor, Maine?

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Not exactly fast food but Dreamland in northern Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee is great.
                                                                                                                                                                                      http://davwudsfoodcourt.blogspot.com/...

                                                                                                                                                                                      As was mentioned above, the chili parlours of Cincinnati.
                                                                                                                                                                                      http://davwudsfoodcourt.blogspot.com/...

                                                                                                                                                                                      More like fine dining but we really very much enjoyed Puleo's in Knoxville.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DT

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. stuf yer face and roli boli are very good places that i think are only in nj. they havent held on strong though but they are very good to check out. i think roli bolis only location is closed down and stuf yer face closed by me however they have a few locations still open. fuddruckers isnt so small but they are great as well however the one by me closed down.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. It isn't quite fast food, but I thought I'd throw in Babe's since they cook up some awesome fried chicken. In 1993, they opened the first Babe's in Roanoke, Texas (between Dallas and Ft Worth, near the Texas Motor Speedway), near where I used to live. Now they have eight locations, generally on the north side of Dallas and around Ft Worth. Really good home cooking style of food. http://www.babeschicken.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. In Upstate SC you can get the most awesome hot dogs at Skin's. When my family moved to the area when I was 7, it was the first place our new neighbors too us to.

                                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.skinshotdogs.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Dibella's subs( Western NY, one in Ann Arbor, MI, one in Solon, OH, a few in PA). I tried a sub the other day( in Buffalo) after only having Wegman's subs. Much better sub at Dibella's. The bread was better and the turkey was of a much higher quality that Wegman's "wafer turkey".

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I'll put in another vote for Culvers. They've expanded a bit over the years, but are still mostly in the Midwest (with a few spread out in the south for those snowbirds!). Tasty butter burgers, fish sandwiches, etc, along with authentic WI frozen custard and cheese curds. I love me some Culvers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Not burgers, but Cousins is also a good one. They're all over the place in the Western Great Lakes states.