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Best CANADIAN chain finds?>

Unfortunetly, we are deprived of the TGIFridays, and the Applebees etc... any one have any good suggestions/picks for Cdn chains?

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  1. I like Lonestar. Not great but far from bad.

    Mostly the answer is no.


    1. I like Lonestar as well for fajitas, and Dunn's is pretty good for smoked meat. I've heard that Milestone's is decent, but I've never eaten there.

      If you open the question up to local chains, then there's probably more possibilities. Here in Ottawa I like Bridgehead coffee shops, for example.

      8 Replies
      1. re: PaulV

        Or Chicken Delight, which is (randomly) in Manitoba and New Jersey.

        1. re: PaulV

          I really like Milestones. We ended up there last Valentines Day and I was very pleasantly surprise. Perhaps because I wasn't expecting much.


          1. re: Davwud

            yah when I went I had a nice prime rib dinner. Not the best prime rib, but pretty good and they had a nice bread pudding to go with it. What was realllly good there was the salsa trio with handmade chips. You get three delicious salsas, one avocado, one corn and one tomato. I wanted to eat it forever

            1. re: hungryabbey

              They have an appetizer platter that puts those salsas with a roasted head of garlic and some goat cheese that I really like. I also really like their corn and potato chowder.

              Hands down, though, my favourite thing at Milestones is the french toast with spicy pecans and ham and cream cheese and various other good things that's on their brunch menu.

              On the other hand, they tend to hire perky 19 year olds to wait tables, so the service seems to suck at most locations, especially at dinner.

              1. re: Jacquilynne

                I like that french toast too. Also their Joe's special-type egg fry-up with spinach is decent.

          2. re: PaulV

            I like Milestone's for brunch, they have some somewhat interesting items. But they bug me in that they are supposed to specialize in all these fruity drink concoctions, but they apparently don't train the bartenders to make them properly - they are very hit and miss taste-wise, or just plain wrong, or put in the wrong kind of glass.

            1. re: julesrules

              After reading all these positive thoughts on Milestone's, I reluctantly yet hopefully returned there on yet another date (are all single GTA men trained to take women to Milestone's?) to discover the frozen bellini is indeed served in a martini glass, surrounded by non-frozen pink liquid, and topped with a tiny plastic donkey; and the wild salmon - promised to be medium-rare - is so well-done it's dried out making it very difficult to consume along with the accompanying sticky mound of "fragrant jasmine rice" and pot of garlic spread (a.k.a. aioli with preserved lemon). Eeek. It was very difficult to stick to my first-date rule of not sending food back or complaining to the server for any reason but I managed to hold my tongue, silently vowing to vent on CH.

              1. re: Food Tourist

                Yeah... last time I went they had removed the best item from the brunch menu (apple french toast with spicy glazed pecans & ham). And the item I ordered, a prime rib hash, was "seasoned' with large amounts of ketchup. I'd still rather eat there than Golden Griddle, but that's not saying much!

            1. We've had Applebee's in Winnipeg for years. I haven't been back since I was confronted with the process cheese quesadilla on my first visit.

              Earls has some good food, if you can look past the bar-crowd clientele.

              Local chains - George's Burgers and Subs are everywhere in Winnipeg and they make the best Fatboy ever.

              1 Reply
              1. re: froddard

                theres applebees all over manitoba, not sure about the rest of canada, but i think i've seen them in sakatchewan too.

              2. Oh, and while the majority of Chowhounddom disagrees with me, I love me some Chez Cora.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I was just going to say Cora.

                  I also like Bridgehead, Pizza Pizza, The Works and Greek on Wheels.

                  1. re: piccola

                    One thing I will NEVER understand is the popularity of pizza pizza in this city (Toronto). Their tomato sauce is the worst thing under the sun. Totally overshadows the rest of the pie. No wonder they came out with the dipping sauce - it's the only way to finish a slice.

                    1. re: spades

                      Maybe the quality varies by franchise - the one in my neighbourhood in Ottawa is pretty good. I like that they do whole wheat crust and have grilled veggie toppings.

                      That said, it is takeout pizza, and it's only good when you crave a slice - not when you want a thin-crust, respect-yoursef-in-the-morning pizza.

                      1. re: spades

                        I totally agree here. I think Pizza Pizza is teh worst of the pizza chains, and yes i too believe its the sauce. Its too sweet or something? and the cheese seems rubbery.

                  2. Second the reply for Milestone's. I also don't mind the Earls /Joey Tomato's franchise, although they are never my first choice. Had a good meal @ Ric's Grill in both Calgary and Kelowna, and The Keg is usually adequate if you're up for a steak.

                    Personally I don't like Applebee's, at least not the one in Calgary. TGIF's I can handle for drinks/appies/desserts but not somewhere I will ever eat dinner at again.

                    1. Hi HungryAbbey. I notice that you seem to be from the Toronto area. There are a number of Applebee's restaurants in the GTA, in suburbia. I "dined" at one once in Mississauga, I believe, and was not impressed.

                      I, too, am a fan of Milestone's. They have some great salads, their babyback ribs are quite good, and their desserts are fabulous. They have a separate seasonal menu, as well, with choices such as grilled wild salmon.

                        1. I should add Eggspectation as a breakfast chain that I like. Also like Cora's.

                          1. I third the vote for Milestones... I've yet to have a bad meal there. The keg is also good, although the menu is slightly confusing. Maybe it's just me.

                            1. Boston Pizza is my favourite Canadian chain.

                              1. Regarding Kelli2006's post, what kind of food does Tim Horton's serve? We met this couple from Texas awhile ago and, they actually have Tim Horton's coffee shipped to them in Texas (though there must be some place they can get it in the US?). They love it.

                                We live in Maine and Tim Horton's commercials are on the TV all the time, but I don't think I've ever actually seen a Tim Horton's restaurant here.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: JenBoes

                                  Tim Horton's is the Dunkin Donuts of Canada.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    I'm pretty sure Tim Horton's is American owned now.

                                    1. re: pescatarian

                                      As I said below, Wendy's and TH merged in 1992 but are in the process of divesting, and it was never majority American-owned. That said, whether owned by Americans or not, it's a Canadian Chain.

                                      Dunkin' Donuts was owned until recently by Pernod Ricard but that didn't make it a French chain.

                                  2. re: JenBoes

                                    Tim's serves (besides doughnuts, of course) sandwiches, muffins, bagels, chili and soup. For what they are, they're pretty good and I believe the food has been a big contributor to their success. Nothing fancy but pretty good value for the money.

                                    They do have locations in the U.S. but I don't know where they would ship coffee from. Here in Canada you can get their coffee in the grocery stores.

                                    They do have a bunch of stores in Maine. Check out the following link:

                                    1. re: PaulV

                                      A couple of years ago I tried their Chicken club that came in a baguette. They were really pushing this sandwich so since I was in the mood for baking late @ night I said why not. Their bacon was pathetic. It crumbled into bacon bits. Such false advertising... I showed them my half-eaten sandwich & asked them why it was so tough and crunchy & they actaully said it's s'pose to be like that!?
                                      I was also fooled for the 2nd time when I tried their yougurt with granola (strawberry flavour) ugh it is sound unlike Mcdonald's parfait. TIm Horton's copycat version tastes to artificial.

                                      1. re: PaulV

                                        I can't believe no one has mentionned the Ice Cap (iced cappucino shake thing). Just as good as much more expensive versions like Starbucks or Second Cup. And I want to like indie versions better, but I don't! I always come back to the Ice Cap. Cheap, and the small is truly small.
                                        Other than that - Tim's only looks good compared to other chains! Does not tend to attract crack dealers. Has actual cheese instead of processed. Um. That's about all I can say nice about it. I do like the french crullers - when they're fresh.

                                        1. re: PaulV

                                          I used to live in Buffalo and we had Tim Hortons every where! Yumm, I miss it now,....

                                        2. re: JenBoes

                                          Don't know where you are in Maine, but I have a friend in Portland, and there's at least two Tim's in that city.

                                        3. I visited my first Tim Horton's while in Ontario this summer. Great selection of donuts and good coffee. I thought it interesting that the cup sizes were so small. The "small" is about the size of a dixie cup. So different from the US.

                                          1. is harvey's still around. many 1:30am stops for a build-it-your-way burger after the bars in windsor on the way back to detroit when i was 19-20 years old (lower drinking age).

                                            tim hortons has a full blown menu in their stores. had a decent chicken salad sandwich once.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: xman887

                                              WE love our Harveys: not only can u choose your toppings, u can also customize your combo (fries/onion rings/salad or soup). I've had apple pies in every fast food chain here and in the USA. Harvey's hasn't changed their recipe--I know it's the healthy to fry em but they just taste soooo Good!

                                            2. You're not missing anythig w/TGIF and especially Applebee's. When I'm in Canada I always visit The Keg and the Boat House.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                                No i know im not really missing much haha I have been to Bob Evans once and meh, it was okay. Ive also been to Dennys once for a big greasy breakfast. I guess the good things about these places you guys have is its cheap.

                                              2. Mary Brown's Famous Chicken and Taters.

                                                I like it much better than Popeyes which is my second-fave chain take-out fried chicken. If there was one anywhere in downtown Toronto, I'd be in trouble. As it is there are several in the outer reaches of the GTA. http://www.marybrowns.com/storefinder...

                                                Mamma's Pizza in Toronto is really good Pizza. Best of the chains (I like it better than Pizza Nova -- but, I know that'll draw some ire). Now 23 locations!! It grows so fast.

                                                I like Swiss Chalet too. I like their chicken and I like their ribs. I also quite like their fries. The family pack (whole chicken, 4 sides, buns, dip) is reasonably priced at just about $20.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                  It has been soooo long since Ive seen a mary browns. When I was young there used to be one in Oshawa, dont know if there still is. but yah, in terms of chains, Im a usual with swiss chalet, probably have it at least once a week b/c they are one of the only places that deliver. Plus, Im OBSESSED with that damn dip.

                                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                                    Did you know that sauce only has 35 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving! Heck, that's low enough to make you less self-conscious about using so much.

                                                    Oh, and Mary Brown's webpage says there are 3 in Oshawa. I bet one of them is the one you used to go to.

                                                    1. re: hungryabbey

                                                      Oh there still are some in Oshawa, and Pickering too.. The best MB is the one near the OC. :) There's also Chicken Barn, which used to be a MB. But I dont like them now 'coz they jipped me once!

                                                  2. I believe Tim Horton's is owned by Dunkin Donuts, (or the otherway around, more likely both are owned by some European uber-company), so perhaps in the US their product is the same, but I've only had it in Canada and have been consistently disappointed.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sailormouth

                                                      They are separate companies with separate menus and separate products. Any similarities most likely stem from market-leader imitation (on both sides).

                                                      Tim Horton's merged with Wendy's in 1992 but they are in the process of divesting. They had an IPO last year and Wendy's interest in the company should be gone by the end of this year.

                                                      Dunkin' Donuts, Togo's and Baskin Robbins were owned by Allied Domecq, which was purchased by Pernod Ricard S.A., but then the three brands were sold to a group of private investors this year.

                                                    2. Until recently, Tim Horton's was owned by Wendy's, but Wendy's sold so they can focus on their core business. I'm not sure who now has control of Tim H.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: marciab

                                                        All of the stock Wendy's held in Tim Hortons was divested to shareholders of Wendy's, 1.35 for 1. So right now, technically, TH is an independent Canadian retailer directed by Canadian nationals.

                                                      2. Is their any Canadian pizza chain, that makes great pizza(regional or national)? Or at least a very good pizza. Here in Quebec(Montreal specifically), many of the chains don't even come here.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: BLM

                                                          Has Boston Pizza come to Montreal yet? It only arrived in Ottawa relatively recently. I can't think of any chains that serve "great" pizza, especially compared to local alternatives, but Boston Pizza is probably my favourite of the chains.

                                                          1. re: PaulV

                                                            yes Boston Pizza is mostly in the burbs... I've been to the one in Lasalle (Where the Canadian Tire & Wal-Mart is) right by the Angringon Mall. THere's also one on Taschereau W. and in Laval. Their Pizza is one size I think...All I remember is that it cost $14 I don't think it's worth it for that portion. I ordered the chicken quesadilla & a smoothie~~ it was alright. I went in the middle of the afternoon so it wasn't really packed. The sports bar was empty but it looked cool. They open until 2a.m so perhaps there's a market for that as opose to Kelsey's or Caseys. Maybe if I get the munchies late @ night, i'll try their desserts and some snackin' food. Oh btw they accept air miles & there is a BP's coupon in that Air Miles booklet I picked up @ Jean Coutu.

                                                            1. re: Yummy Stuff

                                                              Speaking of Boston Pizza, there is also one in Lachenaie, just east of Monteral, right off the 40. Young adults love it there...I did like it the one time I went.

                                                          2. re: BLM

                                                            I enjoy Panago and Papa John's, mostly because I like the yeasty crust, (relatively) unique toppings, and lower grease factor. I find that the pizza is a nice departure from the Pizza Hut/Boston Pizza style which features a lot of grease and that thicker, harder crust.

                                                            That said, I'm not terribly picky when it comes to pizza. I'll even eat the greasy cardboard triangles from one of my school's cafeterias.

                                                            1. White Spot and Cactus Club in Vancouver. Pickle Barrel in Greater Toronto.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: sherry f

                                                                yah pickle barrel isnt bad. they have matzo ball soup which i LOVE

                                                              2. Chez Ashton's poutine. don't bother getting poutine anywhere else

                                                                1. Hey abbey, you aren't looking very hard.

                                                                  We aren't deprived of TGI Fridays OR Applebees. They are certainly around. The TGI Friday's in Niagara Falls ON served us the worst meal of our entire lives -- truly memorable. I think there's one near the airport. I've got about $80 worth of free coupons for their Niagara place (their compensation to us) if you are seriously masochistic.

                                                                  There are several Applebees around the GTA and beyond. You aren't missing anything. We are also blessed with Hard Rock, Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood (if any non-bankrupt locations still exist), Perkins, HoJo's, Denny's, McD's, Burger King, Popeyes (I actually like Popeyes a lot), Outback, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Domino's, Pizza Hut, Wendys, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Arby's, Houston's, Subway, Quiznos, Taco Bell...that's all I can think of offhand, but there are many more.

                                                                  Good Canadian chains? Not many. Milestones and the Keg aren't bad. I like Swiss Chalet's original chicken - at least when it's fresh - and fries. (This does not include Swiss Chalet Express, where the chicken is different and the fries are frozen.)

                                                                  Tim's is MUCH better than anything comparable in the States (if anything there actually IS comparable). The Wendy's adventure wrecked their donuts (no longer fresh), but their other food is decent grub given the price. I don't go in TO, but they can be a lifesaver in the wilds.

                                                                  Mamma's Pizza is great when it's fresh. Even PizzaPizza is much better than any US equivalent.

                                                                  Tucker's was OK ten years ago, though I haven't been to one since.

                                                                  Pickle Barrel is a bust as a Jewish deli, but decent as a "family restaurant". However, all their locations are in Toronto, so why would one bother?

                                                                  Eggspectation surprised me. I've enjoyed a couple of meals at the Eaton Centre, but Canadian chains that are expanding in the States and (would you believe) India tend to fail, and that's what Eggspectation is doing. Chez Cora is an experience, if not exactly a source of a chowish brunch. Golden Griddle isn't bad (though it's a sad parody of the original Eglinton location of 30+ years ago).

                                                                  Pat & Marios serves OK, if bland, food when there's nothing else around. Casey's had great burgers before the food police demanded overcooking, and so did Licks. They're still OK if you like burgers cooked to death.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                    where is there an Olive Garden? I thought they all closed down, when I was little I used to LOVE it ahah though Im sure i'd find it pretty mediocre now. I also kind of figured that about those kinda Applebees chains, however, whenever driving through the states and I stop at some big American chain, it always feel cozy and i dont know, friendly I guess. ahah sometimes you just need a good old family (even if it is crappy) dinner to bring back memories from your childhood.

                                                                    1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                      There aren't any left in Toronto, and a search for Ontario locations returns locations in NY, but they definitely do still have some locations in Canada.

                                                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                        There is an Olive Garden in Victoria BC. I'm not sure if it is part of a chain though.

                                                                    2. The biggest Exclusively-Canadian chain I've heard of is Earl's. I've never tried it. Anyone? Any good foodwise? Someone before mentioned that it's bar-like.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: J T

                                                                        It's gotten worse recently IMHO since they hired Michael Noble as executive chef. But their pizzas are good.

                                                                        I wouldn't say it's bar-like, but most of them do have a large lounge section that can get rather rowdy.

                                                                        1. re: J T

                                                                          Earl's certainly looks nice now (used to have a Tex-Mex, casual, Chili's vibe), but the food is hit-and-miss. I tried their Chicken and Brie (with fig sauce) Ciabatta sandwich the other day and I was pleasantly surprised. I agree with Shazam, though. Earl's can get a bit bar-like, which is especially strange at its suburban, yuppie-rich locations.

                                                                          What about Joeys? (Used to be Joey Tomato's.) Like Earl's, Joeys has remodeled itself into a faux-swanky resto. All I remember about the food is that it is remarkably unremarkable.

                                                                          1. re: aktivistin

                                                                            It's still remarkably unremarkable. I don't know what it is these days, but I'm finding Canadian chains are really struggling with offering creative main dishes.

                                                                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                                Earl's has locations in Western Canada and in Arizona and Colorado in the U.S. You can find their locations at their website: http://www.earls.ca/

                                                                                Although the food is only so-so and the service spotty, Earl's is a popular "no one can decided where to go" choice among my friends, along with the revamped Moxie's.

                                                                                1. re: aktivistin

                                                                                  Yah ive never been to a Moxies, though Ive seen them and been told by my "less adventurous eating" friends that its their favourite chain

                                                                                  1. re: aktivistin

                                                                                    I loathe Moxie's, but I ate at Earl's twice while I was on the left coast for the holidays and was actually pretty impressed. The desserts were tasty, well presented and astonishingly large for the price.

                                                                                    Even the mains were all pretty decent, though they have the obligatory faux-Asian noodle bowls that are, well, bleh.

                                                                                    It's certainly not inpsired, but unlike, say, Moxie's, at least it's mostly well executed.

                                                                            1. Jugo Juice- Calgary-based answer to Jamba Juice in the US. Their grilled paninis are very good too. www.jugojuice.com

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                                                I'd like to throw in my vote for Booster Juice. It's like Jugo Juice, only "lower falutin'." www.boosterjuice.com

                                                                                1. re: aktivistin

                                                                                  You know, the one and only time I've been in a Booster Juice was in Montréal, the one in rue Sherbrooke. I went in on a frigid winter's day to get fresh-squeezed OJ to go with the "breakfast picnic" I prepared for my travelmates (tartines, croissants, butter, jam, café au lait, and OJ), and got the rudest service ever... didn't fill up the cups, gave me a lot of crap about it when I complained, and then said something rude in French (which I countered with a French exhortation to do something anatomically improbable).

                                                                                  I'd no idea it was a chain until you mentioned it, or I'd have written a letter to Corporate.

                                                                                  I do hope that was a one-time thing... I'd hate to think of a Canadian chain exhibiting such behaviour.

                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                    That's a sincere shame. I haven't had any customer service issues at the Booster Juice locations here in Western Canada. Then, again, the service isn't particularly outstanding but not horrid like your experience was.

                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                      I dont think Ive ever had a problem with Booster JUice. I used to go to the same location every morning for my booster juice fix (yes, I got addicted), and they would always have our orders ready for us, and were so nice

                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                        Thats sad, I love Booster Juice, and i've always had really good service! I used to go there a few times a week for my mango hurricane fix... yum!

                                                                                  2. I like Tim Horton's hot chocolate and hot coffee. I wish we had a Tim Horton's nearby. Instead we have at least 7 Dunkin Donut's locations in my hometown. Whenever I'm on vacation in Maine I always stop at Tim Horton's.

                                                                                    1. Don't forget about St. Hubert - Quebec's answer to Swiss Chalet. We used to have them here in Ontario & then they decided to close them down. I always wondered why they did that. Their chicken was WAY better than Swiss Chalet's.

                                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: GuyNamedBen

                                                                                        I have to disagree - Swiss Chalet is much better than St. Hubert. When we first moved to Toronto from Montreal 10 years ago, we ordered in from St. Hubert, assuming it just had to be the better option. Nope. The fries were frozen (a no-no when accompanying Quebec-style barbecued chicken and sauce), and chicken on the skimpy side. We gave it a couple more tries over the years, and then gave up on St. Hubert.

                                                                                        My favourite is still Cote St-Luc Bar-b-que on Cote St-Luc Road in Montreal. As a kid growing up in Montreal, it was Chalet on Sherbrooke and Girouard. And Laurier for a special treat.

                                                                                        1. re: FlavoursGal

                                                                                          You should've tried SC 20 years ago. Since Cara took it over it's become rather ordinary.


                                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                                            Yes, but they still marinate it in crack, so it's totally addictive. The sides are terrible (except the baked potatoes, which they manage not to ruin) and the sauce is terrible and the desserts are terrible. But I eat Swiss Chalet twice a month anyway, because I love the extra salty evilness of that chicken.

                                                                                            1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                              Best frech fries of any chain too. They have that softness with a little bit of crispyness that all good imitations of british style chips should.

                                                                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                I'm not sure you can use British-style chips as a benchmark for good fries when you have chains like Frite Alors! producing good Belgian-style frites.

                                                                                          2. re: FlavoursGal

                                                                                            Chalet BBQ in the sixties was actually Montreal's Swiss Chalet outpost (albeit by a slightly different name) as I recall. My favourite was the Chateau, more-or-less across the street from the Chalet in NDG. I wonder whether they are still around...

                                                                                            1. re: embee

                                                                                              nope, they're long gone, at least 15 years ago... there is a McDonald's there now. I have trouble believing that chalet BBQ had anything to do with swiss chalet.

                                                                                              1. re: C70

                                                                                                During the late sixties, the Chalet identified itself as having an association with Swiss Chalet.

                                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                                  You're right embee, Chalet BBQ in Montreal did have a connection with Swiss Chalet. Just did some checking. While the first Swiss Chalet opened in the year of 1954 in Toronto at 234 Bloor Street West(opposite Varsity Stadium), it was opened by the people that ran Chalet BBQ in Montreal. The "grand opening" ad is available from the Swiss Chalet website. To my knowledge, Chalet BBQ in Montreal opened in 1944. Not sure if they're anymore Swiss Chalet restaurants in Montreal(last saw them around 2 years ago in Montreal). The secret to the great Chalet BBQ chicken in Montreal is that they have a charcoal burning rottiserie oven(Cote St-Luc BBQ on CSL road also has on). The only marinade Chalet BBQ uses for their chicken is salt(the current Chalet BBQ owner was recently on Montreal television, & said this).

                                                                                                  1. re: BLM

                                                                                                    interesting, BLM. there are no more swiss chalets in QC according to the site.

                                                                                                    I lived near sherbrooke and decarie a few years ago and you could smell them stoking the fire around 8 am everyday. mmm mmm!

                                                                                                    1. re: C70

                                                                                                      C70 what could complicate the situation in Quebec, is that I've seen in recent past, some Harveys outlets have a dedicated mini-Swiss Chalet section to their restaurant(with a Swiss Chalet menu posted on top, & a oven to cook their rottiserie chicken). Not sure if they're anymore mini-Swiss Chalet outlets at Harveys locations in Montreal.

                                                                                                      1. re: BLM

                                                                                                        The combo places in Toronto, and the Swiss Chalet Express places, are completely different from the regular Swiss Chalet stores, though I don't know whether CARA admits this openly.

                                                                                                        Swiss Chalet chickens as of about a year ago had a smoky taste. I don't know whether this is from charcoal in the cooker, from a slathering of bacon grease (which someone who once worked there claimed), or from a liquid smoke additive. Their fries were from fresh potatoes. Both chicken and fries could be very good when fresh, but some locations seemed to make more than they could sell and then serve everything dried out. I did notice that the reduced their portion sizes while increasing the prices and I'm now more likely to go to a Greek place in Toronto, Zorbas, where the chicken is both better and cheaper.

                                                                                                        The combo and Express places serve chicken with no smoky taste and use frozen fries.

                                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                                          I find various SC locations differ greatly in quality. The one near my house is ok, but there's one a little further away that's MUCH better.

                                                                                                          The one on Macleod Trail in Calgary is notorious for having the absolute worst service in town for any restaurant. It was so bad that the resident food critic here actually reviewed it and was shocked at the attitude of the wait staff. Cara found out about the review and "cleaned house" there apparently.

                                                                                        2. I visit Canada a few times a year and I am definately in the Swiss Chalet over St Hubert court. And as someone with celiac disease, I appreciate how attentive to food senstivities Swiss Chalet is- St Hubert is not...

                                                                                          1. Dunno if it's technically Canadian, but one I like that we don't have in the US is Nando's Chicken. If you order your Piri-Piri chicken with the spiciest sauce, you've got something!

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Gary Soup

                                                                                              We're lucky enough to have a Nando's near us in Richmond Hill, and we really like their chicken (and those great buns!). We bought a bottle of Piri-piri sauce to keep at home; it'll lively up your taste buds!

                                                                                              1. re: Gary Soup

                                                                                                I'm pretty sure that Nando's is based out of southern California.

                                                                                                Edit: well, that's where the sauce packets are produced. Evidently it started in South Africa.

                                                                                              2. Im not sure if its just canadian, but I love cultures. Their frozen yogurt and smoothies are sooo tasty and addictive. although some locations, usually the ones with only vanilla yogurt, have rancid tasting yogurt. so dont say I didnt warn you. One locations tasted so bad my bf said it tasted like beer (fermented!) but we ate it anyways. We love beer.

                                                                                                God what I would do for one right now. And I had one like three hours ago. Worse than crack.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: cupcakez

                                                                                                  Perhaps someone else out there knows for sure, but it seems (at least here in Toronto) that Cultures may no longer exist as a chain. At one time there were many around the city (franchised by, I believe, the long defunct Steinberg's supermarkets), all with the same menu, though service and attitude differed greatly from one location to another.

                                                                                                  The outlet at Fairview mall closed around a year ago, and the only other Cultures I've seen lately is at College Park. They still have tasty smoothies, but the sugar content seems drastically higher than in the past. I used to be addicted to these drinks, but finishing one now leaves me in sugar shock. Although some of the signature salads remain, much that is available seems very unappetizing. It has "Asian mom-and-pop" written all over it and I'll be surprised to see them around when their current lease expires.

                                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                                    They still have one in Eatons center and in Sherway Gardens in toronto.. but I too have suspicions that they may not be a chain anymore. I used to know a woman who ran one independantly.. its wierd about the frozen yogurt though.. bc some cultures (maybe the chain ones??) sell the cultures yogurt, while some sell yogun fruz..

                                                                                                2. i know the eaton center location changed owners around a year ago. that location and the college one seem to be the only ones around here with just the cultures yogurt, where the others have yogen fruz as well, which is not quite as addictive.

                                                                                                  theres a location at younge and bloor, college and univerity, and sherway gardens. they may be one at younge and bloor underground as well, although havent been there in at least a year or two (around the holt renfrew center i believe). i agree the salads are not appetizing for the most part.

                                                                                                  we need new frozen yogurt in the city. i may suffer from withdrawl if cultures closes.

                                                                                                  1. I'm not sure if it's a chain, but everyone in durham region (Near Toronto) knows that Star (Starr?) Burger is where it's at. Voted the best fries for so many years in a row, keeping their recipies true over the years. They used to be a little lacking financially, but new rennovations and a larger menu have put them on the map. Some personal favourites are the grilled chicken sandwich, the pork souvlaki, and the classic, the star burger.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: canuck_kid

                                                                                                      It's my understanding that the owners of Star Burger used to own a restaurant in the Harwood Plaza called The Penn Centre. So I don't think it's a chain

                                                                                                    2. i agree with embee that one of my worst meals was at TGI friday's in niagara falls....absolutely, positively awful.
                                                                                                      i am a little surprised that no one (that i noticed) has mentioned montana's. i used to love swiss chalet, but now i rather prefer the 1/4 chicken dinner at montana's, and i really love their apple butter bbq sauce.
                                                                                                      i also went to pickle barrel with a friend a few nights ago for the first time for dinner and i really really enjoyed my meal! (i was pleasantly surprised).
                                                                                                      i also ADORE the ribs and fries at baton rouge.
                                                                                                      as a proud canadian i have to say that the best chain has to be TIM HORTONS!!! (LOL) i really do love it!

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: icey

                                                                                                        Overall, Montana's is good. They do have some heinous menu items though - their salad with chicken is absolutely disgusting.

                                                                                                        And their prices have been skyrocketing here in Calgary, so I haven't gone in ages.

                                                                                                        1. re: icey

                                                                                                          The point where they started adding the various sauces to their chicken is the point I stopped eating at Montana's - they almost invariably burn the sauce, so instead of whatever it's supposed to taste like, you get carbon. I liked their chicken before that for the same 'marinated in crack' addictive reasons I liked Swiss Chalet's.

                                                                                                          1. re: icey

                                                                                                            Lets get something straight here, that TGI Friday's in Niagara Falls is awful. I have been to several other TGI Friday's in other American cities and really enjoyed the food. I too had dinner at the location in Niagara Falls, horrible food and outrageous mark up in prices too; that is what you get for eating touristy Niagara Falls!!!!

                                                                                                            1. re: callitasicit

                                                                                                              TGI Friday's in Niagara Falls served us the worst restaurant meal we have ever eaten, with service to match.

                                                                                                          2. Swiss Chalet
                                                                                                            Tim Hortons
                                                                                                            Mary Browns

                                                                                                            1. Once again I find myself posting something positive about Tim Horton's... sigh.

                                                                                                              On the way to work today I was just really thirsty and maybe also a little hungry, I wasn't too sure. I was also late for work so in a hurry. For once, the Timmy's in my subway stop did not have a huge line-up (they tend to be really incompetent in there). So I stopped and got a bottle of water and an oatmeal cookie.

                                                                                                              For a buck and change.

                                                                                                              The water alone would cost me over $2 at Starbucks - at least the last time I tried to buy water there, they only had large bottles, and nothing to be had for my twoonie. I was pregnant and dying of thirst so they kindly gave me a glass of tap water, but I was still annoyed. Even water has to come super-sized now?

                                                                                                              A cookie at Starbucks or Second Cup? Also over a dollar. Yes it will be bigger, but not necessarily better. And I don't always *need* a big cookie.

                                                                                                              I don't much like their coffee, but it is similarly cheap, and comes in reasonable sizes.

                                                                                                              And a timbit is a great way to remind myself that I don't want a donut.

                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                Living in Canada, especially Markham Ontario, we are robbed of any really good chain restaurants. The only chains I kind of enjoy are Swiss Chalet and Quiznos. I am apalled that some of you like Applebee's as that may be the most horrible restaurant ever!! I wish we had an IHOP, Chillis,Fuddruckers, or Cheesecake Factory here!! Please get rid of the Kelseys, Pizza Pizza, East side Mario's, and Applebee's already!

                                                                                                                1. re: callitasicit

                                                                                                                  I dunno - there's a Pizza Pizza in Ottawa that makes mighty fine pizza (for a chain).

                                                                                                                  In Montreal, I love the bakery chain Première Moisson.

                                                                                                                  1. re: callitasicit

                                                                                                                    I have been to an IHOP in BC, though that was many years ago. Here in western Canada, there are also a few Chili's around.

                                                                                                                  2. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                    What's wrong with posting something positive about TH??


                                                                                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                      The ubiquity of the chain bothers me. I would prefer some variety in the lower-end coffee/donut/sandwich market. I don't think anything there is good enough to justify the hype and hyper-devotion.

                                                                                                                      But yeah, I have to concede they have some good points. I had a new item, the cream cheese danish, the other day and I have to admit I enjoyed it. And I am looking forward to ice cap season! They really do make most other iced coffee options look overpriced.

                                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                        For me, they make the best coffee as far as the "Lower end" coffee joints. I'm a coffee flavoured coffee person so places like Starbucks and Timothy's really don't cut it for me.


                                                                                                                  3. Whats with Coffee Time?? I believe it's a Canadian chain......its on almost every corner in and around my neighborhood. It looks kinda seedy, i've never been in one, but they must be popular since there are so many.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: jen2202

                                                                                                                      Compared with Coffee Time, Tim Horton's is culinary nirvana. Although some Coffee Time franchisees seem to try hard, many I've had to patronize don't try at all. I was recently in one northern Toronto Coffee Time that had actually run out of coffee. They could sell me a tuna sandwich, a bagel, a donut, or pop, and had no idea when they would be getting coffee or more food.

                                                                                                                      Store owners have told me that Coffee Time leases or buys distressed retail spaces. They seem especially fond of abandoned bank branches. They will locate stores too close together and in locations with neither parking nor walk-by traffic. They don't seem to care if their franchisees fail.

                                                                                                                      Tim's seems to choose locations with enough traffic to ensure their success. When they have two outlets a block apart, both will be busy.

                                                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                                                        I live around the corner from a Coffee Time in Richmond Hill (Bayview, s. of Elgin Mills). The new owner tries very hard to keep the place clean and inviting. There's a fair amount of business, so the coffee is always fresh, and they make all their doughnuts on premise, which is a plus in my book. They offer some soup/sandwich options, but truth be told, I've never tried them.

                                                                                                                        However, I have tried their pre-made sandwiches - egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and roast beef. The portions are very generous; I have to be careful that half the sandwich doesn't end up in my lap. The egg salad is tasty; the roast beef requires extra mustard (you have to ask; they don't have packets available), and the chicken salad, while full of big meaty chunks of chicken and celery, seems to missing just a little something, like a slice of tomato. Ditto for the tuna; maybe a little extra mayo in the mix? Still, they all seem to be good quality products at a fair price.

                                                                                                                    2. i show my support for milestones as well. went there last night 'coz we had almost tried all types of chain restaurants nearby. i had gone to a milestones once before and could only remember that food items were quite pricey. that was a few years ago, when i didnt make much money ...

                                                                                                                      and last night, after seeing the menu, i thought .... if the food were good, then ... it's worth the money, at least. i ordered the lamb sirloin with mashed potatoes and spinach, my partner ordered the butter squash ravioli, and for an appy, we had the boconccini with bread with pesto, and everything was soooooooooooooooo yummy!

                                                                                                                      first, the app - it was a very interesting take on bread and cheese. the boconccini was thick but light, along with the roasted peppers and pesto, we were left with a sweet aftertaste in our mouths after devouring everything.

                                                                                                                      then, the lamb - wow. it was a really good portion size, i had to take half of it home! for $19.99, and getting 2 meals out of it, it was not bad at all. and it was cooked perfectly too. the taste was fantabulous. the mash potatoes were soooooo creamy.

                                                                                                                      the ravioli was sooooooooooo good. my partner being a quasi-veggie loved it. there were cashew nuts in it, which contrasted with the soft ravioli itself.. which totally just makes the dish even more interesting than it is.

                                                                                                                      and we just sat at the bar too... our server was one of the bar-tenders, she was so attentive to us at all times. albeit pricey, the portion sizes were good, and the quality of food was very good. so, milestones, for me, is up there ... :)

                                                                                                                      1. Where does A&W originate? And what about Subway and Mr. Sub?? The Second Cup? These are all pretty good.

                                                                                                                        For day to day coffee, i like Tim Hortons....and i do like their breakfast sandwiches..and their cream of broccoli soup.

                                                                                                                        I don't eat meat anymore but mmmmmmmmmm Mary Brown's Taters !!

                                                                                                                        If Montana's is a Canadian only chain...i'd give it a thumbs up...but i have only eaten there about three times...and two of those were the veggie burger....which was by far the best one i've ever had, plus it's huge. They used to do a jalapeno corn bread with maple butter that was mmmm but they stopped making it.

                                                                                                                        Are there Boomerangs everywhere in Canada? I know of two in Atlantic Canada. I like it there too. Boston Pizza gets my vote too. Love Lone Star's chips and salsa and frozen margaritas.

                                                                                                                        I love Extreme Pita as well.

                                                                                                                        Mexicali Rosa's is a chain to my knowledge...and used to be good way way back, but has gone so far downhill lately that i , as well as friends, won't even touch the place. The Keg..is over-rated.....and so is Chez Cora, again in my opinion. I have had maybe only one good meal at a Smitty's location, and that was breakfast....i have had a couple of over the top repulsive meals there.

                                                                                                                        I once had a caesar salad with popcorn shrimp at an Applebees in the states and i have to say it was good junkie type food....after one meal at TGIF's however....i swore off the place...ugh.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                                                          I really like The Keg, one of my favorites in Chains, the service has always been flowing and happy, and they always go out of their way to please.
                                                                                                                          I also like Pasta Tutti Giornis, the one in Lachenaie might be the place to go as the Boss Guys are the best.
                                                                                                                          For breakfast, I like Chez Cora above Fruitti Tutti, and Eggspectation stands on it's own and quite delicious.
                                                                                                                          Other chains I like are Harvey's, I just like their burgers and onion rings, I really love the Tim Horton's ice cap and almost get addicted to them in summer, dislike their coffee and will only have it under duress, but I do like their turkey club. It's a good thing having a Tim Horton's around. Lol.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Richelle

                                                                                                                            Maybe it's because I worked in Kegs for about five years while going through university that I like them so much. But I know for a fact that the roast beef is top notch quality, and it's simply prepared, so it's hard to mess up. And I really enjoy the teriyaki sirloin once or twice a year. Avoid the fancy stuff; stick with a baked potato and maybe the mushrooms, and you have a very tasty meal at about half the price I've paid in US steak houses.

                                                                                                                            1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                              yeah the keg is handsdown the best chain in canada. but ...as you said, only as long as you stick to certain things. i have to say that the tempura peas/asparagus are my weak spot.

                                                                                                                        2. Tim Hortons(Coffee only)
                                                                                                                          Dixie Lee(old school diner)
                                                                                                                          Koryo Korean BBQ
                                                                                                                          and.... . A&W+Harveys rocks wendy's sox!

                                                                                                                          1. So, being from the West coast, I'm shocked that no one has mentioned White Spot. To me, it's the quintessential chain. I guess there aren't any in the East, though.

                                                                                                                            I know that they can be hit and miss, but I think that that is due to the market they operate in, and the fact that they probably can't hold employees. And sometimes the service sucks, but I love their milkshakes, and their triple O sauce is like crack. It's like super-fatty mayonnaise. I just love it.

                                                                                                                            And no one mentioned New York Fries! I absolutely love them! To me, their cajun and Califormia seasoning salts just make the fries. And yes, they are Canadian. Two brothers bought out a kiosk in NYC and started to franchise in Canada.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                              I mentioned the White Spot in another thread, but I wasn't sure they were still around; haven't been to Vancouver in a few years. Totally agree on the Triple O!

                                                                                                                              And, yes, NY Fries are probably the best outside of Quebec. Gee, fresh, not frozen potatoes, hot oil, proper cooking, interesting topping choices - whoda thunk that'd be any good?!