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Any decent chains in New England?

I love trying at least one regional fast food chain (like In-N-Out or Wahoos Fish Tacos in Cali) when I travel. I'm heading to Boston/New England area, but can't seem to find any info on really good fast food chains there. I'd love to find something that specializes in regional food (italian? clam chowder? heck, even a local ice cream chain...). I've been to 99, but I wouldn't call it good... Any thoughts? thanks!

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  1. For seafood, small local chains are Newicks and Weathervane. There are only 3 Newick's but there are Weathervane's throughout New England and New York. I wouldn't call them fast food restaurants though. For ice cream, there aren't any that I know of but you will find that various independents sell a locally made ice cream. We find Round Top sold around mid-coast Maine, I saw Richardson's around Salem MA. I think Moe's Italian Sandwich Shops make my favorite sub. According to their webpage there are locations throughout NH and a couple in Maine. I think they make a great quality sandwich. Vegetables are very thinly sliced so each bite tastes great unlike the typical subs that are top loaded so you get either a mouthful of veggies or a mouthful of meat/cheese. You can also find Moe's in the deli dept of some Shaw's supermarkets but they aren't as good as a freshly made sandwich.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dfrostnh

      Ice cream chains in the Boston area are plentiful and mostly good. Among the best are Toscanini's, Emack & Bolio's, and Herrell's. Another one, J.P. Lick's, is to my mind not as good. Perhaps one can also count Ben & Jerry's among the list, though they may have a wider distribution of ice cream shops (besides of course what they sell in stores).

      1. re: bachslunch

        Can you consider Tosanini's a chain now that the Harvard Square location is gone?

    2. If you are in new england, im not sure about really good chain fast food places, but just stop in any local clam shack type place. They are easy to find in most seaside towns. Order fried clams, a fried shrimp roll, chowder (can be hit or miss) and some steamers (steamed clams)

      1. I'm intrigued by Newicks and Weathervane....thanks, drostnh! Any other small local chains like that with a handful of locations that serve regional specialties that are worth a visit?

        1. I enjoy Weathervane for fried seafood. Freshly breaded and huge tasty portions for cheap. I would not recommend any of the grilled or baked items or anything else for that matter! The Admirals Platter is great though when you want a fried seafood feast.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hargau

            I think they do okay with boiled lobsters, and we've had great steamers there, too. Worst sandwich I've ever eaten in my life is their crab melt, and the lobster roll is bad, too.

          2. Well I don't consider 99 as fast food. But, if you do, some like Naked Fish which is all over the Boston area. I don't care for it much - but to each his own. There is also Famous Daves BBQ out of MN which, for a chain, wasn't too bad. I dont like chains though.

            If you are thinking fast food chains in the normal sense, cant think of much. I think you should look for the area you are in for non-chain fast food places, for which the board should have some info (e.g. Hot Dog places, Clam Shacks, etc.)

            1. I agree with everything said previous about Newick's and Weathervane.
              They have been very good about choosing their locations as well, which has helped keep national chains like Long John Silver's and Red Lobster out of this area, thankfully.

              Another strickly New England regional specialty is a Flo dog, served as Flo's, which now has multiple locations in Kittery (at the Trading Post), Moody,ME (Rt.1), and Main St. in Sanford,ME, as well as the flagship location on Rt. 1 in York.
              A "Flo" dog is a steamed hot dog (they list Old Neighborhood brand) served in a steamed NE flat sided roll, with mayo, celery salt, and Flo's secret relish (sweet and sour)
              Also in the hot dog world is Spike's Junkyard Dogs, which began in RI and has moved to MA.
              All beef hot dogs served in mini baguettes, and grilled chicken sandwiches. Works well with the college crowd especially in several of their locations.

              1. If you're looking for strictly NE chains, I agree with both Weathervane and Newick's as good examples, with a slight preference for Newick's, although it's a "plastic utensils" place.
                Two others that fit the description are Hearth 'n Kettle, which has 7 locations in SE Massachusetts and Cape Cod, and Bickford's/Bickford's Grille which has about 2 dozen MA locations and a few each in RI, CT, VT and NH. Hearth has good chowder and fresh scrod and haddock that are very acceptable (not terrific). Bickford's, which has been known primarily for their all-day breakfast and turkey dinners, has recently starting switching over to Bickford's Grille, which has a more extensive lunch/dinner selection. Their clam chowder is pretty typical and they have fried whole-belly Ipswich clams. While not clam-shack wonderful, it's a typical NE chain family-style restaurant.
                Oh, you mentioned Italian also and the only fast-food Italian "chain" that comes to mind is Bertucci's. It started in MA and is now all over the Northeast. Very good pizza and panini.

                1. When I think of fast-food, I do not think of Bertucci's, Bickfords, or Weathervane...maybe its just me.

                  I think of an operation where you go up to a counter, order some food, pay for it, and then sit down yourself at a table and eat it. I do not think of a restaurant where I go in, get seated, order from a printed menu, get a check, and pay.

                  1. Many moons ago there were fast food chains in New England called Kelly's and Burger Chef (that might have been found elsewhere too). Pretty sure both are long gone.

                    Another local chain was Rax Roast Beef. That might be gone too. Ditto for Ricotti's Subs. (OK, I'm showing my age here).

                    But here's one I know is still around and I would recommend: D'Angelos, which is known for subs and pita bread sandwiches, which they call pokkets. I always get a Number 9 Pokket, which has steak, provolone, mushrooms, peppers, and maybe onions too.

                    Here are two more from Rhode Island that are one or two steps up from fast food: Newport Creamery, which went belly up but I'm pretty sure has survived in some form and has good ice cream, and Chelo's Beef Hearth, which is really good -- get a Rhode Island-style steak sandwich.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bob W

                      For a decent, fast-food NE chain, the only thing that comes to my mind is D'Angelos. They're all over New England and they have decent subs. They're also pretty famous for their lobster rolls. I don't consider them amazing, although they are decent, but my uncle from California always hits up D'Angelos for a lobster roll when he's in town for a visit.

                    2. I'm not really a chain restaurant eater, so I may not be the best person to answer this... But what about Legal Sea Foods?

                      They have extended a bit South (so if you live in, say, Maryland, it may not be that novel), but they are definitely a New England-based chain.

                      (oops - I just realized you were looking for fast food! Sorry about that).

                      1. not exactly a chain, either- but the "new york system" hot wiener can be quite the experience in Rhode Island. There are a few independently owned places to eat them around the state- my favorite is the one in Olneyville.


                        1. Kelly's Roast Beef ceratainly qualifies as fast food. Great samdwiches and fried seafood as well. They now have 5 locations.


                          Not Your Average Joes....think upscale 99...way upscale in fact but still reasonal pricing. Not fast food but unique to New England.


                          1. Richardson's Ice Cream is served so many places I guess you could call it a chain. The main location up in Middleton is definitely worth a stop and open all year.

                            How about Polcari's Italian? I've seen it a couple of places but never tried it out.

                            1. Being a native Rhode Islander, I will give you a RI-centric answer - some have already been mentioned. Lots of these places are down in south county, near the water; I don't know where your trip will take you, so it might not be worth the trek if you are spending most of your time closer to Boston.

                              1) Newport Creamery (http://www.newportcreamery.com/index....). If you make it to one, you've gotta get an Awful Awful - it's a RI-style cabinet that is "Awful Big, Awful Good." Must get the coffee-flavored one, of course!

                              2) Spike's Junkyard Dogs - has a So-Cal vibe. Fun, 50s-like decor, with lots of diamond plate. Has veggie dogs, too!

                              3) Wieners (see pork chop's reply above). Classic RI experience.

                              4) Horton's Seafood - mini chain (2 locations, 1 seasonal). http://www.hortonsseafood.com/index2..... Come for atmosphere and seafood.

                              5) Iggy's - also only 2 locations. Ever had a doughboy? This is THE place to try them

                              6) DePetrillo's for RI-style pizza strips (multiple locations, although as a kid, there was only one in North Providence


                              7) Del's Lemonade - only sells frozen lemonade and I guess most locations will be closed for the season, but if you see one that is open, immediately pull over to sample one! Carefully guarded mix of lemons, ice, sugar, and cream.

                              1. Legal Seafoods is really good; the other chains I like are Cheesecake Factory, Napa Valley Grill, and Papa Razzi. As chains go, I never go to Friendly's...why?...their wine list sucks.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: nidanlou

                                  Cheesecake Factory, Papa Razi, abd the Napa Valley Grille can be found anywhere in America. Hardly the New England chain the poster is seeking.

                                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                    CapeCodGuy.....here are the Papa Razi locations....granted a bit further afield than New England only, but upstate NY, DC and NJ hardly qualify as "anwhere in America".

                                    271 Dartmouth Street, Boston, MA (617) 536-9200

                                    2 Wall Street, Burlington, MA (781) 229-0100

                                    Cambridge Galleria, 100 Cambridge Side Place, Cambridge, MA (617) 577-0009

                                    Chestnut Hill Mall, 199 Boylston Street, Chestnut Hill, MA (617) 527-6600

                                    768 Elm Street, Concord, MA (978) 371-0030

                                    Garden City Center, 1 Paparazzi Way, Cranston, RI
                                    (401) 942-2900

                                    2087 Washington Street, Hanover, MA (781) 982-2800

                                    Garden State Plaza, 298 Garden State Plaza, Paramus, NJ (201) 843-0990

                                    The Mall at Short Hills, 1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, NJ (973) 467-5544

                                    1066 Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown, Washington, DC
                                    (202) 298-8000

                                    16 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA (781) 235-4747

                                    1500 Jericho Turnpike, Westbury, NY (516) 877-7744

                                    1 North Broadway, White Plains, NY (914) 949-3500

                                    1. re: JaneRI

                                      Right Jane...there's nothing quite like the the Garden State Plaza to evoke that olde New England charm!

                                2. Along the Chelo's line, how about Gregg's?

                                  http://www.greggsusa.com/aboutus/loca... - if you go ask for the free marinated cukes.

                                  Great desserts too.

                                  Here's a site regarding RI - http://www.pagesintime.com/ri/

                                  1. There's Duchess in southwestern CT. Burgers like Mickey D's.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Waquoit

                                      Duchess also has pretty good hot dogs as well. Their menu goes beyond the hot dog and hamburgers of most fast food restuarants as well. Wish they would expand into the Hartford area. Jay

                                    2. In RI:
                                      Walts Roast Beef
                                      Breakfast Nook and Scramblers
                                      Pick Pockets (Mediteranean food)
                                      Tito's Tacos
                                      Papa Gino's Pizzeria's (New England)

                                      1. Dunkin Donuts...they've spread out of New England...but they're everywhere here

                                        1. I'm born and bred in RI and the local chain would be either Chelo's, Gregg's, Iggy's, and Dunkin donuts...Enjoy

                                          1. Hardly fastfood and not really a place I would go out of my way for, but one of New England's ice cream/restaurant chains is Friendly's. It's a family style breakfast, lunch and dinner, ice cream place, lots of booths.
                                            Not a place I would go out of my way for, but they are usually not far out of the way.
                                            Although you might find some New England type items on the menu, they won't taste as good as any of the place already mentioned, but the food isn't that bad, but the service can be slow, or at least the service in the one in my town can be when they are busy.
                                            It's a good place if you have little children because they serve ice cream and include a small sundae with the childs meals...even the adult meal too I think.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Infomaniac

                                              ...And I think you can get a free happy ending!

                                            2. I find it difficult to digest the somewhat positive comments on the Weathervane. My personal visits rate it at most a 3 out of 10.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: jaylhorner

                                                Me too. I've only been to the one near.Kittery, but I thought it was less than mediocre at best.

                                              2. There's a few Picadilly Pubs out there too..

                                                1. Local fast food: Bill and Bob's Roast Beef. There is one in Woburn, Salem, and Peabody.

                                                  Local ice cream: Brigham's...Boston's favorite since 1914!! Not sure if they still have any restaurants around. But you can find them at the grocery store.

                                                  Local restaurant: Hilltop...gotta love the cows!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: rizzo0904

                                                    There's only one Hilltop left now.

                                                  2. I second Duchess in CT. Great burgers in a typical drive-thru or eat-in fast food setting. here is their website to find locations:


                                                    1. Kimball Farm--great ice cream, hamburgers, fries, lobster rolls, hot dogs--I especially like the one in Jaffrey NH--it's next to Silver Ranch airfield and you can watch the planes take off. View of Mt Monadnock is nice. http://www.kimballfarm.com/index.html

                                                      1. Weathervane is terrible. In the last few years they have gone right down hill.

                                                        1. T-Bones and Margarita's in NH are pretty good,

                                                          1. Also a somewhat RI-centric answer...good recommendations above for Horton's Seafood and Iggy's. And I very strongly second the Spike's recommendation-----they're good and fresh and consistent.

                                                            Problem w/chains (even if you're not a chain-snob) is that they're so dependent on individual location (like the game show sketch on SNL, I can tell you how many Dunkin' Donuts are along rt. 95 from Attleboro to Westerly, due to a lot of local travel in a previous job----but 50% of those are crap! they're not all the very consistent and fab Dunkin at the rt. 138 exit in the Richmond/Carolina area, right?).

                                                            So that said----the Chelo's in Warwick near the airport is really good, but the one on Smithfield Ave in Providence stinks. The Greggs in N. Kingstown near Fiddlesticks golf place, and the E. Prov/Pawt. Avenue locations? Good----the one on N. Main on the Prov/Pawt line his horrible. I hate Papa Razzi and you're just so much better off, if you're going to spend more than the Applebee's prices, to eat in a non-chain place, of which there are many (for example, if you're right there in Cranston in front of the Papa Razzi, just go down to where Banana Republic is and there's Cafe Luna, where the food is fantastic).

                                                            1. Well I based on your comment about In-N-Out Burger...our chain burger joints are McDonalds, Wendy's and Burker King. If I had to pick one Wendy's is the best. For subs, hoagies or whatever you may call them D'Angelos's, Subway and Quizno's for chains. A step up for restaurants that are chains but have sit down menus and bar service would be 99 Restaurants, Chili's, Applebee's, Pizzeria Uno, Bertucci's, Ruby Tuesday's and TGIF's. But there are so many local eateries that are great and inexpensive.....best way to find out is as the people at the hotel your staying at...they usually can give you some good advise. But if you want fast and predictable these are your picks. Also in the New England area most of your malls have food courts that offer a large assortment of foods from chinese, italian, burgers and pizza.

                                                              1. My personal favorite "chain" and guilty pleasure is Fire+Ice, with a couple of Boston area locations and one in Providence.


                                                                1. I'll very heartily second Kelly's and also second Spike's. Also recommend Wild Willy's (burgers & root beer), Henry's Root Beer Stand (ditto), and two comparatively healthy fast food places, B. Good and KnowFat.

                                                                  1. I have read all of the responses, and it seems that the largest good "chain" people have mentioned has 3 or so locations. Maybe we're such individualistic coots in New England that we don't want to have big sandboxes, we just want our own small one. So find a New York System place (who's weiner sauce differs from everyone else... but not all that much) or a seafood shack and ejnoy slightly more individual fast food.

                                                                    1. Don't kill me for saying this, but the 99. Went to lunch last week to the new one on Route 20, in Marlboro. Was pretty hesitant about going there but got drawn in with a crowd. The chain was mostly a watering hole in the past...a big place for Friday nights after work. The food? Who cared?
                                                                      It was a pleasant surprise. My lunch was fresh and well prepared and oddly enough, beautifully put together visually. The place was packed too, so the kitchen must have been busy.
                                                                      I'd actually go back.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Lilibet

                                                                        I never liked 99s but I do now. they make great salads, always fresh with great creative ingrediants. In a minute, I would choose 99 over Chilis, Applebees or TGI Fridays.

                                                                      2. Anna's Taqueria. An institution for college kids in Boston. I would call this the boston version of fast Mexican food. Not authentic, but delicious nonetheless. I would suggest the carnitas quesadilla. Basically a pressed burrito. Enjoy.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: adobokid

                                                                          Oh yeah, Ana's is great and I totally forgot that but, even still, that is only in Boston.

                                                                          1. re: itshissong

                                                                            I worship at the feet of Anna's! They so need to expand to Providence.

                                                                            1. re: Jenkins

                                                                              I really miss Anna's and none of the Providence taquerias even come close!

                                                                        2. There is no such thing as a "decent chain" they are all mediocre at best, that is why they thrive. America loves mediocrity, it makes them comfortable.

                                                                          I hate to say it but it is true;

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                            It's true.

                                                                            Though I've seen some Sonic Burger ads on tv recently, and I'm curious. They make the stuff look good on tv, anyway.

                                                                            1. re: Moonpie1

                                                                              Box Lunch on Cape Cod is a nice place to grab a quick wrap for lunch. Good variety and very tasty. Several locations. I would also second the positive reviews for 99. The food, if not spectacular, is at least reliable, and the service is terrific!

                                                                              1. re: Injun Joe

                                                                                I have to go ahead and disagree with you about Box Lunch. I heard nothing but good things about this place and then my girlfriend and I went there for lunch one day and both of our sandwiches were dicey, at best. We both resolved not to go back since there are so many better options in Falmouth. Perhaps, it's just the Falmouth branch but I was not impressed.

                                                                          2. Rein's Deli in Vernon, CT and West Springfield, MA. (Does 2 stores count as a chain?) I'm noshing on their chopped liver right now. Yum!

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: rcianci

                                                                              Good call on Rein's. Quite delicious.

                                                                              1. re: itshissong

                                                                                I have to say I disagree about Rein's Deli. I had heard so many good things about it, but when my boyfriend and I tried it a few months ago we were not impressed. The entire menu was way overpriced, our food was nothing special (the potato pancakes were pretty bland, the lettuce in my salad was half rotten, and his sandwich was something I could have made at home much better and cheaper), the bathrooms were disgusting (both of them) and the service was somewhere between poor and fair. I would say if you want decent Jewish deli food, head across the bridge to Gus & Paul's in Spfld, their food, service and prices are much better imho.

                                                                                1. re: sryder

                                                                                  Sorry you didn't have a good experience. I'm a fan of Rein's from way back in the days of Disco and I have to say I've never gotten rotten lettuce on a sandwich. Next time I'm in Springfield I will definitely check out Gus & Paul's though. I'm always looking for good deli.

                                                                            2. Bertucci's might fit the bill - it originated in Cambridge (still there) but now has spread as far south as Delaware I believe.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: kparke30

                                                                                I'm pretty sure Bertucci's originated in Somerville, right next to Steve's Ice Cream, in fact. (Not a bad block, huh?) The original one had a full-size bocce court inside.

                                                                                Bertucci's has spread to Virginia, too. (According to their Web site, their most distant location is in the Short Pump section of Richmond.) For a chain we like it a lot.

                                                                                1. re: Bob W

                                                                                  One great thing about Bertucci's - they sell their pizza dough (as do many pizza joints) and will stretch it and box it for you - I think it costs about about a buck. I have had a number of fun (and easy) make your own pizza dinner parties using this method, both in DC and Boston.

                                                                                  1. re: Petunia

                                                                                    While I think Bertucci's is decent for a chain, I do think their prices are getting just plain ridiculous. I recently stopped in for take out pizza.... I ordered a large "Sporkie" pizza (sausage, ricotta and mozzerella) and added carmelized onions and the price was over $20.00! And the "large" pizza isn't really that large and the toppoings fairly skimpy.

                                                                              2. O'Naturals (with locations in Maine and Mass.) is a great local gem. It emphasizes healthy, local food served fast. Mostly sandwiches, soups and salads. They also serve pizza at night. Their flatbread is to die for. Check it out online at http://www.onaturals.com/ .

                                                                                1. Coming in late, agree that Legal is kind of a classic, tho not at all like the old days. I still like Newport Creamery and Kelly's. Overisight from the list: Pizzeria Regina. Now in all the malls, but the classic North End location was always great. Not sure it's still there.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: janeer

                                                                                    Regina's in the north end is still alive and well. Plus there's an outpost in Medford that people say is close to the original. As opposed to the stands in the food courts that aren't the same thing.

                                                                                  2. American Flatbread Company has hands down the best pizza I have ever had in my life. They only have three location though. Burlington VT, Warren VT, and Amesbury MA. If you are ever anywhere near theses locations, the place is a must. The pizza is out of this world (even though it is 'local') and the experience of eating at their restaurants is just as spectacular. Out of the three locations, the one in Warren VT is the best. The pizza isn't really any different, but the restaurant is a trip.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: McJ

                                                                                      There's also an American Flatbread in Canton, CT. The food is great - high quality products, etc. - but it's also good for kids as you can watch them make and bake the pizza in the (wood fired?) oven.