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Chain restaurants that are good

I'm definitely not a fan of the chain restaurant, but every once in awhile I have a few friends who aren't big into the local scene so I have to compromise by going to a chain (I'll try to take them somewhere and they always end up choosing whatever chain is in the area--blah). Some I've been to are pretty horrible, but I am wondering if anyone has any ideas for future reference that I can use if I need to. One chain I have gone to and liked was PF Chang's.
Thanks for the help.

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    1. re: ipsofatso

      I agree with that. I was really surprised the first two times I went there.

      1. re: ipsofatso

        We are about to get our first NYAJ here in Northern Virginia. It does look interesting.

        Some chains I like: Bonefish Grille, Red Hot & Blue, Original Pancake House, Texas Roadhouse, Bertucci's, CPK. Bob Evans' (breakfast only).

        Some I don't: Moe's Southwest Grille, Applebee's, Damon's (poor value), Eggspectation (ditto)

        1. re: Bob W

          Thank god someone agrees about the Bob Evans. We dont' hav ethem out here in CA so everytime I go home, my mom thinks I'm crazy for asking to go to brunch at Bob's.

          1. re: bkh238559

            I agree 100% I can`t understand why they don`t have them out here.I like
            their whole atmusphere.

      2. J Alexander's is pretty good (I like the spinach and queso dip) and I've had a good steak at Capital Grille.



        1. I actually really like Bertucci's. While I have had my share of fabulous Italian food in my life, i must say that this place is not all that bad. It is definitely 100 times better than Olive Garden and Macaroni Grille. Their pizza is actually quite good as well as their salads. The other night for the first time I tried their salmon. It was very tasty! I've also had the chicken piccata and chicken marsala which were not bad! I honestly don't think that i've ever had a bad meal there! Oh, and their roles with olive oil are AMAZING!!

          1. If you have a Houston's in your area, the food is always good and prices are always reasonable.

            1 Reply
            1. re: stumpworks73

              My friends and I love Houston's here in Atlanta. Food is consistent. Nice ambiance, although that can depend on the location.

            2. Calfornia Pizza Kitchen is a favorite of mine -- not only for pizza, but also for pasta, soups, and salads.


              2 Replies
              1. re: silverbear

                I went to CPK for the first time this past Sunday and was a little disappointed. We got a barbeque chicken pizza and a pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom pizza. The bbq chicken wa not bad, but the other was barely palatable. We did however very much enjoy the tuscan hummus appetizer which I would recommend to anyone that goes there.
                It could have just been that the pizza's we ordered are not necessarily the best they have to offer, but I do not know that I would go back.

                1. re: silverbear

                  I've had mixed experiences at cpk, but overall, I think they do well. I like the thin crust pizza they do (can't remember the name -- "Sicilian"?; it has a couple different types of meet on it) and amazingly, I actually like that chipotle chicken pizza they do (there's so much bad food out there with chipotle in the name right now, I was really surprised that I liked this). And they make this salad that's very good, with nuts, pears (I think), chevre; it's an expensive salad, though.

                  I've found I only like a few things there, so I get tired of the place, easily (I'm in that state right now).

                2. Pollo Campero in Guatemala, but only because out front of each one are one or two ladies selling warm, home made tortillas that go really well with one of the four green lettuce and chicken salads.

                  And, no, tortillas are not sold inside.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    They now have Pollo Campero in the Houston and Dallas areas, so you don't have to fly to the third world to get it!

                    1. re: catarata

                      I live in the third world and would have to fly to Houston or Dallas. But do they have the tortilla ladies outside?

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Sadly, no. But, the places are wildly popular -- one of them has two drive thrus and often has a line around the block.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            We also have Pollo Campero in Los Angeles as well, at La Curacao. (Sadly, also no tortilla ladies outside that I'm aware of)

                  2. I agree with CPK. I enjoy their split pea soup and tortilla soup. The hummus is really good too.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HeatherFL

                      i also do enjoy CPK! their pizzas and salads are really good!

                    2. Some generalizations (as much as I hate generalizations):

                      Franchises = bad
                      Private Chains = good
                      National Chains = bad
                      Regional Chains = good
                      TV Advertising = bad

                      When I am in a nationally franchised chain with heavy TV advertising, I stick to the basics and deep fried foods. Usually they are hard to screw up, but Lord knows they try!

                      Other than that, I think the Board needs your location to determine what chains are in your region.

                      1. I love Texas Roadhouse. Maybe it is just the one in Milford, OH, because I have mentioned them before and got jumped all over for it, but every time I eat there, I get an excellent, correctly cooked steak...and its comparable if not better than steaks that I have paid three times the price for at non-chain restaurants.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: sunshinedrop

                          Precisely, sometimes all you want is a good steak, ambiance be damned.

                          1. re: sunshinedrop

                            They just opened one of these near me and my coworker is raving about it. I tried to go but I could not get in. Two-plus hour wait! Is it really that good?

                            1. re: newbatgirl

                              Yep, I think so. Ours has call ahead where you can call and put your name on the list. I usually call before we leave home and by the time we get there, our wait is only 15 minutes or so (we live pretty far from civilization).

                              1. re: newbatgirl

                                It's F-ing horrible. Logan's Roadhouse is the same concept but the food is 10 times better.

                                1. re: achtungpv

                                  Like I said, maybe it's just the one in Milford, OH that is good. I have eaten at a few other ones and thought they were good too, but that one is the only one I eat at consistently. There aren't any Logan's Roadhouse's around here.

                                  1. re: achtungpv

                                    I also enjoy Logan's Roadhouse. Love their fluffy yeasty rolls!

                                  2. re: newbatgirl

                                    Texas Roadhouse is one of my favorites among the moderate-inexpensive chain places, but no way is it worth a 2 hour wait--even a half hour wait is pushing it for me any chain place. The steaks are considerably better than their competitors such as Outback, Chili's, or Applebee's. Decent pork chops, chili, rolls, potatoes(mashed & baked--never had the sweet potato so I don't know about that). Ribs are good if you don't mind the overcooked faux bbq type. Most of the vegetables are okay. I haven't been happy with the chicken selections I've had from TR. My wife says their burgers aren't bad, but I've never tried them. TR is too noisy for my liking but not that much worse than most chain places.

                                    Definitely do the call-ahead seating if your local TR has it.

                                    1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                      My husband likes the burgers too. He likes that he can order them medium rare there with little argument from the waitress.

                                      As far as the ambiance, we have a two year old and a 10 month old, so the noise is a plus for us...they just kind of blend in, so there is little embarrassment if one or both decide to not be the sweet little angels they usually are. Quiet fine dining is not for everyone!

                                  3. re: sunshinedrop

                                    We have had several excellent steaks at TR. But the line at the one near us is SOOOO long!

                                  4. I may get flamed, but I actually enjoy Outback Steakhouse on occasion. It's not in the same league as a good independent steak house, but also much more affordable. They make a decent bread, salad, baked potato and steak for a fair price. The bbq chicken isn't bad either.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: lisaf

                                      We used to go there from time to time in Portland when we wanted a steak but didn't want to drive all the way across town to go to the RingSide. A major draw in my opinion was those humongous glasses of Foster's.

                                      1. re: lisaf

                                        I used to hate Outback, but on a recent trip to Tampa I was out in the hinterlands and an Outback was the only reasonable choice. I had one of the best pieces of simply grilled swordfish I have ever had. I asked for it done medium rare and it was. Nice glass of wine, all OK. Not great, but good value for the money.

                                        1. re: phneale

                                          The new ahi tuna appetizer at outback is exceptionally good- my hubbie and I tried when we were having drinks with friends after work. Also when feeling like clogging my arteries I really enjoy their cheese fries!

                                      2. Freebirds - Texas Chain
                                        Fin & Porter
                                        Cheddars - chicken fingers

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. i'm a big fan of cracker barrel and fogo de chao

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: superchick

                                            Gosh - I would have never thought to label Fogo as a chain, but I guess strictly speaking, it is one...

                                          2. Cracker Barrel, love it love it. Someone also had mentioned the Original Pancake House, which is AMAZING and unequalled breakfast food. (Seriously- anyone who would even THINK to compare them to ihop must have no tastebuds or sense of aesthetic.) I also like the salads at this place called Perkins- I've never had a bad one. Oh, and of course, good ol' Pizza Hut. We live in NYC, but are from Michigan originally... We have been known to rent a car for the weekend just to go to the hut, lol.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: minkdreads

                                              I like Cracker Barrel too! Their meatload and mac and cheese is good.

                                              1. re: minkdreads

                                                Oh god, Perkins - I grew up in MN and was forced to eat there for years with my parents. I can't imagine how chain food could get much worse.

                                                Love Cracker Barrel's chicken fried steak and fried okra!

                                                Texas Roadhouse does have some decent ribs, and overall the place isn't that bad for a chain.

                                                Houstons - you've got to love the Hickory Burger!

                                              2. I think J Alexanders, Capitol Grille, Original Pancake House, and Bob Evans are good.
                                                I would not go to Applebee's,Pizza Hut, KFC or Lone Star Steakhouses

                                                1. J Alexanders, CPK, and Macaroni Grill, and PF Changs have been the chains i go to most often and actually enjoy quite a bit.

                                                  somehow I have gone all of my life avoiding applebees, olive garden, and the like. i really do not like chili's either and have only eaten there a handful of times.

                                                  1. I hate Appleby's, aka a vegetarian's hell. Even the salads have meat, so I can't order anything without some kind of modification.

                                                    I love Ruby Tuesday, but only for the AYCE salad bar. PF Chang's is decent, and reasonably healthy.

                                                    1. Best chain steak house for me is Longhorn Steak House, decent steak for the money and service is usually pretty good. I also like the Cheesecake Factory, Bob Evans for Breakfast and the salad bar a Ruby Tuesdaysis awesome. Will starve before I go to an Aplplebee's or eat at a Pizza Hut or Domino's or any other national pizza chain, yechhhh

                                                      1. Don't kill me, I enjoy Sweet Tomatoes on occasion.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. I love Flemings, Roys and Bonefish Grill (certain Outbacks are very consistant and reliable) - can I be a bit bias here since I own stock in this mother company. :-) Nahhhhhh, I do love these chains - coincedence they are owned by the same.

                                                          I love Texas Roadhouse too.

                                                          I wish we had more Popeyes up here, I love them for a low price chain.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: lexpatti

                                                            Really, Flemings?? They opened a Fleming Steakhouse up in Seattle briefly. It was terrible. They screwed up 3 steak orders at a table of 4 and when we complained to the manager they insisted on giving us free dessert (which none of us wanted) rather than comping the steaks. We said we didn't want dessert, they never took orders, just brought it out to the table and we didn't eat it. They actually served me ice cream which I happen to be allergic to but that's another topic. We never returned and it closed a few months later.

                                                            1. re: lisaf

                                                              I can see why they closed. that's bad. Bad service and bad kitchen.

                                                          2. I agree about Roys at least. Never tried Flemings, but almost everything I've heard about them is good. I also agree with people mentioning PF Chang's...it's not amazing, but it's always been acceptable, and sometimes very good.
                                                            I went into Ruby Tuesday once with a friend, and it was fine.
                                                            Cheesecake Factory: Normally, I just bash the place, because I just don't understand the two-hour wait to get in, when there are places doing everything CF does, SO much better; that said, I can always find something decent at CF, so I don't mind going with friends.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: don giovanni

                                                              I was wondering why no one had posted about Roys. We skipped them in Hawaii b'cuz we saw Tampa had a branch. When we went recently I tell you it was like a quick trip back to the islands- so good! Yum. I also enjoy Cheesecake Fact- who can say no to a 800 caloire slice of cake right? Their apps are also quite tasty!

                                                            2. Soup Plantation - their salad fixings are always fresh, and the soups are very good.
                                                              Islands - the burgers are big and juicy, the fries come crisp in a big basket, and the draft beer selection is great for a chain.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                My family likes Maggianos.

                                                                The chopped salad tastes great. Same with the salmon, cheesecake and creme brulee. Plus you can get all of it family style.

                                                                1. re: caitlink

                                                                  Oh boy - let me guess - I'm in LA and your somewhere else... I'm hoping you're in LA as I truly enjoy a great chopped salad - I'm on the fence about salmon - but dish me up cheesecake and especially creme brulee any day!

                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    bulavinaka - There is a Magianno's at the Grove shoping center - the only location they have in LA that I am aware of. I've never had the chopped salad there, but its a nice place to go with a group and get the food family style - none of its quite what I would call exceptional, but a lot of it is very good. Unfortunately, it gets quite crowded.

                                                                    1. re: Marvin

                                                                      there is also at least one in the Valley

                                                                1. re: welle

                                                                  Definitely agree with Chipotle, a little surprised it's only been mentioned once.

                                                                  1. re: air

                                                                    Thirded. While Chipotle may not be terribly authentic, it is always fresh and yummy.

                                                                2. NJ for some reason has few chains it's mostly diners. Never heard of most of what was stated.

                                                                  We go to a chain for specific entrees. Havent found one that was overall good.
                                                                  Houlihan's for ribs. Macaroni Grill for bread, pasta, and dessert. Applebees for riblets. Ruby Tuesday for hamburgers.
                                                                  These others we tried and didnt care for: Olive Garden, Outback, Carrabas and Chili's.
                                                                  We did enjoy Bertucci's but they closed.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: tom porc

                                                                    I've had some really decent food at Houlihan's. Ate a great flatbread pizza there and a fresh ahi tuna salad. Our appetizers (can't remember what they were) were really good too. Not sure if this is a local NorthEast chain, or if they are all around.

                                                                    1. re: QueenB

                                                                      At Houlihan's if you provide your email addy on the comment card, they email you coupons for free entrees and desserts. We went a couple of weeks ago for the salmon and crab cakes and both were great. I wasnt in the mood to get hands dirty for ribs so I tried something else. We go there most often chain-wise.

                                                                    2. re: tom porc

                                                                      The Bertucci's in Nj closed? Since when I was just there recently at the one in Edison.

                                                                      1. re: steakrules85

                                                                        Funny, their one in Center City Philadelphia closed too. Are they downsizing?

                                                                        1. re: newbatgirl

                                                                          Probably closing underperforming locations. There are still other Bertucci's in NJ but the one in my area did close a number of years ago. As did Hooter's, Pizza Hut, Perkins, McDs, BK, Roy Rogers, KFC, Denny's.

                                                                      2. re: tom porc

                                                                        So many of my friends love Carrabas- but I think its so over suaced and under flavored. Ick. Haven't found a really good burger at a chain, closest one is Chilis- and thats if you like it greasy!

                                                                      3. Houstons ( everything), Macaroni Grill ( the bread), Popeyes (everything), PF Changs (some things), Cheesecake Factory ( why the cheesecake of course!), agree with Original Pancake House, Grand Luxe Cafe (like Cheesecake Factory)...Fast food drive through...Popeyes as mentioned, and Whataburger....

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jinet12

                                                                          I'm not sure if it is yet considered to be a chain, per se, but Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is a great seafood restaurant! Prices are pretty good for the portion size, but until you eat there, you don't know it. I have only eaten at a couple of them, but the quality hasn't changed, nor has the taste of anything I've had.

                                                                          I've also been a fan of Friday's for years, Chili's and the Cheesecake Factory.

                                                                          1. re: anikahangel

                                                                            OMG we went to Bubba Gumps in NO when we were there - it was so good, and the waiter was SO fun!

                                                                        2. I forgot Charlie Brown's is good too but nobody ever talks about it. Their prime rib is some of the best I've had and they have this awesome raisin bread from the salad bar thats good.

                                                                          1. Rubio's and Baja Fresh. I don't do fish tacos, but the carne asada is actually grilled (not cooked in grease on a griddle), the toppings are fresh, and the salsas are good. To me, these two chains have truer Mexican food than the crappy taquerias in my area.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: maestra

                                                                              Baja Fresh. As a policy, they don't have freezers in the store. Add to that everything is grilled, and you have a pretty good chance of having something decent...

                                                                              1. re: maestra

                                                                                you're missing out on the fish tacos and Rubio's does an excellent job

                                                                              2. Evo's! We have a great little healthy fast food chain here in Tampa Bay and it's awesome! I love their thai chicken wrap, air fries and the citrus green tea. They use a lot of organic ingredients and all recycled materials in their packaging, too. Love it! :-)

                                                                                1. Maggiano's, Lawry's, China Sun (Texas)

                                                                                  1. Oceanaire; Roy's; In-N-Out; Popeye's

                                                                                    1. My parents are lovers of the chain. Thus, when they come to visit I've learned how to navigate away from a Chili's and into something with passable and even sometimes delicious grub. Here's my chain road map:

                                                                                      Breakfast: Original Pancake House (the service sometimes sucks here at the Austin location but the food is fab....especially the Dutch Baby)
                                                                                      Fast Food: Culvers (yummmm....Butter Burgers and Cheese Curds) and Chipotle (where else can you get free range pork at a ff chain), Pei Wei (pf chang's but cheaper...the lettuce wraps are addictive)
                                                                                      Dinner, etc.: Cheesecake Factory (generally good and an easy place to take people when they're picky or only want a chain), Carrabas (is this only in TX? consistent chain italian), Houston's (good steak and the best damn veggie burger anywhere), Pf Chang's (most things I've tried are good but I won't wait a long time here), Pappasitos (again....maybe only TX...but my favorite if I have to leave the taco stands behind and eat "chain" mexican, super tasty fajitas).

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: ashes

                                                                                        I live in Trinity, which is north of Tampa Bay Florida and there are a ton of Carrabba's here in this state. I love Carrabba's, favorite chain restaurant, but I only get the chicken marsala, just love it. Also like Bone Fish Grill for a chain restaurant.

                                                                                        1. re: diner524

                                                                                          Also in Trinity- you try the new Trinity Grill yet? (not a chain- but curious) Heard it was owned by sons in the Pappas family. That whole plaza there is great- the wine store and italian NJ deli- yum.

                                                                                      2. I really like the chain place Bahama Breeze. I was introduced to Mojitos there and still use them as my measuring stick for all other mojitos.
                                                                                        One Mexican food chain I used to love in Houston as well as the one in Virginia was called "Two Pesos" (although we always called them "Dos Pesos") and we loved that they were open 24 hours. Good, cheap mexican food and a double drive thru.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: Goomba

                                                                                          Oh man, do I miss Two Pesos. Vastly superior to the ubiqutous Taco Cabana (which sued Two Pesos over concept theft and won, which is why there are no more Two Pesos).

                                                                                        2. I'm also not really into chains but Leroy Selmon's has been consistantly good and the service is some of the best I've seen at any chain.

                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                            What an interesting thread. Some would avoid Capital Grille, considering it a "chain". What a colossal mistake that is. Funny how nobody mentions Ruth Chris' or Morton's, both nowhere as good as Capital Grille........

                                                                                            1. re: mardy

                                                                                              I live in L.A. and have never heard of Capital Grille, but Ruth's Chris is one of my two favorite steakhouses (the other one is Hitching Post in Santa Barbara and Lompoc, but I don't think that is considered a chain). As others have mentioned, I like Roy's, Magianno's, and Houston's. Wood Ranch also has good ribs and burgers, and sometimes Tony Roma's hits the spot. Baja Fresh is the best Mexican chain I know. Another chain in the L.A. area is Maria's Italian restaurant, which I like very much.

                                                                                              1. re: brandygirl

                                                                                                You can dine at a Capital Grille the next time your in Las Vegas. It's on the strip, just north of Treasure Island, and it's located upstairs in the Fashion Mall building or whatever that is.

                                                                                                Better steaks than Ruth's Chris. Honestly.....

                                                                                                1. re: mardy

                                                                                                  Have you ever eaten at Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio hotel? I had a fabulous meal there a few years ago, and I wonder how it compares with Capital Grille.

                                                                                                  1. re: brandygirl

                                                                                                    Well, I've eaten at 3-4 places in Bellagio, and one of them was as good as Capital Grill. But somehow I don't remember the name as being Prime Steakhouse, and I can't think what it was.

                                                                                                    So many fine places to eat in Las Vegas......

                                                                                          2. Outback for burgers and small steaks.
                                                                                            Agree on Bertucci's - usually a good option for pizza.
                                                                                            Baja Fresh (there isn't much Mexican in Pittsburgh)

                                                                                            On Chipotle, there sort of isn't a "category" for them - outsized faux Mexican burritos? Nobody else really competes with that. I wasn't all that big on them taste wise, but when I was on my own in Alexandria, I could go to the Old Town location, get a whole burrito with a couple of sides and stretch it out over three or four meals. The ingredients would remain stable for about 48 hours, and you could disassemble the components to make omelettes or salads. So that made them useful.

                                                                                            1. Pollo Tropical - for Cuban food in Florida once you leave Miami
                                                                                              McCormick and Schmick - seafood and beer choice

                                                                                              1. I like Mimi's Cafe. I wish we had one close to Baltimore.