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Best restaurant chains? [Moved from Los Angeles]

Much as I dislike to, I find that that I am frequently having to frequent chain restaurants and would value feedback on what my fellow 'hounds feel are the best.

My most hated ones are:

Olive Garden - never truly awful, but never good
McDonalds - just on principle
Taco Hell
Del Taco
Any Pizza chain - Pizza Slut, Domino's, etc.

I could go on, but let's hear the opinions...

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  1. I have a daughter, so we are frequently at Island's and CPK...I have to admit that I kind of like them both...especially CPK.

    We also sometimes go to Panda Express...she likes the Mandarin Chicken.

    We NEVER go to any drive-thru fast food chains (McDonald's, Taco Bell, etc.) because they seem so manufactured and un-natural...although perhaps the others we go to are just as bad??

    1. I just dumped my chain-restaurant eatin', now EX BF. No more miserable chain restaurant outings. Of all those dam chains, I had to put my foot down when it came to the Olive Garden. That was my most hated--until I experienced for the first time in my life, the Macaroni Grill and then Applebee's. Then I was done with the degeneration!

      2 Replies
      1. re: slacker

        Was so focused on the hate.
        Ones I like:
        King Taco

        1. re: slacker

          I apologize for diverging, but I am easily distracted. You dumped your BF because he dined at what you consider to be inferior restaurants? Wow! Did you mean "denegration?"

        2. - houstons and bandera
          - islands
          - roys

          1. In-n-Out. Also, Carney's -- there are two, so that makes it a chain, yes?

            I think I am the only person I know who has never been to an Olive Garden, and that's how it's going to stay.


            1. In my humble opinion, the #1 best Los Angeles chain is Fatburger. Heck, I'd even say it beats In-N-Out. Closely tied with Zankou, though.

              1. For smaller local chains I like La Parrilla.

                For big national corporate chains I can sometimes find a decent "neopolitan" style pizza at CPK - most of the time it's not that great but sometimes the crust is so crispy and cooked just right.


                1. Not quite a restaurant, but I love Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                    Yum...Morrocan Mint Lattes are the best!

                    1. re: Spiff

                      Yes, Coffee Bean is my fav of the chain coffee shops. :)

                  2. California Chicken -- love the prima vera wrap -- also the crunchy pita-cruton-things they put on their salads.

                    1. Can I throw Panera in the mix?

                      Decent little meal, I always do the pick two: half sandwich, soup, or/and small salad.

                      1. Chick Fil-A, In-N-Out, Tommy's, CPK, Ruby's, Wahoo's, Charo Chicken, Zankou Chicken and Gyu-Kaku. But I rarely go to these, I much prefer the smaller hole in the wall or out of way spots.

                        1. In-N-Out, Zankou. Fatburger. I've never gone to Louise's Trattoria - but I know this is a chain. Anyone know abou this place? What about higher end places like Ruth's Chris Steak House? Corner Bakery can be OK, too.

                          I can also enjoy Jerry's Famous Deli - altho it wouldn't be my first choice of deli, I like the soups.

                          I used to travel for work a lot throughout the US. I liked to find local places, but sometimes my travelling companions were only comfortable with chains.

                          Chains I really hate - TGIF. Claim Jumper. Olive Garden.

                          1. I will basically eat anywhere-- no major aversions to any specific place-- but I put my foot down when it comes to Weinerschnitzel. I would rather eat generic saltine crackers.

                            You asked which chains people like. Of all chains, I eat at Baja Fresh the most. :)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: katkoupai

                              When I was unemployed, I would occasionally treat myself to Weinerschnitzel's super cheap chili dog deals, so I have a soft spot in my heart for that chain. I love chili dogs / coney dogs. My local doggie purveyer is A&W, which has a mighty tasty coney dog, and they have a bottle of hotsauce on the counter so you don't have to bring your own.

                              1. re: Sharuf

                                back in the 80's there use to be a commercial that said, 'same place, same place, same thing, same thing' that is what we considered this hot dog place as it was just outside of my high school job. still have cravings once in a odd while for thier chili dogs myself

                                1. re: justagthing

                                  I remember that commercial, justagthing. :)

                                  Sharuf, after reading about your soft spot for Weinerschnitzel, I see the place in a new light. :) It is difficult for me to eat there, due to a bad experience with the food. In general, I dislike hotdogs, but if and when I eat them, I prefer:

                                  Hebrew National-- Costco
                                  Polish sausages with a kick to them
                                  (Even better when they are grilled.)

                                  I also looked up "coney dog." Never knew what that was before. :)

                                  Speaking of polish sausages and chain restaurants, there is a hot dog place called Jodi Maroni's, and they do a decent polish sausage sandwich on a poppy seed hoagie topped with grilled onions and peppers, with fries and a drink, for less than $10. I had it once, and thought it was good (albeit too much food for one sitting). I would add that place to this list for chains that serve hot dogs. :)


                            2. Soup Plantation - everything is fresh!
                              Islands - nice cold beer, beer, french fries, and beer
                              Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf - great seasonal drinks and nice selection of pastries/desserts
                              California Chicken - good salads and rotisserie chicken

                              1. Cinnebon is also pretty damn good in an evil way. Will also throw another vote Baja Fresh's way/

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: bite bite

                                  I like Cinnebon too. Only eat it about once or twice a year though.

                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                    Just finished disgesting the one I ate two years ago and ready for another round.

                                2. There should be some differentiation between fast food and casual dining chains. Of all the fast food out there (In And Out excepted), only the Del Taco Crispy Fish or Crispy Shrimp Taco come anywhere close to being hound fare. And while not approaching art, Barbacoa offers up generous portions of pretty tasty stuff.. At the bottom of that food chain is Arby's IMNSHO. Their product is vile.

                                  Casual dining chains, especially regional ones like Islands, can have a quality product. All depends on the help, which we all know can be hard to find. I enjoyed Islands before they really spread out. Still some of my fave cheese fries, and back then I could get my burger rare.

                                  Of late, I think Ruby Tuesday is making a concerted effort to raise the bar for casual dining. They've always had an excellent salad bar. Their new burgers are pretty good, though the triple prime didn't wow as expected. Surprisingly, their new crab cake is excellent. Real lump crab, virtually no filler, very tasty.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: GroovinGourmet

                                    Just had a chicken dish there last month that was very bad. I would suggest that if going to this chain to stick to salad bar or burgers.

                                  2. My favorites

                                    Fast Food:
                                    Chick fil A
                                    Wendy's (my road trip stand by when none of my other favorites are available)
                                    Bojangles Cajun Chicken and Biscuits

                                    Sit Down Casual Chain:
                                    Tripp's (east coast)
                                    Austin Grill (DC area)
                                    Hard Times Cafe Chili Parlors

                                    1. I forgot to add that I like Rally's seasoned fries.

                                      1. Best Restaurant chain's:
                                        Houstons Chain
                                        Anything Paul Fleming does
                                        Sullivans Steakhouse
                                        Pappa's chain (Pappas BBQ, Pappadeaux's)

                                        Best Fast Food:
                                        In N Out
                                        Del Taco

                                        Worst Restaurant chain:
                                        Olive Garden
                                        Planet Hollywood
                                        Hard Rock

                                        Worst fast food chain:
                                        Busy Bee
                                        Crispy Cream

                                        1. Since this thread has run the gamut from "higher end" to fast food, I have to mention the ONLY chain I frequent, and have had locally for only about a year, Popeyes. Damn I love the Spicy thighs. I mean, I really love the Spicy thighs. Did I mention the thighs? The Spicy ones? I love em.

                                          1. I had the Taco Mesa chain (only 4 locations in orange cty) for the first time today, and really liked it. For fish tacos, i end up at Rubios.