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Chains that are good

  • g

Gasp..yes, I said it. What chains are acceptable to the hounding public?

1) Baja Fresh
2) Cosi
3) Dale and Thomas Popcorn
4) Ben and Jerrys
5) Haagen Dazs
6) Auntie Anne's Pretzels

C'mon, you know you like some chains. I know its taboo, but some are ok. This site is about good food, mostly.

Just curious.

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  1. So agree on Haagen Dazs, and since I still haven't found a firmly packed pint of non-chain ice cream in Westchester, I'll take H/D over Longfords (can you PUT more air into your pint?) any day.

    Godiva White Chocolate Raspberry is in second place to H/D's Dulche De Leche. While they still make pint 'pints' that is. Dove, as I hope you know, reduced their 'pint' to 15.1 ounces. The crooks.

    1 Reply
    1. http://www.roysrestaurant.com/

      Roy's of Hawaii!
      Of course being in the islands is the best. The newish one in downtown LA has received rave reviews on CH, especially for service.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Got Cake

        You may want to post this under "Chains"....

        1. re: Got Cake

          Second Roy's -- the one on Topanga Cyn. Bv. in Woodland Hills. Food is terrific, service is friendly and correct, drinks are good, prices are not unreasonable considering the quality.

        2. Any more local chains - like Umberto's, Green Cactus?

          1. There, I said it. Cinnabon. Link: http://www.cinnabon.com/flash.html

            Many years ago these were much better than the present day ones, but, I still love to reminisce ... with the hope that one day they shall return to their former glory. : )

            Look: http://www.cinnabon.com/experience/pr...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cheese Boy

              I still love them, though I now buy the little guys in the 9 pack, and yes, of course I buy extra frosting!...

            2. Panera in a pinch works.
              Green Cactus for sure.

              1 Reply
              1. re: yellowmammal

                Green Cactus is like a Baja Fresh with about 10 locations all on Long Island. It is quite good. I didn't really mean local chains, but good point. Panera is pretty good, too.

                Don't get Chick-Fil-A, though. Not too good me thinks.

                1. re: fwilhelm

                  Panda Express. Great Orange Chicken. : )

                  1. re: aurora50

                    Sorry, but Panda Express is the WORST!!!

                      1. re: aurora50

                        For starters, everything tastes like it has a cup of sugar in it. Blech. And it's super greasy. AND their "spicy" food isn't.

                2. Wendy's, Ben and Jerry's, Haagen Dazs and Quizno's!

                  1. Maggiano's (more fun than delicious), Lawry's (the prime rib is good, everything else is mediocre) and China Sun (north Texas - fast and cheap).

                    1. Bravo,Mitchels Fish House, Carrabba's,Bonefish grill.

                      1. Houston's, McCormick and Schmicks, Ruth's Chris, Moe's, and I also really like Maggiano's.

                        I like most of the ice cream chains, but recently got into Coldstone. (love their apple pie ice cream)

                        Baja Fresh used to be a favorite of mine, but they've been inconsistent lately, based off which location you go to.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alliebear

                          I like McCormick and Schmicks too.. I also like
                          Waffle House (yes.. I love the waffle house)
                          In and Out Burger
                          Fudruckers (I know I am spelling that wrong)


                        2. I have sentimental attachment to the Chik- fil-A dwarf houses. Especially the original in Hapeville, GA.

                          1. In 'N Out
                            Rubios (fish tacos only)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Fussy Foodie

                              Cheeburger Cheeburger
                              Moe's Southwest grill

                            2. I was surprised that no one mentioned Chipotle

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: weezycom

                                I don't get why people love this place. Good ingredients, cool ads, but I think Baja blows it away.

                                I thought I'd see Legal Seafood, too.

                                1. re: GCGuy

                                  I liked Baja about 6 years ago, I'm over it now. I do, however, like Chipotle. But in the end, there are too many good taqueria's in the SF Bay to waste time with either of the two.

                                  1. re: GCGuy

                                    Legal Sea Foods has the worst crab cakes in creation. In their restaurant in downtown D.C., where I've gone for about five business lunches (none of them my selection), someone who wouldn't know the real thing always orders the "Maryland" style crab cakes and is disappointed and wonders what is the big deal. I explain that if we were at the Metro 29 Diner in Arlington, Va., or the Nautilus Diner on York Road up in Timonium, Md., and you got a crab cake, you would be back time and time again. Those places have baseball-size crab cakes with real lumb crab that are excellent, and you can get one for about $12 or two for $20.

                                    1. re: jkosnett

                                      Well Legal's is a Boston based company. It is the same thing when I go to DC on business and see "new england clam chowder" and basically get a cup of flour and glue with some itty bitty clams and a ton of potatoes.

                                      Stick with the new england seafood on the menu and it is really good.

                                2. Neither of these is anywhere near us here, but when we lived in Portland we liked Baja Fresh and The Original Pancake House.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                    OPH branches can be variable but even at its worst it blows IHOP away.

                                  2. I was on a driving vacation last week and was shocked by a decent meal at Applebees. A mom and pop Italian joint I had eaten at in the same area for years had morphed into a bad clone of a Longhorn (the owner bragged the "chef" was from OUTBACK!!!!!!!!). So, I walked out and went to the Applebees. The entree was one of the Tyler Florence things, the applewood grilled chicken. I guess what impressed me the most is that it was a true half of a small chicken. A leg quarter and a breast quarter with wing, grilled with rosemary and garlic over wood. A spinach salad with apple and decent garlic fries. The wine selection is unspeakable, but the overall experience was much better than expected.

                                    1. Yes I consider chocolate food and my number one would have to be :
                                      Sees Candies. Then I'd go for the greasy,crunchy but sometimes nothing beats it:
                                      Pioneer Chicken. Then for healthy,always a good choice on the run, there's
                                      Jamba Juice.

                                      1. I've only been once, but I liked Beard Papa's. In-n-Out will always be my favorite. I do like Chipotle, their guacamole is chock full of avocado! Yum! But if I'm on a roadtrip and there are only the "typical" fast food joints, I go to McDonalds.

                                        1. I have never had a bad meal at Carraba's. It's my favorite chain. I like Popeye's Chicken and Whataburger.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: southerngal

                                            We love Carraba's Italian GRILLE. I always tell people to try the grilled items, that is what they are good at. Any chicken dish is awesome-Marsala, Bryan(grilled chicken topped with a basil goat cheese sundried tomato mixture). I would never order chicken when we go out until I tried Carraba's. I can't speak highly of their pasta dishes except the Alfredo sauce is excellent. Great happy hour drink specials too.

                                          2. My favorite, and it doesn't feel like a chain, is Houston's. No corkage fee and they aren't stingy. Steaks are prime. Because of this board, I tried the red beans and rice at Popeye's and it really is good. I won't eat anything else there, once when I tried the wings there were some small white feathers attached. I was already home with it so just threw them in the garbage.

                                            1. I really like P.F. Changs despite the complaining on this site. I think maybe when you have access to the real authentic chinese food you don't mind the americanized fake stuff so much?? Also I only go as an alt. to the food court at the Westchester (Mall) I don't go for a gourmet meal.

                                              Also I like Panera and Cheesecake factory again, for what they are, not for a spectaculare meal out.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: SweetPea914

                                                P.F. Chang's is actually pretty good, though here in metro D.C. we have the most amazing collection of authentic Asian places around. I was taken there in a group two weeks ago (White Flint Mall location) and had the spicy fish of the day with vegetables and it was first-rate. It has lots of healthy and light selections, which may be "americanized fake stuff" but appeal to many people. Le't's not be elitist to the point of being unfair.

                                                1. I will absolutely go to a fun chain restaurant if I like a particular location, like Charlie Brown's in Staten Island. Their Salad Bar is great and very well supplied and maintained. All you can eat Salad Bar is less than $10 and an enitre entree with Salad Bar included can cost as litle as $13. The wait staff is friendly and accommodating
                                                  On some nights they have cheesy, but fun, promotional novelty drink specials that contain little alcohol but lots of everything else. You can hang out as long as you like.
                                                  and if you asked to be seated in The Library, you're in very comfortable relaxed surroundings For sports fans, there are TV's in the bar room. Great, inexpensive fun.
                                                  and delicious, fresh Salad Bar with dynamite bread for less than $15? Can't be beat.
                                                  As a bonus, If you have them, it's kid friendly

                                                  1. Concur on Cinnabon, HD, B&J's, Cheesecake Factory (vanilla bean or oreo or white choc rasp truffle cheesecakes) plus
                                                    Ruth's Chris
                                                    Koo Koo Roo
                                                    California Chicken Cafe
                                                    Dairy Queen (vanilla breeze w/ rainbow sprinkles)
                                                    Jack in the Box (oreo shake, curly fries)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Emme

                                                      I second Jack and the Box- I am in love with their milkshakes- which use real ice cream- the seasonal offerings are what I wait for to make a return trip- blackberry, mint, and pumpkin are the best~

                                                    2. LaMadeleine in Texas. I pretty much love everything I have ever eaten there, but I especially love the Tomato Basil Soup.


                                                      Nordstrom Cafe

                                                      1. What do you guys think of A&W? I can't think of too many chains I like but the bacon cheeseburger and a root beer float (or just a root beer) at A&W is always enjoyable.

                                                        Also, surprised to see Pain Quotidien described as a chain. What do you consider a chain? Isn't Pain Quotidien too small (or too fresh or something) to qualify?

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: KateC.

                                                          i love red robin as chains go i get the monster burger and all you can eat steak fries.better half loves the pasta dishes.so as chains go this one rates high on my list.mimi's has a great corn chowder but the rest of there food is so box & can.

                                                        2. o i forgot the claim jumper.large portions of good food,decent service and fair prices.and o my god the desserts.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. I like Nando's Chicken, but the only North American venues are in Canada, for now. Ajisen Ramen can put out good honest noodles, though they are said to vary by location and I haven't tried any of the US branches yet. Little Sheep Hot Pot, the Chinese chain which is spreading to the US and Canada is great

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Gary Soup

                                                              When I lived in London I ate at Nando's regularly. I hope they get into California at some point. It's the least greasy fast food I've had.

                                                            2. Does anyone have any input on Bob Evans?

                                                              4 Replies
                                                                1. re: parkboy

                                                                  Its nothing special, IMHO. Similar to Denny's or Cracker Barrel.

                                                                  1. re: parkboy

                                                                    Most of the food is just okay, but they do have excellent sausage (that you can get in supermarkets in the midwest) so I sometimes get a craving for their sausage and cheese omelet. They also have blueberry and cinnamon pancakes with everything baked in instead of slopped on top. A lot of people like their biscuits and gravy. They serve breakfast anytime so Bob Evans isn't a bad option in a pinch. But overall similar to Cracker Barrel.

                                                                  2. Chik-fil-a sometimes
                                                                    Wendy's sometimes
                                                                    BK never
                                                                    McD's rarely, though it is such a guilty sort of pleasure. mainly b/c i get excited to go there even though i feel gross after eating only the fsh fil-a or cheeseburger. something about it - it's like eating the plastic food we played with as kids! so perfect looking, so soft, it used to taste so good as a kid. but now I at least notice the gross off-notes (like, no this is not food!) together with the familiar taste. ok enough ranting.

                                                                    I like Qdoba, not for every day, and I definitely don't eat any meat besides the shredded beef, vegetarian (i.e. just beans, cheese, guacamole) is best. I've never eaten at Chipotle or Baja. I like Qdoba for its combo of fake and authenticy-inspired food.

                                                                    Le Pain Quotidien, Whole Foods, oh Boar's Head does that count? The default cold cut at the cheaper NY delis, impossible to find now that I've moved. sandra lee - no thanks.

                                                                    1. Ruby Tuesdays
                                                                      PF Changs

                                                                      1. Chipotle
                                                                        In N' Out Burger (West Coast only *sigh*)
                                                                        Abbott's Frozen Custard (a Rochester, NY chain)
                                                                        Panda Express
                                                                        Dairy Queen
                                                                        California Pizza Kitchen
                                                                        Pizzeria Uno
                                                                        TGI Friday's (I make no apologies for having a craving for this place!)

                                                                        1. Bandana's in and around St. Louis.

                                                                          1. I rather like Elephant Bar, for the friendly atmosphere and interesting choice of decor, along with a good selection of menu items. I can actually find appetizers that I like instead of just being forced to choose entrees with garguantuan portions - the waiters in my location (Fremont, CA) also happen to be very friendly and have no qualms with splitting entrees or any other such difficulty. I think it's only focused on California and some other nearby states?

                                                                            1. Fatburger. Have 'em cook your burger on the charcoal, and have some of their excellent lemonade to go with it. MMMmmmm

                                                                              1. Bruegger's Bagels for the veggie sandwich,
                                                                                Old Chicago for better beer than other chains and good side salads.

                                                                                Lastly, I do a lot of back-country hiking and canoeing. If I come out of the woods into a small town, the salad bar at Pizza Hut always hits the spot. Being very hungry and not having had refrigeration for a week makes that place a post-hike dream (beer, pizza & salad), but I'd otherwise not set foot in the place!

                                                                                1. Steak n Shake, which I think is pretty much Midwest. They make shakes with actual ICE CREAM! (I know because my son worked there for a while). And the burgers are quite good for fast food.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                    Char -Grill (around Raleigh, NC)
                                                                                    Cookout ( NC based chain)
                                                                                    Goodberry's Custard (Raleigh, NC area)

                                                                                  2. Just to add some Canadian flavour:

                                                                                    Swiss Chalet - this is mostly roasted chicken, although they've added ribs and a few other entrees recently. A quarter chicken dinner includes salad, potato, roll, and their special sauce for about $7 Cdn. Also, while in eastern Ontario and Quebec, you can try their French rival, St. Hubert chicken. Both offer decent food in clean surroundings.

                                                                                    Harvey's - a burger joint where your burger is cooked right in front of you. The fries are terrible, but the burgers are a step up from Wendy's, McD's, or BK. Plus you get your choice of all the toppings you want, put on the bun as you watch. Did you want another piece of tomato? Just ask, no extra charge.

                                                                                    And doesn't anyone from the US have a kind word for White Castle? They don't exist in Canada, and from Toronto, it's normally a car trip of 5 to 8 hours, so we only have them once or twice a year, but there is something fun on a long car trip about ordering a "sack" of burgers for the family, and munching along together.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: KevinB

                                                                                      Good call on White Castle, cant go wrong with a crave case and quality six-pack.

                                                                                      1. re: KevinB

                                                                                        I always have a kind word for White Castle! Krystals (their Southern chain counterpart - hard to believe, but they're even better than WC!) are awesome too. Can't go wrong with onion-y grilled slyders! Just like Yankeefan said, you can't go wrong with a WC Crave Case (30 burgers) or a Krystal Steamer (24 burgers)!

                                                                                        1. re: KevinB

                                                                                          While we're on the topic, anything good about La Belle Province in Quebec? I've never ventured into one, but they always seem to be in my face when I'm in Montreal.

                                                                                        2. Chili Verde (Los Angeles)
                                                                                          Red Robin
                                                                                          Claim Jumpers
                                                                                          Carl's jr

                                                                                          1. High End: Oceanaire, Ruth's Chris, Capital Grill, Texas de Brazil
                                                                                            The Rest: Famous Dave's BBQ, Maggiano's Little Italy, PF Chang's, Culver's, Green Mill

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: GastronautMN

                                                                                              When we are in AZ:

                                                                                              In and Out (for the love of God, can we get one in OH?)
                                                                                              Red Robin
                                                                                              Macayos Mexican Grill

                                                                                              When we are at home in OH:

                                                                                              Ruby Tuesdays (garden bar)
                                                                                              Wendys (Spicy Chicken)
                                                                                              McNasty's (fries)
                                                                                              Chick-Fil-A (chik'n minis)
                                                                                              Auntie Annes (good friend works there...think FREE)
                                                                                              Rockne's (once in awhile)

                                                                                              When we head to Cleveland for the day:

                                                                                              PF Changs
                                                                                              Bahama Breeze
                                                                                              Trader Joes and Wild Oats

                                                                                            2. Qdoba actually cook the meat in the restaurant and their salads are good, fresh, and nice.

                                                                                              Bennigan's Guiness burger is also quite tasty

                                                                                              Don't mind the chains, but usually there's ONE thing that's good, and everything else is pretty inedible. It takes some savy ordering ...

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Feastradio

                                                                                                We have a Qdoba on my campus and I'm kinda nervous to try it. Everything looks so greasy and unhealthy. Maybe its just mine?

                                                                                                How is the chicken taco?

                                                                                                1. re: sunkissedbabe43

                                                                                                  In my limited Qdoba experience, I have not found it to be greasy or unhealthy - although massive quantities would be unhealthy. Especially with the chicken, most of the menu is grilled or slow-roasted, not fried. You can also get the items "Naked" - without tortilla - to further cut down the calories.

                                                                                                  1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                                                                                    Thanks. I tried it and like you said, I got it "naked". Unfortunately they weren't too nice about giving any extra lettuce or salsa so it wasnt just a pile of chicken. oh well.

                                                                                                    1. re: sunkissedbabe43

                                                                                                      Sounds like some stingy Qdoba people. It may be likely that the Qdoba is just a name on the door with the actual restaurant run by the campus foodservice people instead of Qdoba themselves. I was fortunate to have a Sbarro and Chick-Fil-A at my university, but keep trying to get some more "clothing" on the Naked burrito!

                                                                                              2. Crisper's (Florida sandwich/salad chain, not a buffet and way, way better than Sweet Tomatoes)
                                                                                                Ruths Chris
                                                                                                Cheeburger Cheeburger
                                                                                                Grand Lux Cafe
                                                                                                Cheesecake Factory
                                                                                                PF Chang's (your mileage may vary)

                                                                                                For quick lunch:

                                                                                                1. Popeye's for the Chicken, biscuits, and red beans
                                                                                                  Cracker Barrel for the chicken n' dumplings, baby limas, and right now the carrot cake
                                                                                                  ...and there's probably more, but I don't want to disrespect myself too much at one time.

                                                                                                  1. Claddagh Irish Pub--Great Llakes area. Can't speak to the other food but very good fish and chips. Get the half portion as it is huge.

                                                                                                    Not happy about the pseudo Irish pubiness, but what chain isn't attempting to recreate a unique experience? No oxymoron there :)

                                                                                                    1. Houston's
                                                                                                      Chik Fil-A
                                                                                                      Chili's (come on, you can't beat some queso and chips and beer!)

                                                                                                      1. I don't know if anyone else mentioned it but Panera is very good too!

                                                                                                        1. My primary complaint about chains isn't the pedestrian menus that tend to dominate those places, but the inconsistency. I like to know what I'm going to get when I order. I do like Rubio's and In-n-Out for that reason... it seems that no matter which one of their stores you walk into, the food and service will be of similar quality.

                                                                                                          I like Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs ice cream, but I buy it at the supermarket. I've only been to one B & J and possibly 2 H-D shops, so I can't really judge those. I'm sure the product quality stays the same, but service might well vary.

                                                                                                          1. Hmmm . . . nobody has mentioned Potbelly Sandwich Works. Decent ingredients, a fair track record of hiring friendly workers who keep it together, and a sandwich that's both heated through and delivered fast.

                                                                                                            1. We're so lame in Cleveland here that we don't even have 90% of the places listed already. We don't have a Haagen-Dasz, there's no Baja Fresh (which I enjoyed when I was in LA), obviously no In&Out burger (which is my FAVE), elephant bar, and I keep emailing Potbelly to ask them to open a location here because I always enjoy that when I travel to DC for business.

                                                                                                              The only halfway decent and consistent chain I enjoy with some regularity here is Macaroni Grill. We do have a Carabba's but I think all their food is way too salty.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                What about Mr. Hero and the completely over-the-top Romanburger? The food about which Toledo CityPaper wrote, "If Caligula were alive today, he would've ordered these by the dozen"? Sure, you wouldn't want to eat it every day . . . or even every week . . . month . . .