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I know this belongs in "CHAINS" but I ONLY trust your guys opinions and recs. [moved from Los Angeles board]

with that being said, what are some actual "eatable" chain resturants, my girlfriend loves chains and the only two I like is red robin and mimi's but im getting tired of the two, so what are some other "good" ones? how's coco's? or applebees? etc.

thanks, and again sorry for not posting this in the "chains" section but I only trust Los Angeles chowhounders

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  1. PF Changs is the only decent chain.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yogachik

      Eh, I'll eat PF Chang's lettuce wraps. Their mongolian beef if I'm desperate.

      I like Cheesecake Factory as a chain. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal there. I've also never had a cheap nor healthy meal there.

      1. I also like Cheesecake Factory. My favorite is probably TGI Friday's but there aren't any Friday's in LA proper :( Chili's & Chevy's are also near the top of my list, but similar non-LA issue.

        If the definition of chain means there is more than one location, then add Bossa Nova to your list. Great stuff. Also C&O Trattoria has pretty reliable Italian food, nothing special, but good & satisfying.

        I'm guessing you don't want upscale?

        2 Replies
        1. re: LisaStitch

          There is a T.G.I.Fridays in the Ladera Center 6721 La Tijera, Los Angeles, CA 90045. It's across the street from Panns.

          1. re: nitaj

            That's right! I forgot about that Magic Johnson one! Thanks!!!

        2. Chain restaurants in LA are a lot like the Mom & Pop ones in a way - if they have been around for a long time, they must be doing something right. Also, IMHO there are different kinds of chains - Norm's, Denny's, Coco's and Carrow's have their niche, but there are also chains like Morton's, Ruth's Chris and Mastro's at the other end of the spectrum, right?

          Some chains that I like are the Outback Steakhouse at Chapman/Harbor near Euclid, Pho 79 inside the Asia Garden Mall in Little Saigon, PF Chang's for the lettuce wraps, Houston's for the babyback ribs, Lawry's for prime rib, hmmm I'll stop now because this list could get long.

          1. and WHY can you only trust LA CH-ers??? The rest of the world doesn't know good food now?!?!?!

            5 Replies
            1. re: mariekeac

              Probably because the OP wants to eat IN LA and not drive to another state for Steak and Shake, or White Castle or Crystal Burgers, or Whataburger or some other chain that isn't local.

              That being said, there are wonderful snacks at those Boba Places like Tapioca Express. Fried snacks. Inexpensive fried snacks.

                1. re: burntcream

                  Tea Shops and Boba Houses. Usually in more Asian areas of town.

                  Boba are large tapioca balls put into various hot and cold beverages. Used to be very trendy in the 90's, but are still out there Usually have wifi, snacks and small meals. Younger (college age) kids predominantly, but the occasional 'older person' (like me) will stop in also. Good food.


                2. re: Cathy

                  yes, PF Chang's, Cheesecake Factory and TGI Friday's are very LA only places.... If the poster only wanted local places, it could have been posted differently and it would not have been moved to the Chains Topic!

                3. Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's, Charlie Browns Bonefish Grill, Champps, and Bertucci's are all good but I don't know if you have all of them in your area.

                  1. By far the best chain that I've tried which offers great food and seems so un-chainy is Le Pain Quotidien out of Belgium. They have units all over the world - nine in the LA area.


                    1. In LA area:

                      Cheesecake Factory, though they don't take reservations, it's really loud, and my husband hates the wait time in peak hours.
                      Houston's; their spinach dip is amazing. we order it every time. the wait time can also be ugly, but you can also eat at the bar.
                      Daily Grill is expensive, but better than Red Robin & Mimi's (went there sometimes for business lunch).

                      Gaucho Grill; I like the Manager's chicken salad, chimchurri is really good.
                      Sit down burger chains: Islands (Fries are great!), Ruby's

                      For breakfasts/diner type places: Polly's, Hof's Hut, and Ruby's (IMO better than Coco's). To me, Coco's and Denny's aren't that different. Applebees is kind of like TGI Fridays & Chili's.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: empfam

                        yep, Houston's--get their prime rib french dip sandwich...yummy! (even the coleslaw that comes with it is amazing.) it'll probably be a few bucks more than you're used to, and worth every penny.

                      2. I doubt that my uncivilized Phoenix taste buds are worthy of your hyper-elite(ist) Los Angeles palate, but the general rule of thumb with chains is that you do get what you pay for. Places that I consider to have a better bang for the buck are the appetizer menu at TGI Friday's (I've more than once made a meal out of getting a bunch with friends at happy hour), the soup-salad-breadsticks special at Olive Garden (indeed, about the only thing worth getting there), and a local to you chain called Pat & Oscar's for their dinner combinations (Sure it's a meal for two... two what, football linebackers?). I find PF Chang's and its sister chain Pei Wei to be overpriced for what you get; there are at least half a dozen Chinese restaurants I'd go to before I even gave PF Chang's a thought.

                        Then there's Cheesecake Factory. Your girlfriend will be thrilled with the place. I found the food to taste like all the interesting flavor got focus-grouped right out.

                        Then there's the obvious solution... find a girlfriend who doesn't favor chain restaurants.

                        1 Reply
                        1. From some of your other posts, it seems like you might be vegetarian. If you are, I should warn you that Applebee's is horrible in terms of veggie options. It's pretty gross as it is but it'll almost be impossible to find anything you can eat if you're vegetarian.

                          I love the veggie plate at Houston's/Bandera/Gulfstream and I also really enjoy Roy's.

                          For cheaper chains, I like Chili's over the comparably priced ones.

                          1. Chain restaurants are not too-well liked by a lot of CHers...almost by definition a chain has to have some compromises from stand-alone places to make them financially viable. That being said, there are a number of good and better places in and around SoCal. Here's some of my favorites:

                            Fast food - In N Out Burger. Plenty written about it...they do it simply and do it well

                            Casual - Ruby's (SoCal). They capitalize on the 50's nostalgia, but I have found their food to be very good across the board. Maybe a little pricey, but a great place to go with a family. On a national level, I prefer Chili's to the other mainstream places, and if you are a vegetarian as someone had mentioned, the burger they serve is the absolute favorite of my sister (20 year vegetarian).

                            Mid-level - Wood Ranch (SoCal-based) and Houston's (national). Somewhat similar in decor, concept and food, I enjoy going to both of these places. I think the prime rib at Houston's is some of the better PR you can get, not to meniton their prime rib french dip sandwich. Claim Jumper is of a fairly similar vein...I think the food is a notch below the other 2, but you do get outstanding portion sizes, often enough for a meal the next day!

                            Honorable mention - ok, just one location (so far) in SoCal,but Portillo's in Buena Park is an outpost of a very popular Chicago-based chain. Along with Ruby's, it's at the top of my "chain list". Great burgers, italian beef/sausage, sandwiches, salads and more. A fantastic grilled portabello mushroom sandwich as well for vegetarians.

                            1. What is so funny about this post is that the LA people have posted about national chains - and even said that they're the same as the local LA mom and pop's: apparently Los Angelenos are the only people qualified to answer -either b/c the rest of the country has better food or are better at finding good food locally.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: fara

                                Your post runs parallel to the OP's, where the request is for folks in LA to respond. Cultural, taste, and chemistry differences from city to city can definitely play a part in the OP's request. Nothing is mentioned about chains needing to be only in LA - just chains in general. And the "same as the local mom and pop's," relates to the thought that longevity is one sign that a place, whether chain or not, might be at least decent - not that they are the same in terms of variety or quality.

                                I guess whether, "the rest of the country has better food or are better at finding good food locally," is subjective - maybe in your case, it seems somewhat pejorative, but I don't think insult was intended... I'd much more trust the judgement of my local homies to tell me which chains fair well in my own town than the word of folks from other towns where the chain's food might be much better or much worse. In LA, we get some huge variations from location to location of the same chain, let alone from city to city or region to region (El Pollo Inka is a classic example in LA).

                                I feel for the OP as alot of times I'm in similar a dilemma with our kids. Most of the time, they want a burger at Mickey D's while I want something - anything - far less chainy. We oftentimes settle on Islands (a chain in LA) since they do a real decent burger, fries, and have other items on the menu that pass.

                                We (no "Los") Angelenos take pride in the variety of well-represented cuisines that are offered in our broadranging city - Mexican, Persian, Mediterranean, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, etc, that have little or no equal in any other city in the US. Obviously, the poster is very aware of this blessing - he just wishes his dear girlfriend were as well...

                                1. I'm not an LA chowhounder. I live in Orlando, where we have some of the best restaurants (chain and non-chain) that I have been to in the entire country. If you like Red Robin and Mimi's (which I do as well), then plenty of other chains will probably appeal to you if you give them a try.

                                  That being said, I'm not a fan of Applebees, Tony Roma's, Chili's, TGI Friday's, McCormick & Schmick's, or the Darden restaurants (even though they are headquartered here - that includes Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones, Seasons 52).

                                  Here are a few recs that I like. I don't know if you have them in Cali, but I have intentionally omitted ones that I know are only in Florida:

                                  Fast Food: Firehouse subs (way better than Subway), Zaxby's, Guthrie's

                                  Fast Casual: Panera (similar to Cosi), Baja, Chipotle

                                  Inexpensive: Pizzeria Uno, Don Pablo's, Outback, Hops

                                  Moderate: Houston's is my all-time favorite moderate chain restaurant, followed by Chart House (best caesar salad anywhere), also Grand Lux, Bandera, Maggiano's, Cheesecake Factory, Brio, PF Changs, Fogo de Chao, Texas de Brazil

                                  Upscale/Trendy Expensive: Roy's, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril's, Ruths Chris, Samba Room, Norman's

                                  1. Agree on CF, Houston's, CPK (for salads).

                                    La Salsa or Baja Fresh for a side order of charbroiled chicken and a bucket of salsa.

                                    Rubio's for the mahi mahi, or that healthy burrito

                                    Sisley Italian Kitchen for the chopped chicken salad w/ eggplant and the grilled veggie appetizer

                                    *shudder* Jerry's Deli for egg white omelettes ONLY



                                    Maria's Italian Kitchen for Chicken Primavera and the chopped salad

                                    Do Gelson's/Ralph's/Whole Foods salad bars count ;)

                                      1. Roy's, Houston's, King Taco. Buca di Beppo (hey it's not bad).

                                        Applebee's is GRROOOOSSSSS. I'd go to Coco's and Carrow's any day over Applebee's.

                                        1. Simple advice - if they advertise on television, avoid eating there. I have found that this works very well. That said, I had an excellent patty melt at Elephant Bar today; fresh ground beef patty, lots of cheese and grilled chopped onions, and two slices of greasy, toasty bread. They cooked it medium as requested, and it was juicy and perfect. Elephant Bar is a good option.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                            Mariekeac, I hate to burst your bubble but PF Changs, TGIFridays and Cheesecake Factory are in chains because they are indeed national. And CF may have begun in Calif...but I'll make book on the other two originating elsewhere. LA? still no there....there.

                                            1. re: Alice Letseat

                                              You are indeed correct, Alice. TGI Friday's got its start in the sixties as a New York singles bar (they named it the TGIF to attract the career crowd. It worked very, very well indeed.). PF Chang's got its start in Scottsdale AZ; the PF stands for Paul Fleming, also of the Fleming's steakhouse chain. Fleming has long since sold off PF Chang's, and that was right about when the whole thing went downhill. Back when there was just the one it was *the* place in town for Asian. A lot of Phoenicians complain about the 90 minute wait encountered at Pizzeria Bianco, but back in PF Chang's heyday the wait list would approach THREE HOURS and they didn't take any reservations.

                                              1. re: Alice Letseat

                                                I think Mariekeac was being more than somewhat sarcastic. IE, clearly since those three enormous national chains are only available to those in LA, then only those in LA are able to comment upon or suggest them.

                                                Just a poorly phrased OP is all I think. Might have been more helpful to list some local LA places the OP likes and ask if there are chains that do similar things.

                                                As is...heck, I'd keep going to Red Robin, the burgers are pretty good and the fries are endless.

                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                  Thanx CC...

                                                  ("Probably because the OP wants to eat IN LA and not drive to another state for Steak and Shake, or White Castle or Crystal Burgers, or Whataburger or some other chain that isn't local.")

                                                  how can i not give a sarcastic comment after this comment I got and reading all the other suggestions.....

                                            2. I understand that chains differ a lot from place to place. When I lived in Ohio I loved Wendy's for the salads and chili. In LA, Wendy's is horrible.

                                              Anway, just to add, I've been liking Hamburger Hamlet. They have a fresh made turkey burger that is very good.

                                              And I agree with the Olive Garden salad and breadsticks.

                                              1. Have you tried Claim Jumper? I fell in love with the variety and the size the of meals. If she loves chocolate, then the Mother Lode is for her, a 7 layer chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. Their appetizer salads are really good, I love their California Citrus salad. There's one by Knott's Berry Farm park, Northridge, Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Brea, and more.


                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Bakersfield Hound

                                                  I like Claim Jumpers!! I've been to the one in the City of Industry.

                                                  1. re: Bakersfield Hound

                                                    They have a good dessert menu - lots of variety beyond the 9 foot choc cake.