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If it has to be a chain, it has to be...

What's the chain restaurant you go to when no other options work, and why that one?

For me, it's the 99. The food is only so so, but there's something on the menu for each of the hounds in the family--the wife, me, the 12 y.o. lad, and the 5 y.o. lass. And I do enjoy the "Wild Bleu" chix salad. And there are enough tvs that I can always see the Sox game during baseball season, which isn't always true at Friday's or Tucci's or the other options.

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  1. Cheesecake Factory if I have to pick a chain....simply because of its variety...

    3 Replies
    1. re: fmcoxe6188

      I have to agree. Cheesecake Factory hands down.

        1. re: pikawicca

          I have only had takeout dessert from cheesecake factory. Mrs. doc has a friend that likes to go there. Has never been any good. I do not understand their success.
          Popeyes Chicken and biscuits is always tasty, although lots of salt.

    2. Bertucci's...not great at anything but location is convenient and know what to expect for the most part...aside from the time I made the mistake of ordering the tilapia and it came out half frozen still.

      1. For me, probably Outback.

        1. outbacks not bad. bonefish grill is another.

          1. Outback probably. However when traveling or on the road, there may be 2 or 3 choices. Mickey D's, Taco Bell or Wendys or maybe subway or a 7-11. I'm really not particular and can eat anywhere. I may not enjoy it as much, but I don't mind or complain.

            However in town, Olive garden for their salad and pasta fijole. Buffalo Wild Wings for their terriyaki wings, just cuz I hate to make them at home. Taco Bell, I honestly do like their taco salad. Subway, the veggie sub with all the veggies. Grilled with cheese. Much easier than me cutting every single veggie up. Bonefish but too expensive for me for what you get, but descent food. Shells seafood, nothing fancy but ok food, some good pastas, chowders, etc. Easy relaxed seafood and not bad for a quick night out.

            1. Depends on the food. For fast food, I still love the cheeseburgers at McDonalds and the supreme tacos at Taco Bell (even though I get a gut ache whenever I eat them).

              For a sit-down meal, Cheesecake factory isn't bad. Olive Garden as well, but I'll only eat the salad and soups.

              1. If it's fast food, probably McDonald's, because it's of consistent, for lack of a better term, quality. You know the fries and burgers are going to taste the same everywhere, and the menu's familiar.
                For sit-down casual, if it's available, it's Cracker Barrel. My wife likes the dumplings, my kids like the atmosphere and whatever we're eating, and I...like the biscuits and apple butter. Shame me if you must...

                1 Reply
                1. re: podunkboy

                  Forgot about Cracker Barrel. Mixed reviews. 2 relatively close. One great food and service. The other food is always cool and bad service. I just deal with it, eat and try to go to the other one but sometimes I still go there. Basically comes up to management but it is still is ok.

                2. Houston's

                  1. Legal Seafood and Bonefish have never disappointed me. I actually have always liked Boston Market. If I have no other options but the drive-through places, that's my choice.
                    If I can count small chains, Kewpee has great burgers, better than the bigger fast food places. And if there's a Maid-Rite available I'm there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                      Boston Market is quite good, especially that creamed spinach. I also like Cracker Barrel and have had no complaints the couple of times I ate at Bertucci's.

                    2. Chipotle
                      Ruth's Chris

                      If I am in Texas and in the Houston College Station area it's Freebird's World Burritos

                      1. Baja Fresh
                        Bonefish Grill

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MattInNJ

                          There's a Baja Fresh in the ground floor of my office building, and I do get lunch from there a few times a year. About as often as I get a burger or a sausage bikkie from McD's or mini corndogs from Der Weinerschnitzel. Where I live, there's no point in going to a sit-down chain: there are too many independents in the same price range. I think the last time I ate in a full-service chain was a Red Robin in Portland, OR, and as I recall it wasn't bad.

                        2. Claim Jumper for the varity, atmosphere, and service.

                          1. For Fast Food, Popeyes.
                            Regular Chain (and if I didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes) I'd probably say Cheesecake Factory for variety like others have said.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: masha bousha

                              Ooo, I forgot about Popeye's, I have yet to find any better fried chicken anywhere, but that's not saying much up here.

                              1. re: roro1831

                                Popeyes is way better than KFC by far.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  Chain wise without a doubt, I was also referring to the inability of most restaurants to put out good fried chicken, chain or not.

                              2. re: masha bousha

                                I sometimes wonder if the wait at CF isn't deliberate, forcing customers to look at the dessert display to increase the likelihood that they'll order a slice despite being stuffed by the oversize meal portions. BTW, masha bousha, it looks like we are related by snout.

                              3. fast food POPEYES
                                the chain is a stretch Bone Fish ,Chipotle ,Legal Sea Food ,McCormic & Schmick ,Finn & Porter ,Cheescake Factory ,Mortons ,Smith & Wollenski all easy locations with enough variety to satisfy a broad range of family and friends
                                and a DC local The Clydes Group

                                1. Weinerschnitzl, chili cheese dog w/ lots of onions. Got to have it! Popeyes too!

                                    1. re: six dower

                                      I'll second that, especially for the variety.

                                      1. re: six dower

                                        CPK is my favorite airport food. Au Bon Pain gets the silver medal. I used to fly frequently between New England and South America, and I *always* made a beeline for the CPK in the Miami airport. I used to get one of their salads just as often as the pizza...

                                        1. re: foxy fairy

                                          In Miami airport I love LaCaretta. I do not know if itis a chain.

                                          1. re: phantomdoc

                                            La Carreta has seven branches around Miami including the one in the airport.

                                      2. Popeye's for chicken. Olive Garden for the salad and soups (pasta fagiole for me).
                                        Our local Chili's makes delicious almost rare steak fajitas. Cracker Barrel for when we're travelling. Chili from Wendy's. Never been to a Cheesecake Factory - will try it when I see one.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: bayoucook

                                          Chili's has decent black bean veggie burgers, surprisingly.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            very true. they are surpisingly quite tasty.

                                        2. If I'm in Chicago-land area, it's Portillos or any of the Lettuce Entertain You concepts..(Jo Brasserie, Maggianos..etc)

                                          For sit down chain, PF Chang's is decent and offers healthy and not so healthy variety. I am also a Trader Vic fanatic, but they are not everywhere like PF Chang's..

                                            1. chick-fil-a i love it so it's an occasional indulgance.

                                              for real food maggiano's or brio. and i don't mind cheesecake simply because of the thai lettuce wraps.

                                              1. In N Out
                                                Houstan's- Crab cakes and bubbly
                                                Outback - for the super cold beer and seared tuna salad
                                                Del Taco is my fast food on the road
                                                Jack in the Box- for the breakfast jack sandwich nothing is better when on a roadtrip in the AM

                                                1. Old Chicago
                                                  Qdoba or Chipotle depending on what particular dish I want
                                                  Which Wich
                                                  Noodles & Company

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. Gas stations - heating box corn dogs, hot dogs and "burgers". Topped with tons of the available Jalapenos, pickle relish, and dill pickle slices (all three not really available here), and cheap ketchup, mustard, and mayo! And some Jim Beam and American TV, please!!

                                                    4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          I've found myself hitting the chicken & cheese taquitos at the QT lately. I'm not proud of it, but they are delicious.

                                                        2. Houston's
                                                          Roy Roger's

                                                          The Bonefish Grills around my way are meat/meet markets. The food is OK.

                                                          1. Five Guys - and I would've said that even before all the Obama hype. Burgers are juicy and spicy and wonderful and just hit the spot! If I had the option where I live, Popeye's and Cheesecake Factory might have the edge, though.

                                                            1. My mother-in-law (90+yo) would insist on taking visiting family to Golden Corral. While no single item stands out, it really doesn't suck and there is something for everyone. I kind of liked it. Not exactly on topic but I needed to make that confession.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Cameraman

                                                                I honestly think, any chain restaurant usually has something that almost anyone could eat. Even Golden Corral. I had some seafood buffet there and it wasn't great but I lived and ate lots of shrimp.

                                                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                  The Golden Corral where I live has pot roast that's to die for, and the fried chicken's pretty decent, too. I also like their carryout option because for about the same price as fast food you can make some healthier selections. Certainly it's not the best alternative to home cooking or fine dining, but sometimes on a busy day and when money's tight, it's a good thing to have around.

                                                                  1. re: Emm

                                                                    It certainly beats Old Country/Hometown Buffet.

                                                                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                      Egads. That brought up some horrible memories. My grandparents used to *love* that place. It was dreadful.

                                                              2. For fast food:
                                                                Rubio's (I think this is only in CA?)
                                                                Wendy's, if I'm truly desperate

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: ed1066

                                                                  Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich has never dissapointed me, actually.

                                                                  1. re: dagwood

                                                                    I had one about two weeks ago and was surprised: it really was spicy! I loved it.
                                                                    I wish every chain made fries like McD's, altho' I'd probably order them and get fat.

                                                                    1. re: dagwood

                                                                      The #6 combo: spicy chicken (hold the tomato), fries and an unsweetened iced tea.

                                                                      Probably the main reason I ended up doing Weight Watchers. It was my favorite lunch spot and was quick, convenient, and consistently good. It was also minutes from my office. I probably ate that combo at least twice a week, if not more.

                                                                      Now, it's an occasional indulgence.

                                                                      1. re: dagwood

                                                                        That's actually the only thing I get at Wendy's.

                                                                        1. re: ajs228

                                                                          me too. well, once in a while the chili, but rarely.

                                                                          1. re: dagwood

                                                                            I really like Wendy's chili. I'll order that and a Caesar side salad or a baked potato with cheese and bacon. Fairly healthy as far as fast food goes.

                                                                      2. re: ed1066

                                                                        We have Rubio's in Phoenix. I like that place. Not bad for fast food.

                                                                        1. re: Jen76

                                                                          Rubio's has these delicious portobello and serrano chile tacos that are quite addictive. I find that for the price, convenience, and quality, Rubio's is one of the best chain restaurants in Phoenix.

                                                                      3. Houston's
                                                                        Cheddar's Casual Cafe
                                                                        Bonefish Grill

                                                                        1. Culver's for fast food. I get a kid's meal consisting of a butterburger with everything, small fries and drink, and cup of frozen custard. $5.

                                                                          Sit down I'm not as sure of. I ate at Cheesecake Factory (French Country Salad) once and it was very tasty. Cracker Barrel twice, (pot roast dinner, breakfast) both times very good. I know the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants are chains but I guess I don't think of them when I think of chains.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: fern

                                                                            Cheesecake Factory

                                                                            For cheap eats, Wahoo's and Golden Corral

                                                                          2. Waffle House.
                                                                            Scattered, Smothered and Covered Hash Browns!!! Nuff said..

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. For full service, Bonefish and Legal Seafood (especially the Legal Test Kitchen at the Boston airport) are probably my favorites. Carrabas has a sausage and lentil soup that's pretty darned tasty. They also do a steak called Filet Bryan that's not on the menu. It's a filet, topped with goat cheese, sundried tomato, basil and a lemon-butter sauce. I've never had a steak cooked incorrectly there.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                                                My Carrabas is always very good too.
                                                                                Fast Food...Jimmy Johns

                                                                                1. Good chains in my opinion:

                                                                                  > Einstein Bros Bagels - excellent bagels and blenders
                                                                                  > Five Guys - good burgers, they seem committed to quality rather than "value" / cheapness
                                                                                  > First Watch - excellent breakfast
                                                                                  > Starbucks, because they're in bookstores and libraries - nothing like sitting down with a good book on a comfortable chair with a Frapuccino
                                                                                  > Papa Murphy's - Their take & bake pizzas are a guilty pleasure of mine
                                                                                  > Cheesecake Factory - delicious ice cream

                                                                                  1. probably the Cheesecake Factory. If nothing else, at least I can get a decent slice of cheesecake. Their grilled eggplant sandwich was pretty good.

                                                                                    1. tastiest:
                                                                                      Wahoo's Fish Tacos (I saw just one mention of Wahoo's above -- YUM -- only on the West Coast I think? I used to go there all the time when I lived in soCal)

                                                                                      on a road trip:
                                                                                      Arby's -- lots of options
                                                                                      Subway (chicken bacon Ranch sub, or these cool little side salads they'll do at some Subways for just $1.50 after days of CRAVING greens while on the road)

                                                                                      fast road trip breakfast: (and greasy, please)
                                                                                      McDonald's breakfast biscuit sandwiches, and the coffee isn't bad either, plus they have fantastic green Shamrock Shakes in March!
                                                                                      Au Bon Pain the jalapeƱo cheddar bagel with sausage, cheese, tomato, mayo

                                                                                      (sticking chow nose in air--) But then, I'm not really a Chain Restaurant kind of girl... just kidding... after driving cross country I have acquired a new appreciation for fast cheap food that one knows (in advance) will be decent. But don't tell anyone I crave those McDonald's breakfast sandwiches even when I'm NOT on the road, okay? LOL

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                                        To wash down that McD's Sausage Biscuit, I get one of their large Sugar-free Vanilla Iced Coffee.

                                                                                        1. re: cavandre

                                                                                          Hmmmm That is making me want to zoom down to McD right now!

                                                                                        2. re: foxy fairy

                                                                                          You can also get any sandwich made into a salad at Subway - the BMT makes a really, REALLY good salad.

                                                                                        3. I know I'm probably the only one in the world who feels this way, but -- I do love Kentucky Fried Chicken -- all dark, extra crispy.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: batchoy

                                                                                            I get KFC cravings from time to time. Nothing like it.