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Chains That Are EAsy to Love

It's easy to knock chains. But, despite a clear preference tor a non-chains in most circumstances, chains do fit the bill a lot of the time. Here are some of my favorites, and why; let's hear what you LIKE about some chains, as this could be helpful to others:

1. Pho 75 It may be a chain, but I find the soup(s), service and pricing to be quite
delightful, on Adams Ave, just off the Blvd. I was one of the first non-Asian
customers there; most of the customers are Asian, but the service is always

2. Popeye's Oh, my secret vice. Yummy. I order spicy now, it's so good. Love their
red beans and rice. Drive a different way just to hit the N. J. Turnpike's site
whenever I can. A favoritate guilty lunch.

3. Cracker Barrel Don't scoff. While traveling, we found Cracker Barrels to offer consistent
good quality and variety, at a fair price: reliability is the buzz word here,
even if not the healthiest food around.

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  1. Nice to see a post about local chains, although I am still mourning the loss of the White Castle in willow grove and I believe quakertown had a steak and shake I never got around to visiting because I thought I had more time. Sniff. Haven't been to the Popeye's in Plymouth Meeting mall lately but last time I checked they were still thriving. Best bargain fast food snack in my neck of the woods is a dozen hush puppies from the long john silver fused to the taco bell on broad street in lansdale. But alas no more chili cheese dogs and root beer floats from the A and W in montgomeryville. A and W left town leaving only a KFC. Sigh.Yum Yum donuts is a very small chain that survived the lo-carb craze and seems to be doing well in this meager economy. Their donuts are so very good that it is just as well for me that they quit being open 24 hours. They still open at four thirty and stay open til 11 pm though. Except for sundays when they sleep in til five thirty am. .

    6 Replies
    1. re: givemecarbs

      Popeye's at Plymouth Meeting seems to be closed.

      1. re: Jdbc

        Awww. And the fatburger that was going to take over the Atlanta Bread Company space never materialized. Bah.

        Atlanta Bread Company
        370 US Highway 130 Ste 15, East Windsor, NJ 08520

        1. re: Jdbc

          yeah. there's a sign that they're "undergoing renovations" but they've been closed for months.

        2. re: givemecarbs

          So much for local chains but I see my fellow hounds from all over are enjoying this thread so I guess the mods know best, they moved this from the Philadelphia board. Lee's Hoagie House is not bad, I always mean to get an Italian hoagie but there is something about their double cheeseburgers I cannot resist.

          1. re: givemecarbs

            Somehow I missed seeing this thread earlier, but I can't believe nobody has mentioned Corner Bakery! Service is always fast and friendly, food is fresh, clean-tasting and delicious. Portions are generous, DH and I usually share a sandwich and a salad, and are more than satisfied. Their cookies and other baked goods are as good as my mother used to make, which is saying a lot.

            1. re: judybird

              I will add another thumbs up for the Corner Bakery. I have one within lunching distance from work! I love the lemon bars, the chili is decent, and we always get a good salad or sandwich.

            1. re: Philly Ray

              There have been many kudos to Chick-Fil-A. I just don't get it. I stopped there once and really, really tried to like it. It was a sodium bomb fried in burnt grease. I was ravenously hungry and couldn't finish. What do you normally order?

              1. re: JerryMe

                I usually order something with their grilled chicken, either the sandwich or one of the salads. still a little salty but no grease. i do NOT like their fries.

                1. re: JerryMe

                  I tried them once and it wasn't memorable for me but I do have to say their chocolate milkshake is very good.

                2. re: Philly Ray

                  Big fan of Chick fil A. Their salads are great. I can't get into their waffle fries but most people love them. The one thing I find is that the drive thru and counter staff are always nice, pleasant and polite. This can't be said for many other chains. I went to McDonalds just for a Coke in the drive thru and had the person taking my order ask me if I was going to order anything to eat. That doesn't happen at Chick fil A.

                  1. re: punkgirl107

                    LOVE Chic Fil A. Quality is consistently high even if I stop at different locations several times a week. The classic sandwich, nuggets, strips,salads, shakes, brownies, lemonade, and condiments are always delicious, dining and rest rooms meticulously clean and staff friendly and courteous. Bojangle's has great dirty rice.

                3. Pho Hoa is an even bigger chain than Pho 75 and it is really good. I also really like Crown Fried Chicken, though I think that is a franchise not a chain.

                  One more: Chipotle. Way better than QDoba and also most of the local Mexican taquerias--for burritos, not tacos.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: barryg

                    Chipotle is fantastic -- I miss it dearly and go to one whenever I'm back in CO. Smaller menu, much higher quality than Qdoba, and their meat is all from Nieman Ranch organic farms IIRC.

                  2. Five Guys Burgers and Fries! Good burgers, what else matters?
                    Great Harvest Bread Company is a mini chain but bakes amazing cupcakes.
                    Does Capogiro count?

                    As an aside, I'd nominate Checkers for "Chains that are easy to hate", terrible, terrible burgers.

                    1. If you ever get to terminal B of Atlanta's Hartzfield airport, there is a Popeye's there, that is superb, always cooked fresh, friendly people as well.l try to arrange time between connections to use it.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        For some reason I don't equate eating at Five Guys as being a chain (like say, gag, the golden arches). I eat munchkins regularly too without abandon. The same seems to hold true for when I am in an airport and go to a Starbucks. I was actually in the Honolulu airport recently and a bit hungry and the food choices were limited so I tried a sandwich from Quizno's for the first time in my life and it was not bad. I dunno if it was because it was 10 PM and I had too much sun and nothing else was open but it seemed pretty decent.

                        There is also the Border Cafe in Delaware that is pretty good. I think there are about five of them. I guess Termini's and Fourth Street are chains if Capogiro is one? Now the big question, does two locations make Paesano's a chain?

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Thanks for the tip! I missed this opportunity just last week when I connected through Hartsfield and my plane came in at B10.

                          My usual go-to there is Paschal's soul food. Another guilty pleasure...

                        2. Five Guy's and Famous Dave's are my two guilty corporate pleasures. I also like Panera's. I'm a sucker for good, fresh bread.

                          1. i completely agree with one and two. LOVE popeye's....may have to go there this week. and pho 75 offers very tasty pho (especially for a chain). i also love crap as can be taco bell. :D

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: mazza3

                              I'm so glad that I'm not the only one that loves Popeye's. I first went there when I lived in Atlanta. Is there anything better then fried chicken?

                              1. re: DaisyM

                                Taco Time is a regional chain in these parts (NW) and I love their crispy burritos. Basically deep fried love. AMAZING in moderation.

                                1. re: DaisyM

                                  The closest Popeye's is about 25 minutes away, and every time my husband passes by, he brings home fried chicken. It's totally yummy! I also get cravings for Long John Silver's Fish and More. Probably get it once a year or less, but I think about it much more often than that.....

                                  1. re: DaisyM

                                    popeye' yes! dirty rice red bean's and rice spicy chicken...slso love bojangles biscuits boberry esp

                                2. I recently started going to Pizzeria Uno and have really liked what I had there. now understand, I ain't goin for the pizza... i had a really good curried rice and lentil soup there last week (altho the rice was a little overcooked), with a turkey and craisin wrap of some sort. I also really like their veggie soup.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                    I go for the pizza. A little bit of Chicago when you can't find it anywhere else.

                                  2. I bet if someone brought a White Castle to the Willow Grave area, they'd do very well.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                      If I remember correctly, the place where KFC is now (opposite the mall) started out as a White Castle. It didn't last, sadly.

                                    2. Popeye's is my favorite, but there's sentimental reasons behind it as well. I used to go to the original before it was a chain.

                                      1. Agree with Cracker Barrel & Popeye's, though Popeye's can be hit or miss depending on the location. I've yet to try Pho 75. Also like to go to the happy hour at Claim Jumper. $4 pizza and beer!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: heckonwheels

                                          True about Popeye's and it can also vary as to the time of day. During Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the best time for the New Orleans locations as they move so much product you are always getting in fresh out the fryer. The one by my house in Jersey is hit or miss, but going when they are busy is best.

                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                            I used to love BJ's and was a regular when they were only 6 locations before they went public. The chain expanded and kept quality up pretty well, but since the original CEOs (Paul Motenko and Jerry Hennesy) left the company last year, it seems that is has dropped a little in food quality...the beer's still pretty good.

                                            1. re: heckonwheels

                                              our main problem within the last year has been service. It seems to lack more and more. They did add some new menu items very recently I have yet to try those.

                                          2. Popeye's is a really guilty pleasure of mine that I allow myself every 2 or 3 years. After I eat it, I can almost hear my arteries clogging. I really have to disagree on Cracker Barrel. Recently they stopped using pure maple syrup on their pancakes in favor of "100% Natural syrup", which is some sort of sweet concoction. It was then I withdrew any hope for Cracker Barrel.

                                            I'd like to nominate Chuy's as a chain that is extremely easy to love. I could almost eat Chuy's every night.

                                            1. In n Out Burgers. I usually try to stop by and eat here whenever I visit California. Simple, fresh ingredients, delicious and reasonably priced. My standard order is a double meat (2 burgers) everything but onions, fries and a chocolate shake. No guilt on having a rich chocolate shake since this is a once a year visit.

                                              Il Fornaio, a small west coast chain, the food, decor and service here is very good and I am quite impressed, having tried branches in Seattle, Irvine and Carmel. Last visit we started with the rustichella, a baked flat bread with fresh tomato, cheese, onions, olives and basil. Simple and delicious with the flavors of the ingredients coming through. For our main courses we had the pasta bolognese, pasta with shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce and roast chicken. Dessert was fresh berries in a custard with whipped cream. Everything was nicely prepared and delicious, especially the roast chicken which was moist and tender.

                                              The Cheesecake Factor. Don't laugh but on my last visit, my $12 prime hamburger steak with onions and mushroom gravy, mashed potato and fresh vegetables was surprisingly good and filling. I was actually pleased with what I had despite not really wanting to eat here.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: curiousgeo

                                                oh boy, back when i could still eat it, i loved the Cheesecake Factory's Four Cheese Pasta... or "Heart Attack on a Plate," but i would add broccoli to it, and ask for extra ricotta on top. and i like their mashed potatoes. my best friend likes their orange chicken. my grandmother their miso salmon.

                                              2. We like Popeye's but eating at Cracker Barrel is like eating canned food. Why bother?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Clams047

                                                  CB.... Because it's a fun atmosphere and has nostalgia.

                                                2. Another vote for Popeye's. The closest one to here is about 15 miles away from my house, but I still manage to make it in for some spicy chicken and red beans and rice every once in a while.

                                                  Here in the Seattle area, Ivar's is another chain that is generally rather well regarded. Sure you can probably find better fish and chips or chowder elsewhere, but none of those places have Ivar Haglund's legacy or his ties to the history of Seattle (some of his many publicity stunts were legendary. For example, shortly before he died he filed as a candidate for port commissioner as a joke and ended up getting elected.)

                                                  1. Local chain here is Cheba-Hut. Great sandwiches w/ a 'doobie' theme. They even have a PB&J 'Blunt'. Excellent food! Service can be . . . well, like a bunch of stoners trying to put lunch together.

                                                    Haven't tried Popeyes. SO LOVES Cracker Barrel - me - not so much. It is reliable, I just can't deal w/ all of the fat in every dish.

                                                    Another local chain that I'm liking a lot it "2 Hippies" - One is breakfast, one for burgers, one for tacos, one for pizza. Went to the breakfast one this am and had an awesome olive and cheese burger. Olives were first rate. Fries were good and crisp when they first came out hot. A very psychedelic interior . . . .am I seeing a pattern here w/ the local chains??

                                                    1. Another that I like is The Hat, great pastrami, burgers, and chili. About 10 locations in Southern California.

                                                      1. I almost forgot about Jersey Mikes I think they are one of the best sandwich chains

                                                        1. +1 for Cracker Barrels. The meatloaf is pretty darn good as are the biscuits and the pancakes.

                                                          1. There aren't too many late night non-chain options but the ones I don't complain about going to (aside from the health factor) include:

                                                            Five Guys-although they opened so many locations within a 3-5 mile radius that many have closed

                                                            Outback/Longhorn- mainly I'm going for consistency/price and because they don't overcook the meat. Medium can tend to mean gray around here. I don't want to pay over $25 for meat to be cooked correctly (I do genuinely like the ribs at Longhorn too.)

                                                            Macaroni Grille and once in a while Carrabas- but I feel like Carrabas food has a very mass produced taste and I won't wait the normal 2 hr wait for MG

                                                            I will eat a breakfast sandwich at Cracker Barrel with the hash brown casserole but nothing else.

                                                            I like fried chicken nuggets and strips at Chick-fil-A but only go once or twice a year.

                                                            I like a few things at Panera if I have to go.

                                                            Starbucks if I have to.

                                                            I really try to stick with my local restaurants as much as possible but in this part of the country, you are hard pressed to find a place open on a Sunday that is not a chain.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: melpy

                                                              I was out of town and I realized I forgot a few things.

                                                              I adore Chipotle! I could eat there everyday. There isn't one close by so I don't but man is it good.

                                                              I have been to Sonic a couple times and I like a few things there.

                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                don't know where you are but there are 2 new Chipotle restos near me... one in plymouth meeting mall, the other in the Borders parking lot across from montgomery mall. :)

                                                                1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                  I'm in Central PA and the closest ones are Harrisburg (31 min), York (46 min), and Hagerstown (51 min). We need one here! (We have something in the next town over called Neato Burrito but I don't like it). AND I don't want a Qdoba. My SO was looking into the franchising of a Chipotle but they don't do that.

                                                            2. I just got back from my first ever visit to qdoba. I was pleasantly surprised! all the choices are a little overwhelming, but I looked at the menu online before we went so I had a good idea what I wanted. I got a tortilla soup trio - soup, build your own taco and a drink. The tortilla soup was nicely spiced, altho my cup could have used more veggies. got a basic taco, grilled chicken, guac and pico. it was very tasty.
                                                              going to have to visit again, and try some other offerings.
                                                              I'm also a fan of baja fresh, their fish tacos are really good.

                                                              1. 1) Wendy's: I've been getting the same thing from them for 20 years: A triple hamburger plain without cheese and an order of nuggets, and both the hamburger and the nuggets are the best anywhere. I'm heard of a lot of other places that are supposed to have better hamburgers, but I can only assume people like the cheese or the sauce or some other crap that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, because they never are. And there nuggets are the best nuggets (as opposed to chicken strips, which nobody including Wendy's has that are any good) hands down. One problem they used to have is not being able to understand the idea of "no cheese". I once got so frustrated I kept a log and got 23 cheeseburgers in a row, two of them with lettuce and one with everything. This problem completely stopped when I moved to Florida three years ago, although it must still enough that employees are aware of it because often when I'm checking the hamburger before pulling off the employee in the window will ask if I'm checking for cheese.

                                                                2) Arby's because of their French Dip subs. Although now they put cheese on them so I have to ask for it without, but they've never gotten it wrong. And their curly fries are so good I no longer get fries anywhere else, they just pale in comparison so much.

                                                                3) Wawa. Wawa. Wawa. This should be number one, but now that I'm in Florida I can't go there anymore. Literally everyone I know down here who is from Pennsylvania or Delaware gets teary eyed and stares into the distance when you say the word Wawa. My favorite was their homestyle roast beef sub, with the cubed roast beef swimming in gravy in the sub. Also, their meatballs were so good that it was a sin to put them in a sub, I would just order the meatballs in a soup cup (enough people agree with me that it is an option on their menu screen). They were the first place I saw that had the touchscreen order systems, and I haven't seen a touchscreen that was as good about giving you options.

                                                                4) Checkers. Their hamburgers are a close second to Wendy's and they are open two hours later (important because I usually get off work after Wendy's closes).

                                                                5) Old Country Buffet. Another one not in Florida, but they were a buffet I absolutely loved in Delaware.

                                                                6) Golden Coral. Actually better in Florida than Delaware because they have fried chicken livers every day down here as opposed to just Thursdays like the one in Elkton and never like the one in Dover. Also, the ones in Florida are better because they have white rice but the ones back home had some kind of rice with things in it.

                                                                7) Bonanza. Not found down here, and the one the same company runs down here (Ponderosa) is a pale, pale comparison. Was the only place in Delaware that had fried chicken livers every day on the buffet.

                                                                8) Rita's Water Ice. I just love them, and down here they are open all year long. They come up with flavors I never would have though of, just had a Swedish Fish flavored one yesterday.

                                                                -Harry From Marydel, DE

                                                                Added in an edit:
                                                                9) Dairy Queen. How could I have forgotten this considering that I worked there from 1984 - 1990? So many amazing items that I couldn't even begin to pick favorites; it's the only place I don't order the exact same thing every time I go. Also their hamburgers are almost as good as Wendy's and are considerably cheaper. Okay I've picked my favorite: Mr. Misty freeze (I refuse to say Arctic Blast or whatever ridiculous thing they changed the name to).

                                                                10) Pizza Hut. Their pan pizza. I constantly take flack for this and am constantly offered pizza that is claimed to be better than Pizza Hut's. It never is.

                                                                11) Cici's. The pizza isn't as good as Pizza Hut (see above), but it's decent - and all you can eat for $4.25 if you get water instead of soda. Also, they have this thing that is like some kind of butter sauce wrapped up in a thin pizza crust with pepperoni which is one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: HarryFromMarydelDE

                                                                    A transplant from PA, I miss it greatly. I'm in LA now and haven't found anything like it. The mint chocolate chip ice they'd occasionally have was the Best. Sighhhhh.....

                                                                    1. re: HarryFromMarydelDE

                                                                      Harry, why can't people understand the difference between a hamburger and a cheeseburger? To me, it's simple. Hamburgers have no cheese. Last week I placed a to go order at a non-chain restaurant. The owner took my order for a hamburger, no cheese. I was going to check it before I left, but he assured me, no cheese. When I got home, of course it had cheese. I was able to scrape most of the cheese off the patty, but tossed the top bun. I feel your pain, Harry.

                                                                      1. re: HarryFromMarydelDE

                                                                        I second Rita's and Wawa. I'm addicted to the filled hot pretzels by the registers. Why aren't these babies sold everywhere??

                                                                        1. re: HarryFromMarydelDE

                                                                          Cici's????????????.........................that is a buffet for people that don't know what real pizza is.................
                                                                          Old Country Buffet??????????? Are you sure that you are on the right message board??

                                                                          1. re: JNUNZMAN

                                                                            He mentioned that he is used to getting flack. It is the chains board after all....

                                                                        2. 'Wichcraft, at least the NYC places I've been to. Prices are a bit upscale ($6-10), but you don't find marinated white anchovies with soft-cooked egg, roasted onion, salsa verde & frisée on country bread at most luncheonettes. And yes, they're delicious.

                                                                          1. Bonefish Grill - Never been disappointed.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: grampart

                                                                              Forgot about Bonefish and Outback - I love Bang Bang shrimp, and that salad with the hearts of palm, add the blue cheese crumbles, and Outback's chicken sandwich with a chopped blue cheese salad. Can't miss with any of those.....

                                                                            2. Foster's Freeze in central California. It's amazing. Burgers are fresh and delicious (with shredded lettuce and thousand island sauce - my favorite combo!!) and the soft serve can't be beat. Plus (as if you needed more) crinkle cut fries!! It might be heaven.

                                                                              1. I've been pretty happy with Longhorn in the past, although when hubby and I went earlier this week after a long absence, we got a server who was way too chatty in an extremely annoying way. I was unhappy that they no longer will cook the chopped steak to anything less than medium. I also order it without the sauce and french fried onion strips they now top it with. The server stopped nattering long enough to repeat the order back to me, so I know he heard me. Nonetheless, it arrived with the toppings. They took it away and made another one which turned out fine. Nonetheless, the manager stopped by and told us that it's their policy to comp any order which is wrong and has to be re-done. Smart. I left feeling happier than I would have otherwise. Hubby's rib eye was probably not of the quality of a fine steak house, but was tasty and cooked to order. Longhorn is decent.

                                                                                1. Wawa - from my year in PA. Great meatball subs.
                                                                                  In n Out
                                                                                  Max's - SF Bay Area
                                                                                  Armadillo Willy's - SF Bay Area
                                                                                  La Fiesta - SF Bay Area
                                                                                  Round Table Pizza - I love the Italian Garlic Supreme
                                                                                  Il Fornaio
                                                                                  Original Pancake House
                                                                                  Cheeburger Cheeburger
                                                                                  Beck's Prime - Houston

                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                                                    I can't believe there's a chain called "Cheeburger Cheeburger. I doubt many people know the origin of that name.
                                                                                    BTW, I like your screen name

                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                      what is the origin, pray tell?
                                                                                      i've only heard that chanted at a diner in Vegas, by the predictable Japanese tourists.

                                                                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                          Back in the '60's or '70's, before SNL, there was a tv sitcom called Chico and the Man. The 'man' was an older, white American who owned an auto repair shop. Chico was a young Puerto Rican with an accent. His favorite food / expression was "cheeburger cheeburger.

                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                            Actually, they ran concurrent, SNL started in '75, Chico and the Man ran '74-'78. Kinda a chicken/egg type thing. Chico was Freddie Prinze, The Man Jack Albertson.

                                                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                              I wasn't aware of the shows being concurrent as we weren't fans of SNL. I'm inclined to think that Chico coined the phrase that became popular enuf for Belushi to copy rather than vice versa. Belushi would have no reason to mimic the accent.

                                                                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                Belushi grew up in the Chicago area, Wheaton, while Prinze grew up in New York City, so maybe it was the other way around. The Billy Goat Tavern was in Chicago. Anyway, it's not important, we'll probably never know. I'm like you, I was never wild about SNL, but I usually watched it, something to do until Monty Python came on after it, at least in my market.

                                                                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                  You're right, James. It's not important. I was just surprised and a bit shocked to learn that there was a chain of burger joints with that name.

                                                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                    Actually, the "cheeburger cheeburger" SNL sketch was based on a real Greek diner (that is still in business) where the writers hung out. I don't know which came first in TV history, though, the use in the SNL sketch or Chico

                                                                                    2. I really like Panera Bread. Their soups, sandwiches and salads are consistently good and I do not feel bad after eating there. The food seems very fresh, and to a point, healthful.

                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                        ttoommyy, I'm with you about Panera Bread. We always stop there on our way to Va. Applebees is another good chain. Their food is good most of the time, and if it isn't they are very quick to make things right. Also, they do a lot of good things. On Vetrans Day, they offer a free meal to all Vetrans.
                                                                                        Cracker Barrel can be very iffy. They used to be consistant, but that has changed over the years.

                                                                                        1. re: basketwoman

                                                                                          Add me to the Panera fan base and I bake my own bread! Altho the standard resto menu (for me) is not the reason I shop there, the fresh bread & bakery always a surprise. They really have replaced (sadly) the local bakery for offering a wide range of yeast bread flavors. No challah tho! In the bakery, their egg souffle is so delicious and the creations change all the time. On breads, tomato basil, the holiday walnut cranberry loaf avail now and their version of honey whole wheat are regular buys. The TBasil bread is nearly a slice of pizza when warmed in the oven.

                                                                                          I also enjoy the salad menu at California Pizza Kitchen. Big salads, filled with interesting combinations, fresh as blazes. The Moroccan Chicken Salad is terrific-sweet potato, beets, nuts, greens, grilled chicken, etc.

                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                            Add me to the Panera fan base as well. Mostly because of their free wifi. Whenever I'm traveling I know I can sit there undisturbed and take care of business without being bothered. And before I went low carb, I was a sucker for their cinnamon crunch bagel.

                                                                                            1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                              so true, I see many wifi users there. Lightly toasted Asiago bagel with fresh garlic rubbed on it is my personal fav. (& a non menu but aim to please item the Mgr. offered to me a year ago). I've made french toast bake out of the french toast bagels and stuffing out of the tomato basil bagels.

                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                What is this "french toast bake" of which you speak? I am intrigued.

                                                                                                1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                  Hi Fireg, my pleasure. Butter a 9x13 oven-proof dish. Rip about six french toast bagels into bite sized bits. Layer in the dish. In a bowl combine six whole eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, heaping teaspoon of ground cinnamon, dash of nutmeg, jig of pure vanilla and a tablespoon of honey. Whisk well and pour mixture over bread. Let the bread soak up the batter for about 30 mins in the frig. Then bring to room temp while you preheat your oven to 350 and bake 30 mins or until custard is set. We serve it with maple syrup or a pear jam. Happy eating!

                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                    oh my. That sounds good just reading it! Thank you HillJ! Sounds like an awesome "company" breakfast for the holidays!

                                                                                                    1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                      My pleasure Firegoat. We do a couple of variations ie: almond extract and sliced almonds or play up the brown sugar topping a bit more. Enjoy !

                                                                                                      1. re: shecrab

                                                                                                        More like a baked french toast; not nearly as custardy or embellished as bread pudding. But, speaking of b.p. I just enjoyed a roasted peach/nectarine bread pudding on Sunday morning that was soaked in a caramel-ginger glaze. OMG, it was really delicious.

                                                                                          2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                            I've only been to Panera once and I guess I was expecting more from the bread. My Bangladeshi friend takes his family there every week, so I guess have to I'll try it again.

                                                                                          3. Culvers! The restaurants are clean as can be, the burgers and everything else are delish! They are what ALL chains should be!!!

                                                                                            1. Love? That's tough to do. I'm not sure if I "love" them, but I am delighted whenever I get to step inside a Grimaldi's or wichcraft. Both put out very respectable products and are certainly above any other place I can consider a chain (and many non-chains).

                                                                                              I've yet to enter a Popeye's. There's a cluster of them, but the area is about 30 minutes out and I'm not sure any chain is good enough to be "out of the way." Still, assuming they're open next Friday when I'll be in the middle of my Holiday gorging, I'll give them a shot. I may be expecting too much, fitting them between the Christmas meal and great neapolitan pizza.

                                                                                              So, all you popeye's fans, what should I get? I'm not afraid of calories, so give me a list that truly says, "You'll understand popeye's after this."

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: ediblover

                                                                                                The spicy fried chicken is the star. Fries are good if fresh. Biscuits taste slightly better than KFC's to me. Hate their gravy on the mashed potatoes, so I almost always just get the fries as a side. Dirty rice is flavorless to me, at least the two times I tried it.

                                                                                                1. re: ediblover

                                                                                                  I once dated a woman who didn't speak English very well. She did pretty well for someone who learned English from movies and TV. But she was really cute, and when I asked her what her favorite restaurant was, she enthusiastically said "Po PEH Shez!" Since I didn't know what that was, I couldn't take her there. Then one day we were passing a Popeye's and she pointed and grinned and happily yelled "Po PEH Shez!!!"

                                                                                                  In Spanish they pronounce the Y as a LL but in Uruguay they prounounce both with a SHH sound, so Tuyo becomes Tusho and "Me llamo" becomes "Me SHHamo," and Popeyes becomes PoPESHes. Today I can't pass a popeyes without saying PoPESHes! aloud in the car.

                                                                                                  1. re: ediblover

                                                                                                    2 piece dark meat spicy with red beans and rice. The biscuits vary greatly from one location to another, so I never set any hopes for those.

                                                                                                    1. re: weezycom

                                                                                                      It was probably a location/timing thing, but I tried it today and it was pretty awful. The chicken was dry (can tell by looking) and there was something very off with the rice and beans (other than being overcooked, watery and bland). Not sure if it's supposed to be this way, but the biscuit was coated with butter; I could tell as soon as it touched my mouth.

                                                                                                      On a positive, the fries were fair (would rank it above BK's and Five's), and, even though it was ridiculously dry, I could certainly see the potential in the chicken with its seasoning/breading. Will be sure to give another location a shot as I come across it.

                                                                                                      On an unrelated note there was a McDonald's nearby that had a 2 for 1 deal on a McRib. A bit tempted, but it was time to let that nostalgia go.

                                                                                                      1. re: ediblover

                                                                                                        There is no butter in or on the Popeye's biscuits.

                                                                                                  2. I will just say this. If I lived within five miles of a Cracker Barrel, I'd be there at least once a week! I was feeling the effects of lots of alcohol after my brother's wedding and I realized the hour ride the next morning wasn't happening on an empty stomach. Went in at about 11am and ordered a POT of coffee. Not wanting breakfast I got the Country fried steak with mac & cheese, fried okra and their hashbrown casserole. There wasn't one thing there I didn't think was excellent. It was only my second time being at one, but I've been in love with the place ever since.

                                                                                                    1. Popeyes - I first knew it in New Orleans from visits there and was thrilled when it came here 25 years ago. The biscuits here (but not everywhere) taste like they've been fried in butter. Sinfully good.

                                                                                                      Penn Station Subs, the best we can do for chesesteak hereabouts. Good fries, too.

                                                                                                      Panera; we were here at the birth, as St. Louis Bread Co. Reliable and frequently very good.

                                                                                                      1. Bashful
                                                                                                        Every time my husband and I do a drive-a-thon we always find a CB.
                                                                                                        It's pretty amusing and although we're often disappointed, we always pull in when we see one.
                                                                                                        Could be the fried apples :)))
                                                                                                        Popeyes, have you tried making the copycat recipe online for their biscuits? So good&3 ingredients only.

                                                                                                        I'll add Golden Corral, great variety great price.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                          I loved popeyes but they left my area years ago *sob*

                                                                                                          Go ahead berate me but I really like McD's :)

                                                                                                        2. freebird's world burrito.

                                                                                                          SO GOOD!

                                                                                                          1. Breadsmith. Im a baker but they make a very impressive baugette and soudough boule.

                                                                                                            Popeyes is a guilty pleasure.

                                                                                                            Aladdins Eatery, It's healthy tasty and inespensive alternative to fast food. I love their falafel and shawarma.

                                                                                                            1. Popeye's still has the best spicy fried chicken. I loved the fresh onion rings they made years ago. The cook actually breaded and cooked them to order. It took a few minutes, but they were the best onion rings ever. Too bad.

                                                                                                              1. Kona Grill, I've yet to have anything there I didn't love.

                                                                                                                In N Out grew up on it, sadly moved to an area where there are none

                                                                                                                Raising Canes, everything is great and it started as a local chain.

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                  I had no idea Raising Canes had gone national. I remember when there was one location right next to the LSU campus and that was it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: twyst

                                                                                                                    Raising Cane's just opened their 100th location. I had lunch at the Algiers location on Friday!

                                                                                                                      1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                                                                                        They may not be in all 50 states but they are in states from Maine to Nevada and from Texas to Minnesota so they cover a wide range now, not just the south or SE.

                                                                                                                        1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                          They're not on the West Coast at all, according to their website.

                                                                                                                    1. Whenever I've read this thread I've found it interesting. I've posted elsewhere about my devotion to Panera. I've eaten there so many times for well over a decade. We find them all over the place now, and they always beat every other fast food chain for travel food.

                                                                                                                      And that is how we use most chains for eating out, although we do like eating at California Pizza locally. Another restaurant we like to eat at when on the road is Ruby Tuesdays. I've actually had good meals at this chain, but I wish they hadn't gotten rid of their Tiffany lamps!

                                                                                                                      Even though I don't rate the food fabulous, I also like to eat at Sweet Tomatoes (SouPlantation) especially if we have been on the road for awhile. I love their turkey chili. And I like being able to build my own salad and dress it with olive oil and vinegar.

                                                                                                                      Mr.Sueatmo likes Cracker Barrel far more than I do. I can eat there every so often, but mostly I just don't like the food very well. And there is always some problem with the ladies room, or it is too small for their traffic.

                                                                                                                      Burgerville, a regional chain in the Portland area is a fun visit for use when we are that town, but I tend to expect better hamburgers than I get. But the chain often has a menu item drawn from the seasonal produce of the area.

                                                                                                                      In my area, StL, the place for a cheap roast beef sandwich is Lion's Choice. I confess I haven't eaten there in a long time, but I used to visit once a week. When I was eating fries, I thought theirs were always the best. The roast beef is OK too, esp with their so, so salty au jus for dipping.

                                                                                                                      Another local Stl chain which does a good job is Crazy Bowls and Wraps. I like eating there! You can get pretty good rice bowls or wraps and the menu choices are eclectic. This isn't a typical midwestern chain. I find the food tasty. It is a lot harder for me to eat there now, since I'm doing low carb. though.

                                                                                                                      For us, chains are a part of how we eat out, especially when we travel.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                        I agree about Burgerville as a great fast food alternative. But I don't believe that I have ever had a burger there because I love their halibut fish fillet sandwich so much. Then there's the salad with Rogue Creamery smoked bleu cheese.

                                                                                                                        I just took a look at their website, right now their seasonal items are tempura asparagus and desserts and milkshakes with fresh strawberries.

                                                                                                                        1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                          I'm in Portland next month. I'm always up for a halibut sandwich, even a fast food version. Best fish and chips I ever had were in Alaska and Astoria. Both halibut, and the fries were fresh! My french fry days are over, but I can justify a halibut sandwich. I'll ask if they can wrap it in lettuce for me.

                                                                                                                          Tempura asparagus at a burger chain! I love it! Later won't they have marionberry shakes?

                                                                                                                      2. Chains I like: In n Out, Five Guys, Popeyes, Cold Stone Creamery

                                                                                                                        1. From the nostalgia files:
                                                                                                                          1) Arthur Treacher's (from my youth only, I can't comment on the lone holdouts that appear to exist in Ohio)
                                                                                                                          2) Roy Rogers
                                                                                                                          3.) Arby's (I'll admit it, I still love them, sorry. I'm some kind of glutton for horsey sauce punishment)

                                                                                                                          Casual dining:

                                                                                                                          4) Fish Daddy's (small-ish Texas and OK regional chain - I love the College Station location). Their mahi mahi is fantastic, thick, perfectly cooked and fresh tasting.
                                                                                                                          5) Pappadeaux's - fresh oysters followed by softshell crab; 'nuff said.
                                                                                                                          6) Babe's Chicken Dinner House (another small regional chain in Texas) Fantastic chicken. Could do without the kitschy line dance routine, but given the right company and a BYOB six of Shiner, it's not a deal-breaker

                                                                                                                          Fast food:

                                                                                                                          7) McDonalds. Yep. Give me a filet o' fish and iced tea or a sausage McMuffin w/egg, hash brown and coffee and I'm pretty happy.
                                                                                                                          8) Popeye's. Like everyone else.

                                                                                                                          Honorable mention/other:

                                                                                                                          9)Texas Roadhouse
                                                                                                                          10) Tony Roma's (the prices irk me, the cocktails are fantastic, the food is executed well - kind of a draw)
                                                                                                                          11) Ben & Jerry's

                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                            Haven't had Arby's in a long time, but one opened nearby, I'm tempted. For Popeye's, like everyone else, count me out. I don't eat a lot of fried chicken anymore, but there are at least three local places that do better. I especially don't like the beans and rice, can you say liquid smoke, maybe a little andouille would help them. I gave Popeye's two chances in the last six months, no more for me.

                                                                                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                              You know, I'm not a fan of their dirty rice at all (I'm super picky about dirty rice, preferring my own over just about any other option), and tend to eat the chicken and biscuits and not the sides, now that I think of it.

                                                                                                                              Arby's.. well, it's not going to come as a surprise that it'll probably be terrible (though they do have some sandwich choices - market fresh? deli fresh? something - that always sound very good when I see them advertised). But my love for a plain roast beef with horsey sauce has never waned.

                                                                                                                              I think, strangely enough, there are some fast foods I had as a kid that served to lead me to the 'houndish woman I am now. Note: I'm not saying the foods are remotely chowish, just that they facilitated the tendency to branch out and go against the herd.

                                                                                                                            2. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                              Oh my! One of my first jobs as a teen was a short stint at Arthur Treacher's. Their fish sandwich was great. They also had a chicken sandwich with a Russian-ish dressing and slaw IIRC that was very tasty. It has been many years since - not sure if I would like them now, but boy where they good then!

                                                                                                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                I don't think I ever ordered anything but the fish and chips with tons of malt vinegar on everything. I'm sure you got just a wee bit tired of that after a while - but it doesn't surprise me that it was good!

                                                                                                                            3. Are we including local chains? I love Holder's Country Inn (SF Bay Area). Their omelets are awesome!

                                                                                                                              1. i'm surprised no one has mentioned garbanzos. i love being able to get so many different flavors on one plate. i tried them for the first time 6 months ago and have been hooked ever since!

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: liveloveat34

                                                                                                                                  Not a big enough Chain that we should have heard of it. Five locations in Colorado?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                                    i guess i live in a bubble- i could have sworn i saw it in SoCal when i went back home for a visit...

                                                                                                                                2. Del Taco!!! So much better than Taco Bell and they even let you order some of the old Naugles menu items.

                                                                                                                                  1. Mimi's Cafe is really consistent and good. Owned by Bob Evans, it has a "French bistro" twist.
                                                                                                                                    Food is very good with a lot of extra touches. Many healthier options available. A limited breakfast is offered all day. Their French onion soup is really good too.

                                                                                                                                    If you sign up for their e-mails they have nice coupon specials. Most are for two, but sometimes there are coupons that a solo diner can use.