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What's the best dish you've ever eaten at a chain? What surprised you most?

Hands down, my favorite is the "Bang Bang Shrimp" from Bonefish Grill. If you haven't had it, they fry shrimp, then coat it with a savory, creamy, spicy sauce. It is crispy and creamy! It is a terrific value, too. I think I might be able to eat my weight in that stuff!
<(ahem, I exaggerate ;-)>. But I think I could eat it every day and be a happy camper.

I want to try a copycat recipe to see if it is even close. http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Bang...

What about you? What's the best dish you've ever eaten at a chain?

What have you been most surprised by?

For me, it was the spicy sausage and lentil soup at Carrabbas. I'm not big on lentils, but this soup was quite delicious and of very high quality. Here is a clone recipe, but I know so much depends on the quality of the sausage. http://carrabbassecretrecipes.blogspo...

I was also surprised by the excellent quality of Carrabbas' pork chops -- flavorful, succulent, thick, perfectly cooked.

(P.S. It's a given that Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits are a "top item," but I'm thinking about more substantial dishes: Appetizers, Main Dishes, Desserts).

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  1. I have enjoyed the crab cakes at Ruby Tuesday a few times after a reco here - nicely crabby with little filler, come with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
    Also, David Beard's Catfish King in East Texas and Louisiana has excellent fried catfish. My sister from Boston was certain her fussy 10 year old daughter wouldn't eat anything called "catfish"; turned out she couldn't get enough.
    Finally, "power breakfasts" at the Sanborn's scattered around Mexico City. Good bakery and desserts for the only time of day I have a sweet tooth.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Veggo

      I've had a lot of tasty foods at chains. Don't know about the best, but the best I can think of is a Hardee's breakfast biscuit with bacon and scrambled egg, and black coffee. The perfect road trip fuel.

    2. I cant say no to a blooming onion.
      My future cardiologist approves of this message.

      1. The beef carpaccio at Brio Tuscan Grill. It's as good as I've ever had anywhere.

        The world is a better place with Outback Cheese Fries with spicy ranch dressing.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          We eat at BRIO a lot - friends who work there /close to our house and I book events for work there. Their lobster bisque is always excellent. Yes, I have had the bisque from Maine to California, and this bisque is fantastic albeit, very very fatty/creamy.
          In addition, they have a nice chopped salad, their salmon on the fried tomato is wonderful! I never even get the pasta b/c I love the seafood so much! oh, scallops are good too!!!

        2. At Olive Garden I really like the AYCE soup and salad. I get the potato, sausage, kale soup (I think it's called Tuscan). The bread sticks are weak. The salad is super crispy lettuce with pepperoncinis, tomatoes, red onions and really nice, light vineagrette. Actually it's the only thing I've ever eaten there.

          1. I love the vegetarian plate at Houston's. Seasonal stuff, really good meal.

            1 Reply
            1. re: roro1831

              - that Houston's vegetarian plate and their *insanely delicious* veggie burger were the first two dishes that came to mind for me.
              - i have a vague memory of trying a bite of someone's carrot cake at the Cheesecake Factory back in my college days and thinking it was way better than the cheesecake.
              - the Signature Onion Rings at Fleming's Steakhouse. outrageous.

              this is so depressing - every one of these foods is now off-limits to me because of the gluten. boo!

            2. Cinnabon.

              I discoved them about 6 years ago and were in love with them for two years. I still like them alot.

              1. On the rare occasion that we go, I always find the southwestern eggrolls at Chili's to be amazing.

                1. i am not a huge carnivore, so when i go to Chili's i get the burger, but sub the patty for their spicy black bean patty. that thing is good and has so much flavor!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Jelly71

                    A little off topic, but BJ's has Morningstar chipotle black bean burgers in the frozen section. Those on the grill are incredible

                    1. re: Jelly71

                      The southern smokehouse burger at chili's is a very good burger. I got dragged into chili's for the first time in a couple of years and had one a few weeks ago, and I actually want to go back for another burger ASAP.

                      1. re: twyst

                        Old thread, I know..but I was curious about the Chili's burger you described. I really want to eat one but I looked it up, 2,290 calories and 139 grams of fat, including the french fries. The high fat and calories is not really the worst thing about this meal...it's the 6,500 mg of sodium. That's not a mistake, that's more than a tablespoon of salt, more than three days of sodium in one sitting.

                    2. I don't even think they make it anymore, but back in the early 90s, Bertucci's used to serve Rigatoni alla Bertucci...with lemons, vodka, prosciutto, tomatoes, cream...you know, vodka sauce. I liked it so much at the time, I went home and tried to replicate it. I have no idea--nor do I especially care ;) --how authentic my recipe may be. I can only tell you friends from long ago (10+ years!) have asked for my recipe when we reconnected, so I must be doing something right. HA HA! I love the rolls at Bertucci, too...and have also enjoyed their pizza.

                      Oh, and ttoommyy, I dig Chili's southwestern eggrolls, too...though I can't recall the last time I had them (years)...

                      And on the Ruby Tuesday's front, I agree with Veggo on the crab cakes, but must admit my heart belongs to the triple prime burger when I eat there. Nom-nom-nom!!! With extra garlic mayo, please, for my fries. And a pomegranate lemonade to go with!

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        Red Robin's fish and chops is pretty good. Ok, the fish is good, the all you can eat fries, not so.

                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          Favorite thing at RR was their salad. I've only eaten there once. I got the burger and salad (Burger was quite good but I couldn't finish it). DS got the burger and fries - All you can eat. I asked the waiter if I could get the 'all you can eat' salad . . . .Um, no. Fries are good but not good enough to continue to get troughs of them.

                          1. re: JerryMe

                            I called the fries chops, I try to edit but... They're not bad at all, but for me all you can eat is what's on the original plate. I could, however eat a lot of the fish.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              LOL Fish and Chops would be a great meal for someone on the Atkins Diet.

                              1. re: Bob W

                                I would LOVE fish and chops. Who needs the fries!?!?

                        2. re: kattyeyes

                          kattyeyes, recipe for the rigatoni please!

                        3. Can I put a vote for the McDonald's Fish-O-Filet?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Oh, that is one of my favorest too, but I won't say "surprise"

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              The cod filet sandwich at Culver's is remarkable....actually like better than their burgers and custard.

                              1. re: MikeB3542

                                I can honestly say their walleye trout sandwich is the best fish sandwich i have ever tasted.

                                1. re: wanderlustre

                                  walleye and trout are very different IMO. Was it one of the other or a combination. I way prefer walleye by the way.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                I have a long road trip coming up and at least one Filet-o-Fish will be a part of it.

                              2. Fish tacos at Houlihan's. I must get this EVERY TIME I go there. My boyfriend is hooked too ):

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: bitsubeats

                                  Great. I have never been to Houlihan's, though there is one near by.

                                  1. re: bitsubeats

                                    Just came back from Houlihan's. The Taco fish is not bad. The fish is breaded and deep fried, with a salsa like dressing, right? The french fries are ok too. The milkshake was not what I wanted. Too watery and full of crunched ice. Maybe it is its style and maybe I need to try it a few more time to get use to it.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I went to a Houlihan's for the first time a few weeks ago before catching a movie. Had some wings, Thai Chile Style, which were very good.

                                      1. re: roro1831

                                        Ok, soon you people is going to tell me to try the entire menu :)

                                        Kidding aside, yes, I will try their wings next time. Thai Chile style, right? I will remember. Though there is actually a Hooters next to it (I mean they are separate by one store from each another), which of course is also famous for wings along of other stuffs.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          FWIW, my entree was literally forgettable as I can't remember what I had, but the wings I remember.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            I've had the wings at Hooters - Blech. Altho their beer is always cold.

                                            I'll have to keep Houlihan's in mind. Thai chili, you say?

                                            1. re: JerryMe

                                              I haven't been to Hooter's in years, and when I did go one of my friends managed the location, so he always sent wings to me. Naked, well done, three mile island ( i think that was the spice level) with added Tabasco

                                              1. re: JerryMe


                                                No, roro said Thai chili chicken wings, not me. I have not tried it. The fish taco is pretty good though - thanks for the recommendation from bitsubeats. The fish taco is very Tex-Mex to me.

                                                Let me tell you that if Hooters wings are not good to you, then don't try anything on its menu. The fries are ok, but probably worse than the wings in my opinion. The burger and cheesesteak swere horrible. I mean any fast food restaurant would have done it better. Steam clams were horrible as well.

                                                I agree that there are better wings than Hooters, but Hooters's wings are their best. All the other foods are bad. I rather eat instant noodle and I am literally serious about that.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Try their buffalo chicken sandwich. Still one of the best I've had and far and above the best for a chain. I think they use the whole breast.

                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Yeah, I know it's not authentic...but it's a hell of a lot better than On the Border's rendition. They sprinkle theirs with cold cheddar cheese *shudder*

                                            I will also be the first to admit that the fish is usually mostly breading and overcooked, but the combination of salsa, sour cream, honey chipotle glaze and napa cabbage is extra extra tasty.

                                            However my homemade recipe for fish tacos is hands down the best (:

                                            Yes the thai chili wings are outstanding, especially with a pitcher of signature long island ice tea to wash it all down.

                                            1. re: bitsubeats


                                              I were not complaining about the fact it is not Mexican authentic. I am actually a big fan of Tex-Mex. I like it. I really like the salsa part with diced fresh tomatoes. The French fries were freshly made and crispy in the exterior.

                                              Are you really sure that your homemade recipe for fish taco is the best?


                                              I thought you said your boyfriend is hooked on the Houlihan's ones, not yours.

                                              Heh heheh. :)

                                              Ok, I will try the Thai chili wings next time based on roro1831's recommendation and yours reiteration. Thanks people.

                                          3. re: bitsubeats

                                            I've only been to the Houlihan's in Orlando, but I really dig their Disco Fries in a very slutty, trashy sort of way. And their Thai Noodle Bowl goes down really well in the Florida heat and humidity.

                                          4. Cajun Ribeye, Morton's
                                            Penne Rustica, Macaroni Grill
                                            Deep Dish Pizza, Giordano's
                                            Thin Crust Pizza, Grimaldi's Pizzeria

                                            1. Most surprising? I once had incredible onion rings from a small town Dairy Queen. Best I've ever had..... and I've had a lot.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Firegoat

                                                That's cool. Have you had them more than once there, to be sure it wasn't a fluke?

                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                  we had a DQ in my hometown when i was a kid, and i recall the onion rings being REALLY darned good (and we're going back more than 3 decades here...)

                                                  speaking of onion rings, i mentioned the ones at Fleming's when i replied to this thread last year - they're fabulous. and on the fast food end of the spectrum, back in college i used to make a meal out of the rings at Miami Subs. totally crave-worthy.

                                              2. Did anyone say the lettuce wraps from PF Changs?
                                                Those things are pretty banging.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: MattInNJ

                                                  the dan dan noodles at pei wei are amazing! (i'd imagine p.f. chang's has them too since they are the same).

                                                  1. re: MattInNJ

                                                    I don't think the greatest of PF Chang, but the lettuce wraps are not bad at all. I really should stop reading this thread.... It is making me want to eat at these chains.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      If you're interested in making a version of these, here's a recipe from an SF restaurant that I've been making for years. A great summer dish:


                                                        1. re: MattInNJ

                                                          YW. Got me in the mood also. And I have a bunch of the Chinese sausage in the fridge.

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          It looks very nice. I will need to try this, especially of the summer heat.

                                                      1. re: MattInNJ

                                                        thier "baby" take out restauran, pei wei, has an awesome wonton soup. I feel guilty going to pei wei when i have about a dozen authentic vietnamese restaurants around...but i cant say no to that soup!

                                                      2. carrabba's mussels! i will go out of my way to get them.

                                                        1. Calling it a chain is a stetch, but being there are two of them, I'll say the porterhouse at Peter Luger. If you mean a real chain, I've gotta say it's a tie - the chopped salad with belu cheese and pecans at Outback and just a regular piece of fried chicken at KFC. I get abused for this, but I still think it's the best fried chicken around (my apologies to all the southerners out there).

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                                            Don't apologize. Like what you like. As possibly the best thing I ever saw on Chowhound was the saying "Don't yuck on my yum"

                                                            1. re: Firegoat

                                                              I'd forgotten that. Who said it?

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                I wish I could remember who or the thread....

                                                                1. re: jhopp217

                                                                  I like the grilled chicken at Carrabbas. Not crazy about the lemon sauce that comes with so I just ask for it on the side. Actually anything grilled there is not bad, they have a wood burning grill and seem to know how to use it.

                                                              2. re: jhopp217

                                                                LOL- there's a local chain here, Lucky Wishbone, that has nearly everything fried except the coleslaw, and no matter what kind of food snob you run across, damn near all of them will admit to loving Lucky Wishbone (Da Bone) if you get them drunk enough to tell the truth.
                                                                Check out their site- it's luckywishbone.com. Best retro graphics ever, too.

                                                              3. I am sure people will scream, but the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes at Cheesecake Factory are to die for. Simple corn cakes with salsa verde, an orange southwestern sauce, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, sour cream. yum yum..

                                                                I have made the copy cat recipelink and it comes pretty close, but it is a ton of work, so it is worth it just to buy them..

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: woot4fun

                                                                  I absolutely love those tamale cakes. Have you by chance tried their new "Vietnamese Tacos?" Thay are wonderful.

                                                                  1. re: woot4fun

                                                                    I love those tamale cakes. I have been known to get them as my entree meal item, and have also made the copy cat link! Now if only I wouldn't have looked at the nutrition info for them...whoops!

                                                                  2. If I have to pick one, I'm going with the Dutch Apple Pancake at the Original Pancake House. I think now I would cut it into quarters and make four breakfasts out of it.

                                                                    1. Thai lettuce wraps - Cheesecake Factory
                                                                      3 strip chix dinner with biscuit and red beans and rice- Popeye's
                                                                      Chop Chop Salad- Palomino's
                                                                      Tuscan Soup- Olive Garden

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: GrayGoose

                                                                        Used to love the chop chop at Palomino's, about 10 years ago, then tried it again 2 years ago - bleah. dunno what changed, them or me. (This is in San Francisco.)

                                                                      2. I just had some General Tso's Chicken from Nothing but Noodles that tasted like I imagined it should taste from a Chinese restaurant. Well worth another visit.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Served for the most part in Chinese restaurants. Not Bob's Big Boy.

                                                                            1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                              HA HA, precisely! The visual of the Big Boy holding up a platter of General Tso's is a funny one, tho'! ;)

                                                                              1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                I've never seen it in anything but a Chinese resto until I had it at NBN.

                                                                            2. re: al b. darned

                                                                              I love GTC, but I have read that it is strictly an American/Canadian dish. Although it's origins are said to have come from Taiwan. It's based on a Hunan dish that isn't sweet at all. That being said, if it's good, eat it!

                                                                              1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                That is correct. It is (supposed) invented in Taiwan, but I won't say it is a strictly a American/Canadian dish.

                                                                            3. The fried calamari with 3 dipping sauces from McCormick & Schmick.

                                                                              1. Fried Calamari at Capital Grill. Sooooo goood

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jessicheese

                                                                                  Great stuff. I remember the first time I had CG's RI-style fried calamari, at the very first CG, in the old train station in Providence. I had had fried calamari with hot peppers before in Providence, at a place called Trattoria del' Antuono or something like that, which might have actually invented the dish. So I knew that CG's was the real deal.

                                                                                  Incredibly, it's always been good at the other CG's I've visited (even Milwaukee LOL).

                                                                                  1. re: Bob W

                                                                                    The hot peppers are totally what make it, along with the netted lemon half. Love it!!

                                                                                2. Over the years....here are some of the ones I've enjoyed very much.

                                                                                  Legal Sea Foods Clam Chowder

                                                                                  Houlihan's Stuffed Chicken Breast and Fried Zucchini

                                                                                  Outback Steakhouse Rack of Lamb and Crab Cakes

                                                                                  Houston's Smoked Salmon, Pork Chop, Ribs, Grilled Artichokes, Chicken Fingers, House Salad with Blue Cheese and Loaded Baked Potato

                                                                                  Cheescake Factory/Grand Lux Cafe Madiera Chicken and Cobb Salads

                                                                                  Carraba's Mussels

                                                                                  Morton's Steak au Poivre

                                                                                  Ruth's Chris Cowboy Rib Eye

                                                                                  Popeye's Spicy Chicken and Biscuits

                                                                                  Hooter's Oyster Roast

                                                                                  Roy's Short Ribs and Ahi Tuna

                                                                                  Cracker Barrel's Chicken Fried Steak Breakfast with Eggs, Grits, Potato Casserole and Biscuits

                                                                                  Huddle House for breakfast

                                                                                  Fast Food Chains:

                                                                                  In-N-Out Burgers and Fries

                                                                                  Del Taco

                                                                                  Steak and Shake Burgers and Fries

                                                                                  McDonald's Filet-O-Fish

                                                                                  Roy Rogers Double-R-Bar Burger and Pappy Parker's Chicken


                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                      Breakfast Biscuits, Sandwich

                                                                                      Fried Cutlet & Spicy Chicken

                                                                                      Waffle Fries

                                                                                      1. re: fourunder


                                                                                        I like Chic-Fil-A, but it turns out we like different things :)

                                                                                        I like its Chargrilled Chicken sandwiches, also the milkshake. I have to say that Chic-Fil-A QC is not as consistent as McDonald (which has an excellent QC). The Chargrilled chicken sandwiches were consistently juicier in a store closed to where I lived in Georgia, but consistently dried in the college cafeteria.

                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                                                                          The last time I went to a Chick-Fil-A was on a golf trip in Florida more than a handful of years ago.....I do not believe the the grilled chicken was even available.....or at least it never entered my radar. Locally, there's only one in my region, but it's in a mall that I never frequent.....I'll have to make the trip to compare to my memories.

                                                                                          1. re: fourunder


                                                                                            Really? I haven't had the grilled chicken sandwich for awhile to. Chic-Fil-A is very popular down South. I never even had it when I were in California. I had Chic-Fil-A when I were at Georgia, so I know they have these sandwiches for at least 6 years ago.

                                                                                            I have to say that the full size Chic-Fila-A stores tends to have better quality than those small size stand stores.

                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                                                                              actually, the store has been in the mall what seems like forever....probably 30 years in The Paramus Park Mall. When I did go to the mall, I always ate at other places. I did not know what Chick-Fil-A was....and I'm generally not a white meat chicken fan....so the idea never appealed to me. On the aforementioned golf trip, I found out about it while trying to get a quick bite before a tee time early morning. I had the breakfast menu and was so enamored, we made a second trip the next morning as well and a quick bite after the round to hold us off for dinner. Even though I liked it very much...and know there's one in the mall about 15 minutes away, this is one of those situations where it's *out of sight, so out of mind*.

                                                                                              I very rarely ever order chicken breast sandwiches or grilled atop a salad....too boring. I prefer chicken on the bone......but when I get a craving for a chicken sandwich....I usually opt for a KFC Snacker which is 99 cents.....

                                                                                              I guess now I'll have to add I miss those Kentucky Fried Chicken Littles that used to be 39 cents....what a great cheap meal.

                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                If I have to go to Chick-Fil-A, I just eat cole slaw. It's really good with a little hot sauce mixed in.

                                                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                              I have to confess my ignorance, since I don't get to fast food outlets very often, but my curiosity is killing me. What is "QC"?

                                                                                              1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                                                                Sorry about the confusion. I meant "quality control". A Big Mac in San Francisco of California will taste similar to a Big Mac in a small town of West Virgina.

                                                                                      2. Love the rolls at Bertucci's. Don't want to know what sort of weird chemicals and dough conditioners they use, so don't tell me. I'm also partial to the barbecue chicken salad at California Pizza Kitchen.

                                                                                        1. chick fil-a is one of the very best fast food chains that i've ever been to. i was introduced in the cape coral, fla. location, and was thoroughly impressed about quality, service and cleanliness. it is a standard against which other fast food chains must measure.

                                                                                          12 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                            One thing interesting is that Chic-Fila-A has some small independent twist to it. For example, Chic-Fila-A is opened Mon to Sat, but closed on Sunday.

                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                              From their website:

                                                                                              "Our founder, Truett Cathy, wanted to ensure that every Chick-fil-A employee and restaurant operator had an opportunity to worship, spend time with family and friends or just plain rest from the work week. Made sense then, still makes sense now."

                                                                                              Not sure it makes sense, since people who work for other chains also get a day off while the stores remain open, but it's an interesting quirk.

                                                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                I understand what you are saying. Other fast food employee also have "a day off". It is just that they shuffle/rotate the day, whereas Chick-Fila-A confines the day on Sunday. You did also think that if they have to pick a specific day, then a weekday is better than a weekend for business.

                                                                                                I believe this Sunday thing is due to the S. Truett Cathy's (founder) Christian belief. He is a very devoted christian.

                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                  I worked as an employee at a chickfila in NC for 6 years- starting at age 14 as a cashier and ending at age 20 as a general manager overseeing the scheduling and goings-on of 55+ employees.

                                                                                                  Chickflas are a franchise, as are most fastfood chains. Chick, however, is (or at least was 8 years ago) MUCH cheaper to open than the average franchise- they're even lower than subway, which is one of the nations least expensive quickserve franchises. However, the chick-a-fil has a very rigorous selection process which includes demonstrating, basically, "good family values." While you don't have to be evangelical christian, being closed on sundays is an absolute must.
                                                                                                  For what it was, I thought the company was excellent to work for. Because the company is so selective in its franchisees, most of the owners are OK people. I was paid better than other people my age in similar jobs at other places, and I got a LOT of money for college from the company and their scholarship fund. I also went to some awesome management conferences totally funded by them as a crapshoot since I was 16 yrs old.

                                                                                                  I attribute my current professional success to that job and that company, and the values it instilled in me.

                                                                                                  And for the record, I'm not in ANY way a christian fundie. I'm simply writing this pep-talk to encourage people to patronize a restaurant which I think, overall, treats its employees well.

                                                                                                  OH and the quality of the ingredients we got were EXCELLENT. The chicken breasts that make those sandwiches are better than the ones you buy at harris teeter. Stuff is good eats :)

                                                                                                  1. re: CarmenR

                                                                                                    Hi Carmen,

                                                                                                    Thanks for the clarification. I like Chic-Fil-A and I read employee who work there are averagely happier than other fast food franchises. I didn't mean one has to a Christian to run a Chic-Fil-A.

                                                                                                    1. re: CarmenR

                                                                                                      I heard that the secret to their juicy chicken is that its soaked in pickle juice. Can you confirm or deny that rumor :)

                                                                                                      1. re: krisrishere

                                                                                                        The regular chicken sandwiches and nuggets are not marinated- they're battered in a milk-type wash and a regular flour batter and cooked in peanut oil.
                                                                                                        The grilled sandwich and the battered chicken strips are both marinated in a seasoning packet mixed with water and, yes, pickle juice.

                                                                                                        My favorite thing for dinner when I worked there was to take a marinated fillet (for grilling) and batter/fry it on a sandwich with cheese, light mayo and a ton of pickles. Whenever i go back to chicfila (rarely since we dont have them in nyc) I always ask them to batter me a grilled fillet if theyre not busy. Usually, its not a problem :)

                                                                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                jesus, just the thought of chic fil-a makes me drool. I was born in new jersey, but moved to FL at age ten. I'd like to think what I lost (white castle) is more than made up for by the wonder that is chic fil-a.

                                                                                                1. re: carlee134

                                                                                                  I'm so hoping there is some sarcasm in this post, haha

                                                                                                  1. re: carlee134

                                                                                                    Do you have Krystal in FL? My SIL good-naturedly 'fight' over WC and K but I can relish either. And I find the frozen WCs in the supermarket just fine for an occasional fix.

                                                                                                2. Perfect Pita's Navy Bean Soup. I've a bit obsessed with the stuff at the moment.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                    When Chili's first opened here, they had a filet mignon with gorgonzola that was to die for. They had it one time.

                                                                                                    Red Lobster has a steak oscar that it excellent.

                                                                                                    Applebee's used to have a steak with caesar salad, and onion petals. No more of that.

                                                                                                  2. My favorite chains are Cheesecake Factory, Bonefish Grill, Houston's, Maggiano's, and Rosa Mexicano. I have never had a bad meal at any of them.

                                                                                                    1. Moroccan Chicken Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. Delish! What surprised me was how fresh and well put together this salad was.

                                                                                                      Moroccan-spiced chicken breast with crisp Romaine lettuce, roasted butternut squash, Medjool dates, fresh avocado, toasted almonds, fresh beets, chopped egg, carrots, dried cranberries and red bell peppers. Tossed with our champagne vinaigrette.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                        I have to say I'm severely biased based on my employment, but I love that salad! It amazed me the first time I had it how an entree with so many ingredients could still taste fresh, and have so many layers of flavor without anything really overpowering another.

                                                                                                        1. re: wisey22

                                                                                                          right! as of sunday, i've had every salad they offer (thai salad on sunday) and the Moroccan Chicken Salad remains my fav. I ordered one just to take home.

                                                                                                      2. It's a smallish chain, mostly midwest, but Mitchell's Fish Market has a Kung Pao Calimari appetizer that's so good I was looking for something else to soak up the sauce after the well-cooked calimari was gone.

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                                                                                                        1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                                          guess that it doesn't look good to lick the plate, huh? ;-).

                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                            Probably not but I have been known to run my finger around the plate. On more than one occasion.

                                                                                                        2. I can't right now decide on the best dish I've ever had at a chain, because I am a terrible decision maker.

                                                                                                          For the best surprise dish, the first that came to mind was the dan dan noodles at P.F. Changs. Can't remember what possessed me to try them, although remembering that I was about 23 at the time, I have a feeling it had something to do with picking one of the cheapest items on the menu. It was so surprisingly delicious, because it doesn't look like the most appetizing plate when you first get it. All I remember was that there was what looked to be ground chicken, asian style noodles and some julienned cucumbers. When I first took a bite though, it was so insanely delicious I thought I could either take hours to enjoy it or devour the entire thing in two bites. Something about the slight simplicity of the dish maybe, as well as the warm and comforting noodles with the crisp, cool cucumbers. So good.

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                                                                                                          1. re: wisey22

                                                                                                            I was never super impressed with PF Chang (nor do I dislike it a lot). Since you said the Da Da Noodle is pretty good, I think I will try it next time.

                                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                              Very belated, but please don't. My first and only visit to a PFC was in Portland, OR a couple of years ago because nothing else was open. I stupidly ordered the dan dan noodles and they were a horror. The pasta was spaghetti, the sauce was all wrong... salty, bitter, burnt, gloppy. I love real dan dan noodles, but PFC's was a truly terrible dish - probably the worst thing I've ever been served in a sit-down restaurant.

                                                                                                          2. There are several chain dishes that I like.

                                                                                                            I love the pasta fagioli and Olive Garden. I love their salad too. I like the flautas at Chevy's, the Bloomin Onion at Outback, the Southwest Egg Rolls at Ruby Tuesday's....

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                                                                                                            1. re: lreynolds

                                                                                                              my mom always loved to get flautas! i like to make chevy's tomalito side-dish (corn pudding really). it is good!

                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                  What recipe do you use for the tomalito? I've seen a copy-cat one online, but I'd trust a 'hound over a random link . . .

                                                                                                                  1. re: operagirl

                                                                                                                    i have the chevy's cookbook, so use that recipe. i'm not within arm's length of the book just now (only about a thousand miles away), so will take a look at the online clone. i do know that the chevy's recipe book version bakes very low and slow in a water bath, and involves masa! ;-). it does taste just like the restaurant version, as well.

                                                                                                                    i just had a look at many of the online "clones," and see that many if not all are alike. as to the recipes online: first, i don't recall steaming the dish on the stovetop, but in the oven. second, i don't recall using margarine, even if the recipe called for it. that's just what i can recall offhand. see if your local library has a chevy's cookbook.

                                                                                                                    edit: i did a little different search ("gutenberg press tomalito recipe chevy's") and found this recipe,
                                                                                                                    http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/spe... , which looks more like what i recall from the cookbook. it calls for masa, and i recall having to use masa harina and make the specific "conversion adjustment" mentioned in the recipe.

                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                      Thank you! I will have to make this soon . . .

                                                                                                              1. I guess I'll be the only person to suggest the now-defunct Chi-Chi's. I loved their seafood enchiladas and seafood nachos!

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: dmjordan

                                                                                                                  Chi-Chi's was the BOMB! The chili-con-queso and El Grande Burro...I still remember!!

                                                                                                                  1. re: dmjordan

                                                                                                                    I worked at ChiChis for 3 years in college. I never cared for the seafood, but those who loved it LOVED it. I miss the queso, the BBQ Grilled Burrito, and the Texas Nachos. Nothing compares to the Texas Nachos....

                                                                                                                  2. I loved the Thai Chili wings that someone mentioned above at Houllihan's. They were seriously amazing.

                                                                                                                    And, I ashamed to admit it, but seriously, isn't Popeye's chicken amazing?!

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: molecularblonde

                                                                                                                      I do like the chicken at Popeye's but I do not see it as being as wonderful as most people here. To me it is just OK. I also tried the Thai lettuce wraps at Cheesecake Factory and found them to be just OK too. Has anyone tried the Vietnamese Tacos at Cheesecake factory. I am curious about them but afraid I will not like them and feel like it was a waste of money.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Johnresa

                                                                                                                        I think the Vietnamese Tacos are awesome. All the various flavors, slightly hot, slightly sweet, slightly salty wrapped in that very soft rice flour bun . . . you gotta try it.

                                                                                                                      2. A couple of favorites --

                                                                                                                        Corn Tamale Cakes and Chicken Taquitos, from Cheesecake Factory
                                                                                                                        Cheese Enchiladas, from Uncle Julio's
                                                                                                                        Chicken, Pecan, and Mango Salad, from Coastal Flats

                                                                                                                        Surprises --

                                                                                                                        The minestrone at Carraba's. I was expecting something that tasted like a can of Campbell's warmed over, but this was pleasantly flavorful.
                                                                                                                        The filet mignon at Bonefish. I'm allergic to most seafood, hate being dragged to seafood places and getting their substandard non-seafood dishes (hey, I understand it's not their thing)...and while this isn't much as a filet, it's a nicely flavored piece of meat, especially with the gorgonzola butter.

                                                                                                                        1. They're no longer located where I am, but Fuddrucker's ostrich burger, when they had it, is excellent.

                                                                                                                          1. The French onion soup at Mimi's Cafe was a total surprise. Absolutely delicious!

                                                                                                                            1. I enjoyed the hamburger steak dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Around $12, it consisted of a generous hamburger patty, mashed potato and mushroom gravy with fresh green beans. Kind of a homey, comfort dish which was as tasty as it was surprising.

                                                                                                                              1. TGI Friday Jack Daniel chicken Sandwich is a ncie surprise...