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Which Chains Do You Respect?

Perilagu Khan Nov 1, 2010 07:36 AM

I understand that for many Hounds eating in a chain resto is infra dignitum, but there are doubtless many others on the board who sometimes patronize chains and even enjoy the experience. So here's a thread to confess your fealty to certain chains.

I respect the following:

Whataburger (a very good Texas burger chain)

Johnny Carino's (a very well conceived, creative and expertly managed Italian chain)

Subway (I like the BMT on wheat with lettuce, onions and ranch dressing. I add fresh parm at home.)

Firehouse (Another sandwich chain. Kind of expensive, but they make a corned beef and pastrami extravaganza called the New York Steamer that is worth the money.)

McDonald's (I've been known to grab a Quarterpounder with cheese and a large order of fries.)

Popeye's (dam' good fried chicken and biscuits)

  1. d
    dinnerwithfox Feb 9, 2011 03:24 PM

    I live in Melbourne, so the chains might be unheard of to everyone else

    Grill'd burgers: I worked there for awhile, it's a really good chain. They use top beef, lamb and chicken, it's fresh and organic/restaurant grade. Besides the sauces/condiments which come from a jar/can, the salads, cheese, vegetables and etc are all fresh and delivered daily. The bread comes from a wholesale bakery place, nothing is fried (besides the chips, but they also serve salad as a side if you request it and the chips are covered in a herb blend which is pretty damn tasty) They also provide very good vegetariane/vegan and gluten free opitions. Everyone is catered for, they have kids meals with mini burgers, choice of wholemeal or panini for bread (and gluten free). You can make up your own burger if you wish, it's really a place for everyone to eat

    Healthy habbits: Fresh, fresh ingredients, quality and variety. It's a sandwich/salad place

    Boost juice: While there employees are usually 17 year olds who are rude (and I seriously dislike the acutal founder of boostjuice). I know they use fresh fruit and good juices/low fat icecreams and sorbets for there smoothies. They offer fresh juices aswell, wheatgrass shots and have a big interesting range of products to suit everyone (including low calorie juices/smoothies, which are a max of 250 calories for the biggest size and they are delicious!) They are a equal employer, they give young teenagers a chance and they focus on quality. Cant go wrong with boostjuice, best juicebar I've ever tried.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dinnerwithfox
      j
      James Cristinian Feb 9, 2011 09:57 PM

      These sound delicious. Fresh meat, cheese and veggies, a winner. Just curious, but what US chains are there? I understand they may not be to your liking, just as most here are not to mine.

    2. b
      beachmouse Jan 31, 2011 04:27 AM

      While I am not sufficiently amused at Mellow Mushroom's stoner theming, I do really enjoy their pizza.

      1. Tripeler Jan 29, 2011 10:02 PM

        Kenny Rogers -- quite good for fast food.
        I can imagine Kenny singing "I just dropped in to see what condition my chicken was in..."

        1. twodales Jan 8, 2011 11:03 AM

          Roti Mediterranean Grill - 5 locations in Illinois and 1 in Washington D.C. http://www.rotiusa.com/

          Bandera part of the Hillstone Group found in Arizona, California and Chicago

          Both are small chains and both are excellent!!!

          1. Firegoat Jan 4, 2011 03:50 AM

            I have to respect the breakfast chain "First Watch" which always has a free local newspaper waiting for me when I arrive, and doesn't hide their nutrition info. Their menu has their statement of "rights"
            We the breakfast people have certain inalienable rights here at First Watch, which are upheld daily and taken very seriously.

            1. The right to friendly, courteous service.
            2. The right to have your meal delivered quickly.
            3. The right to order anything on our menu, anytime of day.
            4. The right to have your food prepared just the way you like it - and if we can, we will.
            5. The right to enjoy your very own freshly brewed pot of Sunrise Select Coffee.
            6. The right to share food. Just ask for another plate. No biggie and of course, no charge.
            7. The right to never be charged an automatic gratuity - no matter the size of your party.
            8. The right to substitute cholesterol-free eggs or egg whites at no additional charge.
            9. The right to FREE newspapers and WiFi each day.
            10. The right to take your sweet time and enjoy every minute of your First Watch experience.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Firegoat
              ipsedixit Jan 8, 2011 11:09 AM

              But do you like their food?

              I've been to the ones in Phoenix and Ft. Myers, and found their food nothing better than say Denny's or iHop. It's not bad, but not something I would go out of my way for.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                Firegoat Jan 28, 2011 06:12 AM

                Oh I missed this. I like it as well as most chain breakfast places. Well better than say IHOP or a Denny's as they have a lot of healthier choices on the menu and don't hide their calorie/carb counts. My running group is meeting there this weekend particularly for their healthier options.

            2. g
              givemecarbs Jan 3, 2011 06:05 PM

              I have to give a shout out to Chipote for their gluten free option. They even change their gloves when you order gluten free stuff.

              1 Reply
              1. re: givemecarbs
                sunshine842 Jan 3, 2011 09:18 PM

                Chipotle gets my vote on a lot of levels...fresh ingredients, well-prepared, at a decent price, and they at least try to make ethical choices.

              2. ToxicJungle Dec 30, 2010 10:23 PM

                McDonald's - French Fries, McNuggets, Quarter Pounder(discontinued in Canada), Fillet O Fish, McChicken, Hash Brown, Sausage Egg McMuffin
                Popeye's - Spicy Chicken and biscuits
                KFC - Popcorn Chicken
                Subway - Meatballs Sub with very little sauce, onion and mayo
                OutBack Steak House - Blooming Onion and Honey Wheat Bushman Bread
                PizzaHut - deep dish classics
                A&W - All Bugers and Onion Rings
                We have a very limited Chains in Canada, most of the restaurants mention here, we don't have them

                1 Reply
                1. re: ToxicJungle
                  n
                  Nocturnalbill Jan 1, 2011 07:24 PM

                  It might be worth noting that many chains mentioned here are regional, in some cases, VERY regional.

                2. mamachef Dec 27, 2010 08:20 AM

                  Waffle House, especially the omelets that they whip in the milkshake machine. Whenever I'm in an area that has one, I seek it out.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mamachef
                    j
                    James Cristinian Jan 1, 2011 08:32 AM

                    Almost Iron Chef Bryan Caswell loves hiring cooks from Waffle House for his restaurants. They are fast, fearless, and cook without writing anything down, among other things.

                    http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voraci...

                  2. m
                    mikeh Dec 25, 2010 08:16 AM

                    I'll never eat at a chain unless it's while doing a long-distance drive such that my travels happen to unavoidably put me in a culinary wasteland at meal times, but here are the ones I'll frequent as opposed to holding on until I'm somewhere better:

                    1) In-N-Out
                    2) Chick-fil-a
                    3) Bojangles
                    4) Cook Out (North Carolina)
                    5) Smithfield's BBQ (NC when driving I-95 on a Sunday)
                    6) Maurice's BBQ (SC, same situations as #5)
                    7) Cracker Barrel (when I land somewhere at 9 pm and everything else is already closed and I need a meat-n-three with some sweet tea)

                    1. s
                      Sharuf Dec 25, 2010 01:22 AM

                      When in the Northwest, I go to what I think is the best Fast Food chain ever - Burgerville USA. They are universally held in respect by the locals.

                      http://burgerville.com/

                      1. c
                        Clarkafella Dec 24, 2010 06:41 AM

                        Went to a "new" chain yesterday that I've never seen mentioned on here- a place called Evos. Wonderful, healthy fast food. Good burgers (hormone free beef, turkey and a couple of kinds of veggie), "air" fries, milkshakes made with organic stuff....

                        The most important thing was that everything tasted really good. I'd eat there a lot if I lived closer! This one was in South Miami, but they also have locations in Tampa, St Pete, Atlanta, etc...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Clarkafella
                          sunshine842 Dec 25, 2010 12:59 AM

                          fast food WITH ethics....and it's rockin' good stuff. I LOVE their air fries, and their burgers actually taste like beef. What a concept. And yeah, try all the different flavors of ketchup -- I'm not a big fan of ketchup, but their flavor variations are great.

                          and it's NOT expensive...a little more than McDo, but not enough to keep me from gravitating there.

                        2. s
                          sisterfunkhaus Dec 19, 2010 11:36 AM

                          We have a great chain called Taco Delight. They make the best guaco I have ever had. We also have some other respectable chains:

                          Jake's burgers
                          Pei Wei (not Chinese by any stretch, but still has some nice food going on)
                          Texas Land and Cattle Company
                          Cracker Barrel
                          Chipotle-awesome bowls and chips
                          Houston's
                          Abuelo's
                          Jersey Mike's

                          If I have to pick drive through fast food, Wendy's or Dairy Queen is pretty much the only thing I'll touch. Wendy's new salads are pretty tasty, as is their chili.

                          1. s
                            sisterfunkhaus Dec 19, 2010 11:29 AM

                            Whataburger used to be amazing, but they are awful now. I have tried several times to eat there and it's almost as bad as McDonald's.

                            1. mamachef Dec 19, 2010 10:40 AM

                              "Respect" is a big word for a chain restaurant, but when in doubt and on the road, I will eat at:
                              Chick fil a
                              In n out Burger
                              Popeye's
                              Hooters, wings only ever
                              And once in a blue moon, nothing else will do but a Mickey D's double cheesebuggah: every fake-tasting, dehydrated onion pickley bite.

                              1. s
                                spinachandchocolate Dec 19, 2010 09:58 AM

                                Respect vs. liking is very different. You can like a specific sandwich from subway but I would NEVER respect the overly-processed meat they use.

                                1. Naco Dec 17, 2010 11:53 AM

                                  It's local/regional ones for me. I like Cook Out for burgers and shakes, and Bojangles for chicken and biscuits.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Naco
                                    Kris in Beijing Dec 30, 2010 10:57 PM

                                    +1 Bojangles

                                    1. re: Naco
                                      n
                                      Nocturnalbill Jan 1, 2011 07:22 PM

                                      Oh dear Lord in heaven...Cook Out, grew up with them in Greensboro, have enjoyed watching them spread statewide. Those shakes, and it being the only place I know of which counts a corn dog as a side.

                                      1. re: Naco
                                        n
                                        Nocturnalbill Jan 1, 2011 07:25 PM

                                        And come to think of it, you left out Biscuitville at breakfast. That's more fun and grease than anyone should have.

                                        1. re: Nocturnalbill
                                          Naco Jan 3, 2011 06:53 AM

                                          We don't have Biscuitville down east. I haven't managed to try one out yet, as I tend to go for a light breakfast when traveling.

                                          1. re: Naco
                                            n
                                            Nocturnalbill Jan 5, 2011 03:18 AM

                                            Ah, entirely too bad, I think they stop at Asheboro. If you're ever on the 85/29 corridor, it's worth a try (and probably the nap in the parking lot if you're the light breakfast type.).

                                      2. b
                                        beachmouse Nov 18, 2010 10:47 AM

                                        Tijuana Flats- I know they're about as authentic Mexican as stadium nachos are, but the food tastes good, the staff is cheerful, and they're above average when it comes to giving to charity/giving back to the community. They'll also make any of their rotating 'daily specials' for you on request even if it's not something on the chalkboard that day.

                                        Tropical Smoothie- reasonable sweetness level and calorie count if you ask for a no sugar/no splenda option on the smoothie, and their salad mixed greens and other veggies are generally nice and fresh.

                                        1. mucho gordo Nov 18, 2010 09:15 AM

                                          I think this board needs some clarification. There are at least 3 distinctly different categories of chains: McD's low-end fast food, Chili's family style and Morton's high-end dinner house. To lump them all into one is to disrespect the latter 2 while, conversely elevating the stature of the 1st to an undeserved level.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: mucho gordo
                                            GraydonCarter Nov 19, 2010 05:05 AM

                                            Across the board we all expect the same things from all chain/franchise establishments:
                                            1) Consistent menu - most locations carry our favorite items
                                            2) Consistent quality - there is quality control that doesn't exist at the Mom 'n' Pop
                                            3) Consistent ingredients - all McDonalds restaurants offer those skinny fries
                                            4) Familiar experience - some effort is made establish a culture (uniforms, stores)

                                            Of course some chains's level of quality is unneven and have some quality control issues, but not to the extent that Michelino's Pizzeria differs from Antonio's Pizza.

                                            1. re: GraydonCarter
                                              mucho gordo Nov 19, 2010 08:22 PM

                                              No argument there, Graydon. I'm just saying that there should be distinct categories for the different levels. For example, lumping Morton's Steak House with McD disrepects the former while giving the latter undeserved stature.

                                              1. re: mucho gordo
                                                y
                                                yfunk3 Nov 20, 2010 08:49 AM

                                                Most of the time, there's more to a chain or brand than its food/product. I think that's what the OP was getting at.

                                          2. l
                                            leigh58 Nov 18, 2010 04:53 AM

                                            red lobster

                                            1. y
                                              yfunk3 Nov 17, 2010 08:07 AM

                                              Until this week, I hadn't really given much thought to Chik-Fil-A. But the sheer amount of goodwill they pass out in the form of free food and great promos/coupons in anticipation of a grand opening really changed my mind.

                                              The past three days alone, they gave out free chicken sandwiches (Monday and Tuesday from 11 AM to 1 PM) and gave away a whole boatload of chicken nuggets to my company (picked by our office management company to receive the free nuggets).

                                              And of course, there's the whole "First 100" thing they're doing, which started today, and I'm positive they've already gotten 100 people camping out. I saw a whole bunch of people with tents and sleeping gear at 7 AM this morning. Kind of exciting and amusing, but if you think about it...that's $250+ in free food coupons (they're all for complete meals, not just a free sandwich here or there) for just 24 hours of camping out. No wonder college students love this place!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: yfunk3
                                                m
                                                mpjmph Nov 17, 2010 12:13 PM

                                                I know several people who try to make it to a CFA grand opening camp out at least once a year so the maintain an uninterrupted supply of free food.

                                                Several CFA's in my area offer "free lunch Friday" - Every Friday the receipts printed in the restaurant double as a coupon for the same meal free any time during the following week.

                                                1. re: mpjmph
                                                  y
                                                  yfunk3 Nov 18, 2010 04:38 AM

                                                  Oh man, went to get a free breakfast entree with my coupon on the grand opening this morning and got free swag (a plastic insulated coffee mug)! Chik-Fil-A is REALLY endearing themselves to me this week! :o)

                                                  Too bad I don't drink coffee...but I might go back for lunch and ask if I can trade my mug for one of the cute stuffed cow keychains. I'm a sucker for useless, decorative things. Heh.

                                              2. GraydonCarter Nov 16, 2010 02:15 PM

                                                Pizzeria Uno / Uno Chicago Grill but I avoid their Uno Express at airports - only going to the traditional Uno restaurants. They've had their share of problems, with the FTC violations regarding their ads and this year closing several restaurants and going into bankruptcy. But I like the pizza.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                  Bob W Dec 17, 2010 11:47 AM

                                                  I was in Chicago this past weekend, and had pizza at Lou Malnati's, a beloved local chain. After just one bite I was reminded of the pizza I used to get at Pizzeria Uno -- not jjust the original, which I was fortunate to try years ago, but the franchise outposts in Boston and then in the DC area, which used to be really good. The pizza was easily worth all the calories. But they seemed to get worse and worse, and the name change just reminds me of how pizza is no longer the star. I haven't been to an Uno's in years.

                                                  1. re: Bob W
                                                    f
                                                    ferret Dec 17, 2010 12:21 PM

                                                    The Uno restaurants' pizzas are to the original Unos pizza in the same way that McDonald's apple pies compare to real apple pie. It assembles the ingredients in a seemingly familiar way but ends up nowhere close to its original inspiration.

                                                    1. re: ferret
                                                      Bob W Jan 28, 2011 05:12 AM

                                                      Well, we hit an Uno's last night after some sledding. The food was soul-crushingly mediocre. If it was horrible, that would be one thing, but it tasted perfectly ok. It was "food," nothing more, nothing less. So I guess you could do worse (like the Golden Corral in the same plaza).

                                                      Oh, and the pizza occupies pages 8 and 9 of a ten-page menu.

                                                2. CharlieKilo Nov 15, 2010 06:51 PM

                                                  Don't know that "respect" is quite the word, but I salute Whatabuger, and always will. Whataburger is to Texans what INO Burger is to SoCals.
                                                  Except that Whataburgers are huge, delicious, fresh, loaded works of burger heaven. INO burgers are, uhh.. not.

                                                  1. im_nomad Nov 14, 2010 06:10 AM

                                                    I respect Taco Bell for at least being willing to interchange refried beans into just about every item for no extra charge.

                                                    Some have mentioned Wendy's. While I can't say I haven't eaten there, I do find it hard to say that I "respect" Wendy's, having worked there for a while in college. At least at the location I worked, not great treatment of employees.

                                                    1. g
                                                      garlicvampire Nov 7, 2010 01:43 PM

                                                      If local chains count, Burgerville has ruined eating at national chains for me. (Exception being Chick-Fil-A)

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: garlicvampire
                                                        g
                                                        girlwonder88 Nov 14, 2010 08:53 PM

                                                        I was wondering where the Burgerville love was! They are pretty damn fabulous-local ingredients, really, really good service. Sweet potato fries.....pumpkin shakes.....smoked salmon and hazelnut salad.....

                                                        Hungry now.

                                                        1. re: garlicvampire
                                                          bards4 Jan 29, 2011 08:37 AM

                                                          I completely agree. Burgerville uses local ingredients, highlights local farmers and suppliers with specials, and has THE BEST milkshakes. Lucky to live in the Pac NW!

                                                        2. goodhealthgourmet Nov 7, 2010 01:38 PM

                                                          it's not about "respect" for me, per se, it's about the places whose food i'm actually willing to pay for and eat. it's a short list.

                                                          Houston's
                                                          Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes
                                                          Fleming's
                                                          Morton's
                                                          Rosa Mexicano
                                                          Ruth's Chris

                                                          my last meal at a Fleming's was 18 months ago, and i haven't been to any of the others in over 3 years...basically because i rarely eat out anymore, so when i do, if i have a choice, it's not going to be a chain.

                                                          i suspect i *might* be willing try more chains on occasion if all their menus & kitchens weren't swimming in gluten & soy.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                            scubadoo97 Nov 17, 2010 11:30 AM

                                                            you have some of the better chains on your list. I recently had the opportunity to dine at a Cheesecake Factory. It was not my choice but I have to say that the food did not suck. I am not a fan of chains and like to support the local independents but the food was not bad.

                                                          2. whs Nov 7, 2010 01:00 PM

                                                            Up here in the New England area, Bertucci's is not bad for brick oven pizza, and Popeye's on the Maine Tpke at the Kennebunk exit is worth a stop. Went to Cheesecake Factory for the first time on Friday--seated immediately at 5:00 for an early dinner. The crabcakes were pretty tasty, but my "coulotte steak" was totally devoid of flavor, and the accompanying fries and (2) onions rings were industrial quality. The cheesecake was mighty good, though. By the time we left at 7:00 there was a 1.5 hour wait--go figure.

                                                            1. m
                                                              mse924 Nov 7, 2010 08:34 AM

                                                              I love Culvers. Probably one of the most underrated chains in the country. The founding family still owns the company and they have stayed true to the original, Wisconsin roots. Fresh made frozen custard, a wide-variety of food (butterburgers, pot roast sandwiches, fish fry) and CHEESE CURDS!!! Not to mention the fact that they tend to be very involved in their local community as well.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: mse924
                                                                l
                                                                libgirl2 Nov 7, 2010 12:47 PM

                                                                I have to agree. They have a varied menu and the food is just good for fast food.

                                                                1. re: mse924
                                                                  sunshine842 Nov 7, 2010 01:07 PM

                                                                  Oh man, their frozen custard is good.

                                                                  1. re: mse924
                                                                    w
                                                                    wanderlustre Nov 17, 2010 07:53 PM

                                                                    Not too many restaurants I miss in Janesville, WI, but Culver's is definitely one of them. Their Walleye fish sandwich is probably the best fish sandwich I've ever had...

                                                                    1. re: wanderlustre
                                                                      sunshine842 Nov 18, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                                      that little ice cream stand down off of Ruger is good, too.

                                                                    2. re: mse924
                                                                      Georgia Sommers Dec 19, 2010 10:35 AM

                                                                      I like that they allow me to buy a kid's meal. $5 gets a butter burger with everything (i skip the cheese), fries, small drink, AND a scoop of custard. Nice deal, plenty of food, tastes good.

                                                                    3. c
                                                                      Clarkafella Nov 7, 2010 07:55 AM

                                                                      Waffle House and Huddle House. Cooked to order, rarely screw up anything, have a great breakfast and really good greasy burgers and watching the clientele is almost as fun as crowd watching at a state fair or Jerry Springer- where do these people come from?

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Clarkafella
                                                                        h
                                                                        Heatherb Nov 7, 2010 01:30 PM

                                                                        I forgot about Waffle House! It's not in Jersey, but I try to eat there every time I go south!

                                                                        1. re: Clarkafella
                                                                          Sue in Mt P Nov 7, 2010 03:06 PM

                                                                          I agree! One time, at the Huddle House near me, some guy was crawling in the space above the restaurant and fell through the ceiling to bounce on the floor. It was after the bars closed. All the patrons were shocked. I hate I missed that.

                                                                        2. ttoommyy Nov 4, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                                          Chipotle, Qdoba and Dunkin Donuts, just to name a few. I think the quality is always good and the $$ paid out equals the food and service provided.

                                                                          1. t
                                                                            thecollegefoodie Nov 3, 2010 10:45 AM

                                                                            After working in a Panera Bread for nearly 2 years I can only look at that title with disgust. Their soups are far worse then anything you could get in a can - pushing about 120-150% of daily sodium intake. Their combo sandwich is a whooping 1380 calories (!), and not to mention just because their ingredients are "fresh" does not meant that they are good and good for you. Their breads are just frozen hunks of bleach and unbleached wheat flour with tons of sodium and sugars. They also treat their employees like disposable ingrates.

                                                                            Surprising, the only two chains I respect are both McDonalds and In-n-out. McDonalds does a lot of research on their products and on their costumers. They are respectful of cultures and customs - though this is most for marketability - and they donate millions and millions of dollars to charities around the world. As for their employees, some of the highest paying fast-food employees in America.

                                                                            Really though. Don't eat at any of these fast food joints, they have more than enough business from marketing to the low-income communities and college students.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: thecollegefoodie
                                                                              f
                                                                              fourunder Nov 3, 2010 07:26 PM

                                                                              They also treat their employees like disposable ingrates......
                                                                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                                              How else should ingrates be treated?

                                                                              1. re: thecollegefoodie
                                                                                i
                                                                                Isolda Nov 7, 2010 12:54 PM

                                                                                I know Panera is popular among my friends out on errands, but I have never liked anything I've had there. I'm really picky about bread, so if it's not delicious (with no artificial anything), it's not worth eating.

                                                                                1. re: Isolda
                                                                                  linguafood Nov 18, 2010 09:42 AM

                                                                                  Ugh. I hear ya on the bread. Just recently, I was stuck in upstate NY in some suburban nightmare strip with the usual chain suspects, desperately looking for an acceptable breakfast place. Had some bacon turkey bravo sandwich, and could not believe how sweet the bread was. Like cake almost. Blurgh.

                                                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                                                    t
                                                                                    therealdoctorlew Jan 31, 2011 05:03 AM

                                                                                    We used to get a big loaf of Panera's sandwich bread, but we stopped when we noticed that it never got moldy or stale. I wonder what they put in it.

                                                                                    1. re: therealdoctorlew
                                                                                      b
                                                                                      Basiorana Feb 10, 2011 02:19 PM

                                                                                      THAT's really weird. I eat pretty much only Panera bread and homemade, because I get bread for free. If it's in a bag in the fridge, it goes moldy in about 7 days (about 2 days in a bag on the counter); if it's not, it doesn't mold but it goes stale over night. The white breads mold the fastest-- I assumed because of the sugar.

                                                                                2. re: thecollegefoodie
                                                                                  b
                                                                                  Basiorana Feb 10, 2011 02:16 PM

                                                                                  See, that's so weird to me. Where are you? I work at a Panera and our place is pretty great-- they just revamped the menu to be much healthier, though there are still some bad options; I get my meals almost free (I pay about a dollar or less a day, and can get a free bagel and cream cheese if I need to); I have never felt anything but respected by my managers and coworkers, and I'm quickly moving up through the ranks. They sometimes do frustrating things, especially corporate, but in general they are excellent about treating us well, accommodating our schedule and hour needs, and our benefits plan is superior to my mother's-- and she works for Blue Cross.

                                                                                3. b
                                                                                  baseballfan Nov 3, 2010 10:16 AM

                                                                                  Burger Bar
                                                                                  In & Out
                                                                                  Chipotle
                                                                                  Morton's
                                                                                  The Palm
                                                                                  Flemings
                                                                                  Yardhouse
                                                                                  Ruth's Chris
                                                                                  Elephant Bar

                                                                                  1. h
                                                                                    HastaLaPasta Nov 3, 2010 10:05 AM

                                                                                    For me:

                                                                                    In-N-Out and Baja Fresh among fast food places, because they are (IMHO) a serious cut above their competitors offering similar cuisine at least among their chain competitors.

                                                                                    For sit down restaurants, Houstons and Fogo de Ciao come to mind because, chain or not, they are good.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: HastaLaPasta
                                                                                      w
                                                                                      whitneybee Dec 25, 2010 08:01 AM

                                                                                      The office I worked in for a summer was across the street from a strip mall with a Baja Fresh. I used to brave crossing the very busy 4 lanes of traffic on foot (with a too-short stoplight) on a regular basis just to get some tacos.

                                                                                      1. re: HastaLaPasta
                                                                                        mcel215 Dec 27, 2010 08:30 AM

                                                                                        I miss Baja Fresh's fish tacos. We have terrible Baja food offerings here in Boston, so it was great eats before Baja closed their doors. And their fresh pico di gallo was excellent too.

                                                                                      2. u
                                                                                        Uncle Luigi Nov 2, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                                                        Chick-Fil-A is awesome! I truly love it and the consistently great service that they provide. The closed Sunday thing is great for workers which may help their morale.

                                                                                        2. I am also a Houston's fan.
                                                                                        3. Grimaldi's outside of Houston was amazing when I was there recently
                                                                                        4. Dewey's Pizza (Not a franchise, but in Cincinnati and St. Louis) has multiple locations and is great. Good pizza, amazing service, good beer on tap, a copy of the owner's iPod. (His taste in music is the same as mine.)
                                                                                        5. Corner Bakery seems good whenever I go.

                                                                                        Luigi

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Uncle Luigi
                                                                                          n
                                                                                          Nocturnalbill Jan 1, 2011 07:11 PM

                                                                                          Sadly, there is a rumor circulating that the closed on Sunday tradition may be ending at CFA. That being said, the quality control psychosis from the home office is nothing short of impressive.

                                                                                          1. re: Uncle Luigi
                                                                                            b
                                                                                            Basiorana Feb 10, 2011 02:07 PM

                                                                                            Closed on Sundays is terrible for workers, actually. One of three things happens when you have one day closed-- either they give workers shorter shifts each day but have them work six days straight, which is really not fun; they give two days off, but only the top employees get two days off in a row, so it basically means the same thing, no weekend; or they have only part-time workers and no benefits. Not sure which one Chick Fil-A does but any of the three is terrible for workers and seriously hurts morale.

                                                                                          2. h
                                                                                            Heatherb Nov 2, 2010 08:23 AM

                                                                                            Chipotle - frankly, it's yummy.
                                                                                            Panera - has some reasonably healthy items
                                                                                            Wendy's - the least offensive of the big burger joints
                                                                                            Dairy Queen - mainly because I love Warren Buffett and really love the Flamethrower burger.

                                                                                            1. BiscuitBoy Nov 2, 2010 07:17 AM

                                                                                              I dunno if I'd call it respect, but contrary to most here I like cheesecake factory, panera, chilis, and pf changs

                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy
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                                                                                                SmartCookie Nov 2, 2010 08:14 AM

                                                                                                I'll have to nominate Chipotle due to to their pesticide and hormone-free food. Besides that, it's delicious.

                                                                                                1. re: SmartCookie
                                                                                                  melpy Nov 2, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                                                                  I adore Chipotle. right now it's a 35 min drive to get there from where I live.

                                                                                                  1. re: SmartCookie
                                                                                                    BiscuitBoy Nov 2, 2010 10:10 AM

                                                                                                    Really? They just opened one near me...worth a try?

                                                                                                    1. re: SmartCookie
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                                                                                                      Isolda Nov 7, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                                                      I also love Chipotle. They serve real food made with ingredients we all have in our own kitchens. It may be fast food, it may be a chain, but they are still doing actual cooking.

                                                                                                      I actually crave those vegetarian burrito bowls and will drive 15 minutes just to get one. And those chips are addictive.

                                                                                                      1. re: Isolda
                                                                                                        sunshine842 Nov 7, 2010 01:05 PM

                                                                                                        I LOVE living in France - it's Mecca for a Hound...but oh, man -- you don't wanna know what I would do to get my hands on a Carnitas burrito or bowl from Chipotle. When I was a road warrior sales exec, I ate at Chipotle a LOT because it's real food.

                                                                                                        One of the first recipes I turned the Internet inside-out for after we moved was a recipe for those carnitas, and the cilantro-lime rice. Come to think of it, it's about time to fire up the crockpot to make those again.

                                                                                                        Yeah, it's worth it.

                                                                                                        Moe's Southwest Grill (which is, ironically, only in the southEAST) is not too far behind -- friendly service (Welcome to MOE'S!) and fresh food without breaking the bank.

                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
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                                                                                                          Heatherb Nov 7, 2010 01:29 PM

                                                                                                          Moe's is spreading up to the Northeast. There's a few in NJ and NY. I tried it once and liked it quite a bit.

                                                                                                          1. re: Heatherb
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                                                                                                            therealdoctorlew Jan 31, 2011 04:58 AM

                                                                                                            They opened a Moe's on Long Island near me a year or two ago, and had BOGO, so we tried it. Both my wife and I agreed it wasn't worth even half price. Everything was assembled from luke-warm tubs of "stuff" - no visible cooking. Ordinary, at best, and there are real places near here to get real Mex food.

                                                                                                  2. ipsedixit Nov 1, 2010 11:59 AM

                                                                                                    I respect all chains, because if they weren't doing something right (either business-wise or food-wise) they would not be around to proliferate like mushrooms after a spring storm.

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                                                                                                      ricepad Nov 1, 2010 11:50 AM

                                                                                                      I respect In-N-Out because they pay their employees a living wage.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: ricepad
                                                                                                        ipsedixit Nov 1, 2010 11:58 AM

                                                                                                        Excuse me?

                                                                                                        Most chains pay a "living wage" as defined by the LA County ordinance, not just In-N-Out.

                                                                                                        And outside of LA, most local officials have not passed laws defining what a "living wage" is.

                                                                                                        In-N-Out is great, and generally has a very employee-friendly corporate culture, but to think that they are the *only* ones out there with that business model is a bit short-sighted.

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                          Azizeh Nov 7, 2010 08:55 PM

                                                                                                          The LA Living Wage Ordinance doesn't apply to restaurant workers. It applies to city contracted employees.

                                                                                                          Restaurant workers would typically get the statewide $8/hr. In N Out starts at around $10, I believe.

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                                                                                                        fitzpth Nov 1, 2010 10:50 AM

                                                                                                        Most chains are awful, but in my opinion, these are good.

                                                                                                        Panera Bread
                                                                                                        COSI
                                                                                                        5 Guys

                                                                                                        1. f
                                                                                                          fourunder Nov 1, 2010 09:08 AM

                                                                                                          When out of my area in my travels, I will stop at the following places

                                                                                                          Morton's
                                                                                                          Ruth's Chris
                                                                                                          Capital Grill
                                                                                                          In-N-Out
                                                                                                          Del Taco
                                                                                                          Carl's
                                                                                                          California Pizza
                                                                                                          PF Chang's
                                                                                                          Chick-Fil-A
                                                                                                          Carrabba's
                                                                                                          Famous Dave's
                                                                                                          Cracker Barrel
                                                                                                          Steak and Shake
                                                                                                          Bonefish
                                                                                                          Hooter's
                                                                                                          Huddle House
                                                                                                          Chili's
                                                                                                          Outback

                                                                                                          In my area I will go to :

                                                                                                          Houston's
                                                                                                          The Cheesecake Factory
                                                                                                          Rosa Mexicano
                                                                                                          Legal Sea Foods
                                                                                                          McCormick and Schmick;s
                                                                                                          The Grand Lux Cafe
                                                                                                          Popeye's
                                                                                                          McDonald's
                                                                                                          Burger King
                                                                                                          KFC/Taco Bell
                                                                                                          SmashBurger
                                                                                                          Fuddrucker's
                                                                                                          Bobby Flay's Burger Palace

                                                                                                          I'm sure there are others on both lists, but these came easily to mind......which reminds me ....The McRib is available again today.....I'll have to stop by Mcdonald's.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: fourunder
                                                                                                            Perilagu Khan Nov 2, 2010 07:49 AM

                                                                                                            Agreed on Chick-Fil-A. The original chicken sandwich is borderline addictive and the waffle fries are also pretty good.

                                                                                                          2. rockandroller1 Nov 1, 2010 08:26 AM

                                                                                                            I really don't respect any of them. I live in a suburb surrounded by chains and you have to really drive awhile to get good, non-chain food and we are always getting stuff from the chains for takeout just because it's convenient and always being disappointed. I do like Popeye's chicken but I try to save that for very rare occasions as that's a lot of fat and salt, and same goes for Long John Silver's food - if it's prepared fresh I think it's great at satisfying a craving for salt, fat and protein. I guess I also think Jimmy John's is good but their complete lack of any salads at all makes it also only a very occasional choice (I like the Vito). Again, the fat and salt in most of this food just makes it a lose-lose for me. I was forced to go to OG with some friends while visiting them out of state recently and after spending eons looking at the menu, actually had a fairly decent tasting meal of cheese tortolloni with spinach and cream and a breaded, fried pork chop. I got home and looked up the nutrition information and about died - it was like salt for 2 days, fat for 1.5 days, just in that 1 meal! I used to like some of it, like Macaroni Grill, but they've all cheapened their food so much that everything tastes the same. It's just not worth the money, or the calories/fat most of the time.

                                                                                                            I just spent 3 hours cooking yesterday so we would have something for Every. Single. Night. this week and not have to get mediocre takeout again.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1
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                                                                                                              Kelli2006 Nov 17, 2010 10:33 PM

                                                                                                              Do Alladins and Swensons count as chains?
                                                                                                              I do agree with you about LJS being a guilty pleasure and I want to try Popeyes but the closest location is 20 minutes away. Ive heard Jimmy Johns ads but there are no local locations for me.

                                                                                                              Backyard burgers were great but they appear to have closed. I will stop at McDonalds for fish sandwich during Lent but except for their coffee I don't eat their food the rest of the year.

                                                                                                              1. re: Kelli2006
                                                                                                                Firegoat Jan 1, 2011 07:52 AM

                                                                                                                We have a few Backyard Burgers where I am, and all of the locations are good. Great burgers, great grilled chicken sandwiches and good drink specials.

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