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Interesting article to share 9 best chain restaurants

jrvedivici Jun 29, 2012 08:03 AM

Interesting article I thought I would share. I have only been to two of the establishments Bob Evan’s while traveling always a reliable breakfast place and Le Peep. The later Le Peep I had no idea was a national franchise. I thought they started in Edison on Rt. 1 in Wick Plaza…about 25 years ago….but I could be mistaken. I know they had a location in Red Bank NJ on Rt. 35 that only lasted about 2 years.

Anyone else experience any of the “9 best”?

http://shopping.yahoo.com/news/best-c...

  1. ipsedixit Jun 29, 2012 10:27 PM

    Elmer's (Palm Springs) is fine; big portions and cheap prices. Sort of like Denny's on steroids.

    First Watch (Phoenix) is pretty good with efficient servers. Sort of like Denny's with a soul.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit
      c
      cwdonald Jul 8, 2012 05:37 AM

      First Watch I think was originally out of Kansas City.. guess they have exploded nation wide.

    2. h
      hyde Jul 7, 2012 06:41 PM

      i live in the greater boston area and honestly, i have never heard of ANY of these chains. none of them exist in this stretch of the world.

      is that a good thing or a bad thing?

      14 Replies
      1. re: hyde
        Boston_Otter Jul 8, 2012 06:02 AM

        I live in Boston area as well, and while I've eaten in the majority of these chains, I don't think any of them have branches on the East Coast, you're right.

        It's not necessarily good or bad. Boston folks like to talk about the 'authentic North End Italian food' but I've had terrible, overpriced meals there; the food at Bravo! or Maggianos might be 'chain food', but it's consistently high quality.

        The breakfasts at Bob Evans, Waffle House, and First Watch are always good, but I'll take brunch at Sound Bites in Somerville any day. Doesn't make either better than the other, it's just what's available.

        But if you've honestly never even heard of Waffle House, Friendly's, or Bob Evan's, maybe you need to do a little travelling :)

        1. re: Boston_Otter
          melpy Jul 8, 2012 06:13 AM

          I think the previous poster was referring to the highly rated places not all the ones mentioned. I have lived in CT, MD and PA and have only heard of bob evans. Although I do know many of the other listed restaurants.

          1. re: Boston_Otter
            h
            hyde Jul 8, 2012 12:01 PM

            possibly, but waffle house and friendly's were not in the nine best that the article sighted. i have heard of bob evans but have never seen one in my new england travels (spend a good amount of time in NYC, any there?)

            maybe i should just stop travelling to countries that dont serve this slop.

            1. re: hyde
              Boston_Otter Jul 8, 2012 07:34 PM

              As I mentioned, just because something's a "chain" doesn't mean their food is automatically poor quality 'slop'. That's the point of the article.

              Bob Evans is a strange anomaly on the list. Their food's mediocre at best in my experience. Breakfast is good, but it's hard to mess up eggs and bacon.

              I saw a good number of chains mentioned in the article when I last travelled to Europe, so it's not an American thing.

              1. re: Boston_Otter
                Bob W Jul 9, 2012 08:50 AM

                Breakfast is the only thing worth eating at Bob Evans'. The non-breakfast food is incredibly salty, and otherwise tasteless.

                1. re: Bob W
                  monkeyrotica Jul 10, 2012 10:39 AM

                  I've found the same is true for IHOP. You veer from the breakfast menu at your peril.

                2. re: Boston_Otter
                  f
                  Fibber McGee Jul 10, 2012 08:50 AM

                  Have you tried Mimi's, their version of a French bistro?

                  1. re: Fibber McGee
                    Boston_Otter Jul 10, 2012 09:15 AM

                    I have, last time I was in Ohio -- my relatives there like going to Mimi's. The "French" thing is sort of laughable -- the most 'French' thing on the menu is Chicken Cordon Bleu, and that's just chicken breast with ham and cheese on it. The New Orleans style food is a little more successful, but most of the food is just above-average American bistro/cafe food with a few 'homestyle' classics. I had a very decent plate of liver & onions when I was last there.

                    1. re: Boston_Otter
                      f
                      Fibber McGee Jul 11, 2012 09:16 AM

                      Completely concur.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter
                        EWSflash Jul 23, 2012 12:40 PM

                        I've eaten at Mimi's three times and have No interest in ever going there again. Greasy greasy food and no flavor to speak of. It was all at the same Mimi's, btw.

                        1. re: EWSflash
                          f
                          Fibber McGee Jul 24, 2012 08:27 AM

                          Hmm. Nothing I have had was greasy or flavorless, but I'm never in a rush to return.

                    2. re: Boston_Otter
                      h
                      hyde Jul 10, 2012 02:01 PM

                      im often fascinated by the "chains" board because i have no idea what anyone is talking about. golden corral? sheetz? le peep? steak and lube? my first costco trip was only a couple of years ago, and i have never set foot inside a wal-mart (they just didnt exist in the boston area until the 2000's)

                      i dont consider myself that provincial but where i seem to travel (canadian maritime, the u.k., hawaii, u.s. national parks ) just dont seem to have a great number of this kind of thing. maybe im just blind.

                      1. re: hyde
                        Boston_Otter Jul 10, 2012 02:30 PM

                        If you're living in the Boston area and commuting largely via T & commuter rail, the only chains you're likely to see around here are the ones downtown around the Pru. There's plenty of chains around the area (Chili's, Friendly's, Border Cafe, TGI Friday's, Legal Seafood, etc) but they're largely in mall areas that are more driveable than T-accessible.

                        In some parts of the country, chains make up the vast majority of dining. In others, they're more sparse.

                        1. re: Boston_Otter
                          Bob W Jul 11, 2012 01:18 PM

                          If the Boston chain scene these days is like DC's, downtown/Back Bay is filled with things like Au Bon Pain, Cosi, Corner Bakery, Potbelly, Pret a Manger...

              2. RetiredChef Jul 8, 2012 11:21 AM

                I have not eaten at some of these but I would concur with Bravo Cucina Italiano being on the list. I have said many times over that I have had the best "chain" dining experience (Food, service, value, ambience, etc) with them than any other chain. And Le Peep does good breakfasts while Elmer's is very hit and miss.

                I have to laugh that Black Angus and Bob Evans made the list. They are mediocre at best and don't really offer anything that makes me want to go back in. For steaks I would go to Morton's over Black Angus any day and for breakfast fare IHOP does a better job than Bob Evans.

                The respondents really are clueless about unhealthy fare - Cheesecake Factory is the winner hands down.

                Some chains that I think should be in the top:

                Bahama Breeze
                Houston's
                Joe's Crab Shack
                Legal Sea foods
                Ted's Montana Grill

                12 Replies
                1. re: RetiredChef
                  monkeyrotica Jul 10, 2012 10:36 AM

                  Joe's Crab Shack? Really? Can you explain please?

                  1. re: monkeyrotica
                    RetiredChef Jul 11, 2012 11:19 AM

                    What is there to explain - their biggest drawbacks are they are expensive and don't take reservations so wait times can be long, but the food is very good.
                    For Example: The Octopus and shrimp ceviche is awesome, the crab bisque is homemade and is very good. Their crab cakes with the caper topping is one of the best restaurant crabcakes I have had. And a treat if you don't like seafood is try their rack of lamb - very, very good.

                    Are they epitome of seafood restaurants, nope, I've had better but they do an excellent job.

                    1. re: RetiredChef
                      monkeyrotica Jul 11, 2012 06:09 PM

                      The three I've been to (one in Florida and two in Virginia) were horrible experiences: inept service, stale or freezer burnt seafood, and everything else poorly fried. The two in Virginia have since shuttered.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica
                        RetiredChef Jul 12, 2012 10:20 AM

                        I think we might be talking about two different Joe's - the one I'm thinking of only uses fresh fish and I don't think they have anything fried on the menu.

                        1. re: RetiredChef
                          monkeyrotica Jul 12, 2012 11:47 AM

                          This is the Joe's Crab Shack I'm talking about. They have a bisque but I can't imagine them serving ceviche. That would be a cholera epidemic waiting to happen.

                          http://www.joescrabshack.com/

                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                            RetiredChef Jul 12, 2012 05:05 PM

                            Oh my lord, they have PBR in a bucket on the their home page (LOL) - nope that's not the place I am referring too, I will get you a website but I'm boarding a flight right now.

                      2. re: RetiredChef
                        Boston_Otter Jul 12, 2012 05:41 PM

                        Are you thinking of Not Your Average Joe's?

                    2. re: RetiredChef
                      Rilke Jul 10, 2012 02:14 PM

                      Bahama Breeze and Joe's Crab Shack are awful.

                      1. re: Rilke
                        RetiredChef Jul 11, 2012 11:19 AM

                        See above for my comments on Joe's

                        As far as Bahama Breeze goes on another Chowhound board that talked about good chains it had quite a few mentions and I must concur. I have been there four times with 4 different couples and each time we had great service, the place was clean, the food was good for a chain, the ambience was refreshing with the fire pit and live music and to top that off the value was there. Is Bahama breeze the epitome of dining - nope but we are talking about chains.

                        So why don't you tell us who you think are the top 9 chains are.

                        1. re: RetiredChef
                          r
                          redfish62 Jul 12, 2012 11:51 AM

                          I liked Bahama Breeze the two times I have eaten there, would go back more often but the local one closed down.

                          1. re: RetiredChef
                            c
                            chevrelove Jul 24, 2012 07:43 AM

                            Bahama Breeze is one of the few chains I'd willingly visit.

                            1. re: RetiredChef
                              r
                              rasputina Sep 6, 2012 03:41 PM

                              I haven't eaten there in a few years but I used to like it. They have a banana bread wiith ice cream dessert that I loved.

                        2. k
                          kengk Jul 8, 2012 11:25 AM

                          Bob Evan's is the only one of the list I've even heard of and have not eaten at one.

                          Carrabba's is by far my favorite chain restaurant.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: kengk
                            w
                            wyogal Jul 12, 2012 02:50 PM

                            Yes, Carrabba's!

                            1. re: wyogal
                              k
                              kengk Jul 12, 2012 03:11 PM

                              Nice to hear that the ones in Wyoming are good too.

                              The first time we ate at Carrabba's was probably 10-12 years ago, were wandering aimlessly around Asheville, NC looking for someplace to eat. Saw this place that seemingly had every other car in the state in the parking lot so we decided to join them. A year or three later my wife informed me that the great "local" Italian place we had gone to was actually a chain.

                              I believe since then we have eaten at three different locations in Georgia and two in Florida and each and every meal was consistently good. The one in Columbus GA does seem to have a fairly high screaming baby factor though. I guess because of all the young soldier's families.

                              1. re: kengk
                                w
                                wyogal Jul 12, 2012 03:42 PM

                                Not sure there are any in Wyoming, I've only been to the one in Ft. Collins, and one in Virginia Beach.

                              2. re: wyogal
                                IndyGirl Jul 20, 2012 10:58 AM

                                I've only been to one Carrabba's, in a professional situation, and it wasn't in my area. However, I thought it was really good food for a chain and I would definitely go back.

                                1. re: IndyGirl
                                  w
                                  wyogal Jul 20, 2012 11:50 AM

                                  Admittedly, our experience is colored by the fact that when we've gone, we've also been on vacation, or a weekend date night, so we were relaxed and making the effort to have a great time and experience!
                                  I have gotten something different everytime and enjoyed it.

                              3. re: kengk
                                j
                                James Cristinian Jul 21, 2012 07:09 AM

                                We have the original Carrabba's in Houston still owned by Johnny Carrabba. The chef and most of the cooks have been there twenty plus years. We sit at the food bar and watch the chef and cooks prepare everythig a few feet from our eyes and noses. We've never had a bad meal there. The menu is different from the chains, and maybe a couple of bucks more.

                                http://www.carrabbas.com/pdf/menus/en...

                              4. r
                                redfish62 Jul 9, 2012 08:53 AM

                                Seems like "noise" was a big factor in the ratings, imo they surveyed a bunch of people in their 80's

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: redfish62
                                  monkeyrotica Jul 10, 2012 10:42 AM

                                  Well, you don't have to be senile to not want to go deaf. But if you're looking for peace and quiet, I don't think a family style restaurant would be in my top ten list.

                                  This survey was done by Consumer Reports, whose readership skews older and middle-upper-middle income. So, yeah, I doubt they're going to do many reviews of hip, vibrant nightclubs or trendy places to get upscale colonics.

                                  1. re: redfish62
                                    BubblyOne Jul 10, 2012 03:06 PM

                                    From other articles I've read, CS tends to lean towards the cheap and call it value. Black Angus over Morton's? They've got to be kidding.

                                    1. re: BubblyOne
                                      k
                                      kengk Jul 10, 2012 04:22 PM

                                      For many people cost and value IS an issue. To compare two chains that I do have a passing familiarity with. A family of four could go out for a steak dinner at Outback instead of Ruths Chris and save enough money to buy the kids a pair of shoes and a new outfit to wear to school.

                                      1. re: kengk
                                        BubblyOne Jul 11, 2012 04:42 PM

                                        Quite true, but that still doesn't make Outback better than Ruth's Chris, just cheaper. I'd go to the butcher and cook good steaks at home if I was looking for value.

                                        1. re: BubblyOne
                                          drongo Jul 12, 2012 09:41 AM

                                          If you look at the full report (in print or on CR's website), Ruth's Chris is rated more highly (2/10 on the list of Steakhouses, behind Capital Grille) than Outback (7/10).

                                          http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/fo...

                                        2. re: kengk
                                          r
                                          rasputina Sep 6, 2012 03:44 PM

                                          Yes, but Outbacks food is horrible. I've had some very nice steak and lobster at Ruth's Chris though.

                                        3. re: BubblyOne
                                          EWSflash Jul 23, 2012 12:54 PM

                                          Agreed. CR factors cost into itts ratings more than I like. But knowing that I look at the rest of the ratings closer.

                                      2. caseyjo Jul 10, 2012 02:38 PM

                                        Haven't eaten at any of them, although there is a Bravo Cucina Italiana and a Le Peep in the nearest suburb. Not really interested in going, though.

                                        Of course, I'm trying to think of which chain I'd put at the top, and I'm drawing a blank. Oh well.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: caseyjo
                                          Boston_Otter Jul 11, 2012 11:24 AM

                                          I'm a little baffled by the idea of getting on the "Chains" board to disparage the idea of chain restaurants in general.

                                          1. re: Boston_Otter
                                            drongo Jul 11, 2012 01:09 PM

                                            I would think the "Chains" board is the right place for comments about chain restaurants in general -- whether they're disparaging or approving.

                                            1. re: drongo
                                              f
                                              Fibber McGee Jul 12, 2012 08:04 AM

                                              Just coming in here to deride a chain (or chains in general) or pat oneself on the back for not going to chains isn't exactly conducive to discussion, no? Have they awarded medals in the past for coolest/most snide comments? Are they going to start? Is it that important to tell everyone you are "above" the people actually contributing?
                                              But hey, I'm from "Middle America" so what do I know?

                                              1. re: Fibber McGee
                                                NonnieMuss Jul 24, 2012 05:20 AM

                                                I don't know what you're talking about. I don't even OWN a television. That kind of attitude? Chains serve a purpose and can be good or bad. Different locations, franchises, and hell, even an off-night or a great server can affect our opinions of them. I try to avoid chains for nice dinners, dates, etc., but sometimes you just gotta have the Waffle House hashbrowns, the Carrabba's Chicken Bryan, or a $10 steak from Logans, the same way McDonalds fries can do it for you when nothing else can.

                                                1. re: NonnieMuss
                                                  f
                                                  Fibber McGee Jul 24, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                  Not sure what you mean by the first few sentences of your post, Nonnie, but the rest I agree with 100%.

                                                  1. re: Fibber McGee
                                                    NonnieMuss Jul 24, 2012 10:18 AM

                                                    Ha! Sorry. That's a pet peeve of mine, when you nicely ask someone if they saw such-and-such show and they coldly and snottily say "I don't even OWN a TV." Like, I was just making conversation to be polite. No need to look down your nose at me. Seems similar to the attitude of coming to the Chain board to tell everyone you don't go to chains. (If you were my husband you would have found that hilarious. And then I'd be Nonnie McGee, which is adorable!)

                                                    1. re: NonnieMuss
                                                      f
                                                      Fibber McGee Jul 24, 2012 02:15 PM

                                                      Ah, we are very much on the same page, then.

                                                      1. re: NonnieMuss
                                                        Boston_Otter Jul 25, 2012 05:23 AM

                                                        I was totally baffled, too. I think you needed some quotes around your first two sentences or some such thing :)

                                          2. RetiredChef Jul 12, 2012 10:33 AM

                                            These are the top five from selected categories AS REPORTED BY CONSUMER REPORTS.

                                            Contemporary/Traditional American

                                            1. J Alexander's
                                            2. Houston's
                                            3 Mimi's Cafe
                                            4 Claim Jumper
                                            5 The Cheesecake Factory

                                            Italian

                                            1. Biaggi's Ristornate Italiano
                                            2. Bravo Cucina Italiana
                                            3. Brio Tuscan Grille
                                            4. Carrabba's
                                            5. Maggiano's Little Italy

                                            Mexican

                                            1. Abuelo's
                                            2. Azteca
                                            3. Acapulco
                                            4. On the Border
                                            5. Don Pablo's

                                            Pub Style or Grill

                                            1. Cheddar's Casual Cafe
                                            2. Fatx Eatz & Drinkz
                                            3. Houlihan's
                                            4. Ted's Montana Grill
                                            4. BJ's Restaurant

                                            Seafood

                                            1. Bonefish grill
                                            2. Papadeux Seafood Kitchen
                                            3. Legal Sea Foods
                                            4. McCormick & Schmicks
                                            5. Red Lobster

                                            Steakhouses

                                            1. The Capital Grille
                                            2. Ruth Chris
                                            3. Morton's
                                            4. Fleming's
                                            5. Black Angus

                                            Unique Dinner houses

                                            1. Bahama Breeze
                                            2. PF Changs
                                            3. California Pizza Kitchen
                                            4. Mellow Mushroom
                                            5. The melting pot

                                            Family

                                            1. First Watch
                                            2. The orginal Pancake house
                                            3. Le Peep
                                            4. Bob Evans
                                            5. The Egg and I Breakfast and Lunch

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: RetiredChef
                                              m
                                              MonMauler Jul 12, 2012 11:24 AM

                                              I like this list better than that in the OP. Of the one's I've been to:

                                              Contemporary/Traditional American
                                              2. Houston's - I enjoy very much. I really enjoy the ribs, salmon and French dip
                                              5. Cheesecake Factory - Not a big fan. Portions too big, menu too big. Nothing great.

                                              Italian
                                              2. Bravo Cucina Italiana - I enjoy from time to time. Flatbread, soup, pizza, Spaghetti & Meatballs, and Penne Mediterranean are all solid. A few other items are ok, too.
                                              5. Maggiano's Little Italy - Is ok. Most everything is inoffensive. Chicken Saltimbocca is solid.

                                              Mexican
                                              5. Don Pablo's - Didn't enjoy. Won't go back.

                                              Pub Style or Grill
                                              3. Houlihan's - Decent for drinks and apps, not worth it for a full meal.

                                              Seafood
                                              1. Bonefish Grill - Is mostly inoffensive, as well. Only thing really enjoyable is Bang Bang Shrimp.
                                              3. Legal Seafood - I generally enjoy - my favorite of the seafood chains. Really like the chowder.
                                              4. McCormich & Schmicks - Is generally a miss for a full meal. Very nice happy hour and bar food for the price. Oyster night generally doesn't disappoint, either.
                                              5. Red Lobster - Dreck.

                                              Steakhouses
                                              1. Capital Grille - My second favorite of the chain steakhouses. Usually come away pretty happy.
                                              2. Ruth's Chris - My favorite of the chain steakhouses. Stuffed mushrooms, Ribeye rare, loaded baked potato and creamed spinach is one of my favorite meals ever.
                                              3. Morton's - I don't care for Morton's, especially at the price. A city with a Morton's will always have a Cap Grille or a Ruth's Chris I can patronize instead.

                                              Unique Dinner Houses
                                              2. PF Changs - Is ok for what it is. I like the lettuce wraps and the kung pao scallops a decent bit.
                                              5. The Melting Pot - Not really a fan.

                                              Family
                                              2. The Original Pancake House - Is generally disappointing. Haven't found anything even marginally good.
                                              4. Bob Evans - Is generally disappointing, too. Some of the breakfast items are ok. I will never go again for anything other than breakfast.

                                              1. re: MonMauler
                                                drongo Jul 12, 2012 01:03 PM

                                                Hey Mon...

                                                I was interested that the only thing you enjoy at Bonefish Grill is the Bang Bang Shrimp... because the one time I went to a BG, I enjoyed my meal EXCEPT for the Bang Bang Shrimp -- which I found disgusting. It probably depends on whether one likes that sauce (seemed like a mayo/sriracha blend to me ... though I like sriracha).

                                                My wife used to love Red Lobster so I was forced to go there periodically. The good news is that she found a new favorite, so no more Red Lobster for me :). The bad news is that her new favorite is Joe's Crab Shack, which I think is even worse.

                                                I agree with you on Melting Pot. That's my daughter's favorite though... I think it's the chocolate fondue that gets her. So I am there all too frequently.

                                                1. re: drongo
                                                  m
                                                  MonMauler Jul 12, 2012 01:40 PM

                                                  Hey Drongo,

                                                  I probably undersold Bonefish Grill a little in my brief comment. By saying it's mostly inoffensive I really meant that my meals probably average out as middle-of-the-road in general but good-to-very good for a chain. I've enjoyed the sea bass and the grouper just about everytime I've gotten them, as they are two of my stand-bys. I DO NOT like the fish and chips. And you're right about the Bang Bang Shrimp sauce - I like it, which is probably why I enjoy the dish. They key for the shrimp is for them not to have too heavy a hand with the sauce -- the only time that's happened to me the shrimp got lost and mushy, and it wasn't very good.

                                                  I have to agree with Boston Otter, below, the cheddar bay biscuits at Red Lobster are quite good. I was remiss in not mentioning them before. I don't enjoy anything else there, though. I occassionally get dragged there, but not too much. You're right about Joe's Crab Shack being worse, however. Luckily I am rarely exposed to it.

                                                  I feel your pain in regards to Melting Pot. This one girl I go out with from time to time likes it because she thinks it's a romantic ambience and concept, because the bar gets a nice crowd on the weekends and because there's a few other decent bars in the area. She really doesn't care about the food. Ugh.

                                                  1. re: MonMauler
                                                    Boston_Otter Jul 12, 2012 02:04 PM

                                                    A few times a year, I end up at Melting Pot for various friends' big birthday parties, because they like to sell the place as being great for groups. It's actually awful for groups, because by design, the seating blocks people off into groups of two or four. There's actual wooden dividers up between booths, and since you're focused on your specific fondue pot, nobody in a large group talks to anyone else.

                                                    The best thing there, besides the cheese fondue, is the mushroom salad.

                                                    1. re: MonMauler
                                                      k
                                                      kengk Jul 12, 2012 02:06 PM

                                                      I've eaten at a couple of different Bonefish Grills and thought it was pretty good.

                                                      Seems to me that it gets harder and harder to find a good piece of fish. Captain D's served a nice fish and chips dinner 20 years ago...imo.

                                                      Loved Red Lobster when I was a kid. That was fine dining for my family. Don't know how much of the change is on their part or mine but was not really happy the last time we at there.

                                                      At least in my area there are still local places that make excellent whole fried catfish.

                                                2. re: RetiredChef
                                                  Boston_Otter Jul 12, 2012 11:49 AM

                                                  Wow, good list. Here's my personal thoughts, for what they're worth:

                                                  Contemporary/Traditional American
                                                  3. Mimi's Cafe -- As stated above, the "French" menu is silly, but traditional American foods are decent.
                                                  5. The Cheesecake Factory -- Insanely massive menu and portions. Not worth the epic lines.

                                                  Italian
                                                  2. Bravo Cucina Italiana -- Decent enough. A bit more upscale than you might expect.
                                                  3. Brio Tuscan Grille -- Great for lunch. Much lighter fare than the other Italian places here.
                                                  4. Carrabba's -- Also decent enough, but more greasy than Bravo.
                                                  5. Maggiano's Little Italy -- Surprisingly good pastas. Great for big groups.

                                                  Mexican
                                                  4. On the Border -- Last time I was there, my chicken was still frozen. I won't go back.

                                                  Pub Style or Grill
                                                  1. Cheddar's Casual Cafe -- Fat fat fatty fat.
                                                  3. Houlihan's -- I really enjoyed this place in the late 80s.

                                                  Seafood
                                                  3. Legal Sea Foods -- Chowder's excellent, generally really good choice for seafood.
                                                  4. McCormick & Schmicks -- I like their seafood "towers" quite a bit.
                                                  5. Red Lobster -- Go for the cheesy biscuits, skip everything else.

                                                  Unique Dinner houses
                                                  2. PF Changs -- I'm with MonMauler here, the lettuce wraps are worth going for.
                                                  3. California Pizza Kitchen -- A crowd pleaser, decent enough pizzas. I like the salads, especially.
                                                  5. The Melting Pot -- Never worth the price. Cheese fondue's good, the dinner fondues are crazy expensive for what you get.

                                                  Family
                                                  1. First Watch -- Love their Crepeggs and benedicts.
                                                  2. The orginal Pancake house -- I miss the Dutch Baby.
                                                  4. Bob Evans -- Go for the sausage gravy and breakfast classics, skip everything else.

                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter
                                                    h
                                                    hyde Jul 12, 2012 06:37 PM

                                                    i ate at the original legal seafood when it was a walk up window in cambridge and the bigger place in chestnut hill.

                                                    does this count?

                                                    otherwise it may be possible i have not eaten in any of these other places. my thavels within the U.S. are always in metropolitan areas and there seems to be plenty of food around.
                                                    im stunned i am clueless to this huge thing.

                                                  2. re: RetiredChef
                                                    drongo Jul 12, 2012 02:22 PM

                                                    I don't think Biaggi's is here in New Jersey -- and I don't think I'd try an American-Italian chain here anyway when there are so many, many American-Italian restaurants (good, bad or ugly) here. But I did go to a Biaggi's in Salt Lake City and it was quite good... to the extent that I got the recipe for their "Chicken Pietro" and make it at home sometimes (I think mine is better of course, lol).

                                                    Edit: Actually, it looks like New Jersey is something of a desert when it comes to top-ranked chains. In most cases, the top 2 in each category are not here:

                                                    Contemporary/Traditional American -
                                                    1. J Alexander's ... NO
                                                    2. Houston's ... NO

                                                    Italian
                                                    1. Biaggi's Ristornate Italiano ... NO
                                                    2. Bravo Cucina Italiana ... NO

                                                    Mexican
                                                    1. Abuelo's ... NO
                                                    2. Azteca ... NO

                                                    Pub Style or Grill
                                                    1. Cheddar's Casual Cafe ... NO
                                                    2. Fatx Eatz & Drinkz ... NO

                                                    Seafood
                                                    1. Bonefish grill ... YES
                                                    2. Papadeux Seafood Kitchen ... NO

                                                    Steakhouses
                                                    1. The Capital Grille ... YES
                                                    2. Ruth Chris ... YES

                                                    Unique Dinner houses
                                                    1. Bahama Breeze ... YES
                                                    2. PF Changs ... YES

                                                    Family
                                                    1. First Watch ... NO
                                                    2. The orginal Pancake house ... YES

                                                    1. re: drongo
                                                      brandywiner Sep 6, 2012 03:07 PM

                                                      Actually, there's a Houston's at the Riverside Square mall in Hackensack.

                                                    2. re: RetiredChef
                                                      r
                                                      rasputina Sep 6, 2012 03:53 PM

                                                      of the ones I've been to

                                                      Contemporary/Traditional American

                                                      3 Mimi's Cafe Has seriously gone down hill in the last couple years

                                                      5 The Cheesecake Factory I like their food, especially the salads

                                                      Italian

                                                      2. Bravo Cucina Italiana eaten there a couple times, was pretty good

                                                      4. Carrabba's hated it

                                                      5. Maggiano's Little Italy have eaten there many times and it's really really done down hill

                                                      Mexican

                                                      3. Acapulco haven't eaten there in probably 10 years

                                                      4. On the Border didn't like it

                                                      Pub Style or Grill

                                                      3. Houlihan's haven't eaten there in over 5 years, it was ok from what I remember

                                                      4. BJ's Restaurant we like BJs ok

                                                      Seafood

                                                      4. McCormick & Schmicks was great the one time I ate there

                                                      5. Red Lobster probably been 20 years since I've been there and was never a fan

                                                      Steakhouses

                                                      2. Ruth Chris haven't eaten there in 10 years at least, but it was great

                                                      5. Black Angus haven't eaten there in 20+ years it was ok

                                                      Unique Dinner houses

                                                      1. Bahama Breeze we ate there fairly often for awhile, but that was more than 5 years ago

                                                      2. PF Changs we used to eat there pretty often, last time as 2 years ago it's stayed consistent

                                                      3. California Pizza Kitchen eh, seriously gone down hill, but I ate at the original location when it opened. It has not maintained it's quality in the franchises I've been to since then

                                                    3. b
                                                      biscottifan Jul 12, 2012 12:42 PM

                                                      My friend and I often go to J. Alexander's and Bravo! Cucina Italiana. Another we like is Mitchell's Fish Market.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: biscottifan
                                                        p
                                                        prairieprincess Jul 23, 2012 04:53 PM

                                                        I thought bonefish was decent.....but i really like seasons 52.....

                                                        1. re: prairieprincess
                                                          b
                                                          biscottifan Jul 24, 2012 07:26 AM

                                                          There is a Bonefish Grill somewhat near me but I haven't been there yet. No Seasons 52 in SE Michigan.

                                                      2. r
                                                        rasputina Sep 6, 2012 03:31 PM

                                                        I have only eaten at I think 2 of those. Bravo, which is pretty good for Italian and Black Angus which I haven't eaten at in probably 20 years.

                                                        1. c
                                                          CuervoLinda Oct 3, 2012 02:22 AM

                                                          We have Elmer's in Oregon. I have been to 3 or four of their locations, probably half a dozen times total. They can accommodate parties of 8 or more easily, so it seems I have ended up there after family reunions or funerals.

                                                          My meals have ranged from mediocre to out-and-out craptacular. The service has always been spotty at best, and occasionally rude.

                                                          I'm very surprised they made the top 9 list, and I have tried both their breakfasts and their lunch/dinners. Perhaps they are better in other states, but here I would choose IHOP or Village Inn over Elmer's.

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