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American restaurants in other countries

sueatmo Jan 17, 2014 08:55 PM

Have any of you world travelers found American restaurants abroad? If so I am curious what passes for American food in the ones you've visited.

  1. ipsedixit Jan 17, 2014 09:11 PM

    Depends on what you mean by "American food" and excluding chains like KFC or McDonalds.

    But that said, there's usually some sort of diner (think Denny's not Katz level food), BBQ, and burger joint on the level of greasy spoon drive-thru.

    There are also Steakhouses but I'm not sure those are purely "American" unless they're also kitschy and theme-based with cowboys and a Western motif.

    High end American is hard to pinpoint because I'm not sure there's a definitive definition of such a thing.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      sueatmo Jan 17, 2014 09:17 PM

      Exactly what I was driving at.

      I ate tonight at a real Mexican restaurant. I mean it was obvious that the management and wait persons were all Mexican or of Mexican extraction. The food was really good, unlike the fake Mexican you can get at some chains.

      But I recognized everything on the menu. There wasn't anything unusual or strange to my American taste. I wondered how American tastes have transformed how Mexican food is prepared in this country.

      What would be the equivalent regarding American food, I wondered. What dishes would be recognized by non-
      Americans, and would be included in an American restaurant in London, or Paris or Istanbul? And how are they changed in different countries?

      I assume Hamburgers, Chili, Barbecue. But I don't know. That's what I am wondering.

      1. re: sueatmo
        Veggo Jan 19, 2014 05:51 AM

        The Hard Rock Café in Polanco in Mexico City closed last year after 20 years. It just seemed so out of place there....

    2. n
      nothingswrong Jan 17, 2014 09:24 PM

      My brother lives in Singapore and searched desperately for "American" food for his first months there. He LOVES the food there, but was madly craving a burger and fries. He's lived all over the US and burgers are like an entire food group to him; his favorites probably are Father's Office and In'N'Out here in LA.

      He finally found a little restaurant in a hotel geared toward tourists and they had a plain ol' hamburger and fries on the menu.

      He said it was "fine." Satisfied the craving, made him feel really homesick after eating noodles/meat/rice for every meal.

      It was a plain ground beef patty, white bread bun, lettuce, tomato, mayo, onions, etc. and fries. He said it was all maybe a little boring and very "clean."

      He said they also had other "American food" on the menu including spaghetti with marinara. But as far as I know, he only went back 1 or 2 other times and had another burger.

      Last I heard, he'd found another burger joint with better food.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nothingswrong
        boogiebaby Jan 17, 2014 10:04 PM

        There are tons of American restaurants in Singapore! All the fast food chains, BJs, A&W, TGI Fridays, Hooters and other non burger places like Lawrys and Morton's all have branches there too. you can find a burger in every neighborhood. You can find everything food wise in Singapore.

        1. re: boogiebaby
          nothingswrong Jan 18, 2014 01:14 PM

          Good to know. I've never been.

          He's been there for a few years now, and every time he calls to chat, he's stuffing his face with a fried egg and bacon sandwich, so I'd venture to guess he's found plenty of "American" food options by now.

          I think when he first moved there, he was afraid to leave the area where he worked and lived, and from the photos he sent back then, there was little in the way of restaurants.

      2. Chemicalkinetics Jan 17, 2014 10:06 PM

        Yes. A lot of McDonald, KFC, Starbucks, PizzaHut...etc.

        Do you mean actual restaurants operated by American companies or American style restaurants? There are tons of American style steakhouses aboard.


        2 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
          sueatmo Jan 18, 2014 12:43 PM

          I know about American franchises going overseas. I am wondering about Americans operating American restaurants or non-Americans operating American-style restaurants. How does the American cuisine translate to other cultures?

          And what is American cuisine to other cultures anyway? Hamburgers?

          1. re: sueatmo
            Chemicalkinetics Jan 18, 2014 02:00 PM

            There are many more non-American (or native) people operating American style restaurants. Most of these American style restaurants are two types. Either the common-folk Longhorn, Applebees style restaurant or the higher end steak house -- which tends to combine a bit of American with a bit of Australian.

            Oh yes. American pizza is very big too.


            Mayo topping pizza is popular.

            So basically, like steak, pork chop, pizza, burger,....etc.

        2. s
          seamunky Jan 17, 2014 11:06 PM

          <what passes for American food in the ones you've visited.>

          In my travels, I have often seen "American breakfast" advertised. Maybe a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, toast, butter, and OJ are viewed as typical American fare.

          1. KarenDW Jan 17, 2014 11:33 PM

            DD and I managed to fit in a visit to the lovely East of Everything in Melb last month. Tasty, well prepared interpretations of southern-style menu, such as corn fritters, and buttermilk-brined fried chicken. Not that I have any basis for comparison from the southern US, but the items were indeed delicious.
            Seemed sort of strange to be sipping North American ales...

            1. j
              jarona Jan 18, 2014 04:02 AM

              When I travel, I don't go to "American" style restaurants..it's weird because I don't even look for them or notice them. The only two places Ii can think of are the restaurant at Ralph Lauren's on Blvd. St. Germain in Paris-which I've never been to and have no intent of going to...and McDonalds France. I have to say, we did stop at a McDonalds on our way to St. Tropez--we wanted coffee and it was nothing like here. Coffee in ceramic cups. An array of pasteries that would stun. It was completely different..and the coffee was great!

              2 Replies
              1. re: jarona
                Roland Parker Jan 21, 2014 10:56 AM

                McDonalds in Europe has introduced the McCafe, which has surprisingly good coffee. It's made with Lavazza coffee, I believe. Good value.

                1. re: Roland Parker
                  jarona Jan 22, 2014 04:28 AM

                  Suprisingly good value. I wish we had those McCafes here!

              2. h
                Harters Jan 18, 2014 09:18 AM

                Leaving aside "fast food" which, generally speaking, is how we think of American food (together with chains like TGI Friday), you are then into BBQ.

                I can think of two restaurants in my region (north west England) that offer BBQ. Both style themselves on trying to mimic an American BBQ chain place - not a proper pit place. Food is OK but neither is a good mimic. But then, almost certainly, most customers won't have experienced an American BBQ chain so why should anyone care.

                1. linguafood Jan 18, 2014 02:03 PM

                  The best burger to be had in Berlin (if not one of THE best burgers anywhere) is at The Bird -- a place run by two NYC expats. It comes pretty damn close to any similar place one could stumble to in the city: loud music, friendly servers, laid-back atmosphere. Burgers in general have expanded hugely in Berlin.

                  There are also now two (!) Creole places, but I've only been to one of them & I have no idea whether they're actually run by Americans, nor do I think it has any relevance to the food.

                  There's also now a pastrami and a *real* BBQ place. And a farm-to-table resto which is also run by US expats, I believe.

                  Most not-so-great "American" places, however, tend to be diner-style (as in 50s diner, with jukeboxes, booths, etc.), or Germany's idea of tex-mex (ick).

                  Steakhouses are generally South American themed.

                  There is a small local chain of Baja Mexican joints that is really quite good, run by an American, a Mexican and some other dude.

                  But yeah, it's mostly what you would expect: burgers, bbq, fries, pizza, etc.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: linguafood
                    chefj Jan 20, 2014 04:05 PM

                    There are also a few Creole/Cajun Restaurant near Frankfurt am Main.

                  2. j
                    JoeBabbitt Jan 18, 2014 02:48 PM

                    I lived on a Greek Island for a couple years in the early '90s. Especially in the winter I'd spend weekends in Athens. I always stayed in a small hotel near the center of town & when I arrived, I would often stop at the McDonalds around the corner in the Syntagma. Now I'm no fan of fast food but sometimes it was nice to just go in & say "Big Mac, fries and a diet coke please."

                    1. Melanie Wong Jan 18, 2014 05:08 PM

                      In 2000 I tried Alain Ducasses's restaurant, Spoon, in Paris. It was newly opened then, and i believe it's currently closed for renovation. My brief report here,

                      I recall that the menu was arranged into Column A, Column B, etc., to choose dishes assemble the courses of a meal. It was very amusing to see the reactions of very stylish Paris matrons when a plate of ribs or fried chicken was brought to the table. The server would tell them to pick up the pieces in their hands and bite into them. The French avoid eating with their hands and would try to tackle these with fork and knife.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        Harters Jan 19, 2014 02:54 AM

                        When McDonald's opened here (north west England) in the early 1980s, friends of ours were shocked that there were no knives & forks. We had recently visited America so were able to reassure them this was how it was supposed to be. I don't think eating with our hands comes naturally to we Europeans and, for a very well filled burger, I'd certainly prefer to use cutlery if it's available (say in a pub or casual restaurant)

                        1. re: Harters
                          kagemusha49 Jan 19, 2014 03:16 AM

                          Well, I'm originally from England and I'm fairly sure we always ate fish and chips with our hands.

                          1. re: kagemusha49
                            Harters Jan 19, 2014 04:06 AM

                            That'd be because you were eating them walking home from the chippy. FWIW, chippies now offer plastic forks.

                            1. re: Harters
                              Chatsworth Jan 20, 2014 02:44 PM

                              Can't you get the useless wooden forks any more?

                              (Two of the many things that horrified my rather prim mother: eating while walking down the street and reading while walking down the street.)

                        2. re: Melanie Wong
                          sueatmo Jan 20, 2014 03:22 PM


                        3. Kris in Beijing Jan 18, 2014 07:44 PM

                          Here are the 78 restaurants in Beijing that City Weekend chooses to list as "American"


                          Brooklyn-native bagels, BBQ, burgers, hot dogs, New Orleans, pancakes, steak houses, clean vegetarian -- just some of the choices. About ... oh... 15 are chains: Auntie Anne's, TGI, Burger King [McD and KFC aren't American], and Fat Burger. Also, the 3 Sizzlers aren't on the American list.

                          Note: there are separate categories for pizza, sandwiches, fusion, and Tex-Mex.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kris in Beijing
                            calumin Jan 21, 2014 10:51 PM

                            It's actually pretty hard to find American-style pancakes abroad. Crepes and big waffles are easier to get by comparison.

                          2. k
                            kagemusha49 Jan 19, 2014 03:19 AM

                            The Hard Rock Café got its start at Hyde Park Corner sometime around 1971. It was as American as you can get and the burgers were great, It was so good that they became a huge success and opened up branches all over the place, including back in the USA.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: kagemusha49
                              Veggo Jan 19, 2014 05:55 AM

                              I just saw your post - The Hard Rock Café in Mexico City closed last year, as I mentioned above.

                              1. re: kagemusha49
                                Tripeler Jan 19, 2014 06:22 AM

                                There are a handful of Hard Rock Cafés in Japan, and they are still blazing away. There was one rip-off copy place that opened in the early 90s and it only lasted a few years.

                                Apart from Hard Rock, Tokyo has all manner of American-style restaurants, some are great, some are laughable. There seem to be more and more every year.

                                1. re: Tripeler
                                  Silverjay Jan 20, 2014 05:09 PM

                                  When I lived in Tokyo I would sometimes go to Hard Rock and get a big cobb salad for brunch on weekends.

                                  ..Seems like American BBQ joints are popping up in the Tokyo/Yokohama areas these days.

                              2. sunshine842 Jan 19, 2014 06:46 AM

                                Unfortunately, most of the rest of the planet is convinced that we subsist on bacon and eggs for breakfast, and hamburgers the rest of the day.

                                When living in Paris, we'd visit "American" places with friends, but it was usually just disappointing -- they'd *almost* get it, but not quite. Most of it was just okay.

                                The Indiana chain in Paris puts out decent Tex-Mex -- again, just okay.

                                The only exception was Annette's Diner at Disneyland Paris -- the only place my chowpups found a really good milk shake -- thick and quite good. (most French places define milk shake as shaken milk, with ice cream being optional....wish I was kidding....)

                                1. m
                                  masha Jan 20, 2014 03:04 PM

                                  There was a similar thread a few years ago. At that time, I posted about a restaurant that I'd seen in central Lyon in 2011, with a sign in the window for "New York Street food," that featured bagels and the like (see picture).

                                  In the meantime, we were back in Lyon in 2013 and it seemed like there were bagel bakeries on every block. We didn't try any so I've no idea how authentic they were. When in France, I'm eating croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast!

                                  1. t
                                    tardigrade Jan 20, 2014 07:05 PM

                                    I was once taken to an American-style restaurant in Tokyo because the company I was visiting thought I would like it. It wasn't bad: would have passed muster anywhere in California.

                                    I was recently in a brewpub in Vienna that had a very strong American influence: while it did have some Austrian dishes, it also had a lot of American-style pub grub. If you're in Austria, it's as exotic as a Viennese restaurant would be here, I suppose. The beer was good, though.

                                    I haven't been to any foreign branches of American chains, although if I ever find myself in India I'd like to try their version of MacDonald's.

                                    1. t
                                      tastesgoodwhatisit Jan 21, 2014 01:53 AM

                                      I live in Taiwan. We do have a variety of Western style restaurants. On the American end, non-chain variety, you've mainly got burger and pizza places, bagel/sandwich places, pub food, and steak.

                                      Some places are owned by expats, some by re-pats, and some by locals. Some are be pretty authentic, too.

                                      For example, a burger place I like (called Route 66) is run by locals, and serves decent hand made burgers and spicy fries, very authentic. A good American style pizza place is owned and operated by a Taiwanese guy who used to run a pizza restaurant in Chicago. On the pub end, there's a place near work that has mediocre food (mainly heat and serve sausages/pasta/fries/sandwiches variety) but excellent beer, and another higher end place that has a very good and extensive menu (http://www.carnegies.com.tw/menuweekd... if you're curious). All of these options are more expensive than local food, for a similar quality.

                                      This is all in a large urban centre with a fairly cosmopolitan population - if you head out to smaller towns, it's very different.

                                      You can also get Western food adapted to local tastes - Taiwanese pasta places spring to mind, or kimchi-beef pizza. Probably the most common is what to my tastes comes across as a mediocre version of French/Italian inspired American cuisine - chicken leg with white wine sauce, grilled fish with pesto, pasta with seafood and tomato sauce, etc, which is nothing to write home about.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 21, 2014 08:25 AM

                                        <another higher end place that has a very good and extensive menu (http://www.carnegies.com.tw/menuweekd... if you're curious). All of these options are more expensive than local food, for a similar quality. >

                                        Oh my god. Sexy looking gi.... I mean food from the homepage.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                          Cheez62 Jan 21, 2014 04:16 PM

                                          Yeah, some of that stuff looked delicious ;-)

                                          1. re: Cheez62
                                            tastesgoodwhatisit Jan 21, 2014 05:05 PM

                                            I will note that Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, this place is a packed, dancing on the bar nightclub, and the premier pickup place for Westerners over 30.

                                            The rest of the time, it's got good food and impressive liquor selection.

                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 21, 2014 05:47 PM

                                              Is this kind of like Hooters with better foods?



                                      2. BobB Jan 21, 2014 06:39 AM

                                        I generally try to avoid American-style restaurants when abroad, but I have seen Tex-Mex in Paris and a Tony Roma's ribs in Madrid.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: BobB
                                          Harters Jan 21, 2014 07:27 AM

                                          I've eaten at the Tony Roma's in Tenerife (Spain) and found it OK. I didnt really think of it as an American restaurant (although I know it is) but rather a pastiche of an American restaurant.

                                          There's a similar sort of place in my metro centre in north west England - menu heavy on the burgers and so on. But burgers are now pretty much international and I wouldnt necessarily associate my local place with America, apart from the menu naming of dishes - you know that sort of thing - the Hawaii burger or the triple-decker Texas burger.

                                          1. re: Harters
                                            Roland Parker Jan 21, 2014 10:54 AM

                                            We now live in Dubai and the more popular burger places are tranches from New Zealand and UK. Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) and Burger Fuel.

                                            There's Shake Shack too (US).

                                            Burgers are definitely a world-wide food now.

                                            1. re: Roland Parker
                                              Harters Jan 21, 2014 11:09 AM

                                              Roland - both chains are actually under New Zealand ownership, although GBK operates primarily in the UK.

                                              I have a sense that it is scaling back its operations - a couple nearish to me have closed in the last year or so. Possibly premium pricing (and quality) has not been the success they hoped for. They now have about 60 branches in the country.

                                        2. r
                                          Roland Parker Jan 21, 2014 10:55 AM

                                          We had surprisingly good US style barbecue in Bali in a joint owned by an US expat and his Balinese wife. The fries were delicious and the place packed with tourists of all nationalities.

                                          There's something to be said about chowing down on familiar food after spending two weeks eating a very different cuisine.

                                          1. Nevy Jan 21, 2014 04:49 PM

                                            When I went to Dubai twice last year, I was always shocked to see the 2 hour wait for the Cheesecake Factory. It blew my mind. The also had California pizza kitchen and Magnolia cupcake there too.

                                            In Florence, you can find Hard Rock Cafe. It was quite odd as the city historic landscape and Hard Rock didn't quite mesh :)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Nevy
                                              tastesgoodwhatisit Jan 21, 2014 05:09 PM

                                              The Cheesecake factory doesn't surprise me - it was a standard hour wait at the one in Pasadena.

                                              Krispy Kreme just arrived here, and there were lineups down the block.

                                              1. re: Nevy
                                                Roland Parker Jan 21, 2014 09:36 PM

                                                We moved to Dubai in 2008 and back then the only American chains were McDonalds and KFC, and oddly enough, Chili's.

                                                Then suddenly a whole bunch of the "better" chains moved in. Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs, Texas Roadhouse, you name it it's here except possibly Olive Garden.

                                                I still haven't been to any of them but they are doing a roaring trade. The Dubai Mall Cheesecake Factory has apparently become the highest grossing CF branch.

                                              2. drongo Jan 21, 2014 06:12 PM

                                                I went on a business trip to the Netherlands with my "meat and potatoes" senior manager... and we all walked with him for about 45 minutes to the nearest McDonalds. So sad... No good food on that trip. (People thought the food in business class on the flights was great... but seriously if you were served those dishes in a terrestrial restaurant you'd be disappointed, if not disgusted.).

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: drongo
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 21, 2014 06:42 PM

                                                  Even first class airline food really sucks. However, everything is relative. In a dessert, mud water probably tastes great.

                                                  1. re: drongo
                                                    sunshine842 Jan 21, 2014 06:54 PM

                                                    doncha hate that? My Dutch colleague is one of the pickiest grownups I've ever seen.

                                                    (but a US colleague didn't want to go to a restaurant in Chicago "because they serve goat cheese")


                                                  2. b
                                                    BuildingMyBento Jan 22, 2014 10:11 AM

                                                    I've found "American Grilles" in Jakarta. A smiling, sunglasses-clad Statue of Liberty greets you, sometimes with a hot plate of steak (maybe it's supposed to be more of a hamburg steak?).

                                                    I've seen a bunch of places hawking "New York Fried Chicken." What's that? I'm from NY, and although we have a bounty of fried chicken places...yes, I reckon it's more for name recognition than any legit connection.

                                                    I vaguely recall reading about a "North American" restaurant in Guangzhou. Can't believe I missed it...


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