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3-5 (Worldwide) Chains You'd Like on Your Turf

This thread is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, for it's not as if I'd like to witness even more chains flood the market. However, if they aren't here yet, I don't reckon that they will soon transform into the hares that Starbucks and Subway have become.

In any event, there are a few chains from around the world that I'd actually eat at if they existed in New York City (in no real order):

1) 老鄉村 (老乡村) Lǎo​ Xiāng Cūn- China, specializing in Hunanese food. Watch out for the dizzyingly large number of garlic cloves that make themselves home in many of the mains.

1) Matsuya - Japan, budget Japanese comfort food, often 24 hours.

1) MOS Burger - Japan, hamburgers...and "naan." But hamburgers are the clear favorite.

1) Nando's - South Africa, known for flame-grilled chicken with peri-peri sauce. Their minty peas were swell too.

1) School Food - the RoK, but this is one I haven't yet tried. I stumbled upon one in Jakarta (in case you're heading to or in the city, it's by Mega Kuningan), but beef bacon just wouldn't cut it. Anyway, Korean food is usually good, so maybe one day.

1) I can't remember the name, but it was a fast food (hamburgers) place painted blue and white in Bloomington, MN. That wasn't the only one, but they had a particularly worthy burger for this list.

What are your choices?


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  1. I'm guessing the Bloomington MN place was a Culver's. Very tasty Wisconsin based chain.

    1 Reply
    1. re: autumm

      I miss Culvers, the fish sandwich is great as is their custard.

    2. I'm with you on Nando's. That place would do great business in the US. Crispy chicken covered in sweet/spicy sauce? That's practically a food group in America. Some others:

      Din Tai Fung (Taiwan) - savory soup dumplings with incredibly delicate skins, and the best hot and sour soup I've ever had

      My Home Steak (Taiwan) - thin steaks served on a sizzling platter with black bean sauce. OK, objectively not that good but it reminds me of childhood.

      Pizza Hut (India) - The toppings are better than what we get. They have this fiery sliced green chile and butter tomato sauce that goes great with that greasy Pizza Hut crust.

      Su Shi Beef Noodle (Beijing) - hand-stretched noodles blanched in a clear beef broth, then topped with sliced meat, cilantro, scallions and chili oil. A very simple dish that stands or falls on the skill of the noodle maker.

      In N Out - bring this place to Chicago! I'll trade you West Coasters all of our Culvers and most of our Steak N Shakes for just one In N Out near my house.

      4 Replies
      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        Have you heard of the chain "Pepper Lunch?"

          1. re: Tripeler

            Right...my reply was for RealMenJulienne, since he mentioned a Taiwanese steak place. Pepper Lunch is in a bunch of East Asian countries, but I haven't seen them in the states yet. Maybe Hawai'i?

            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              No, this is the first I've heard of Pepper Lunch. I haven't seen them in China or in Taiwan.

      2. We have Nando's Peri-Peri in the DC metro area. There is one a couple of miles from my house!

        3 Replies
        1. re: ambergersa

          Nando's just opened in Baltimore, I'm excited to try it. I buy the hot sauce at the grocery store and love it.

          1. re: ambergersa

            I've been to three - one in Johannesburg, two in DC - and the taste seems consistently decent. Know if they are opening others in the Beltway area?

            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              There's on in Silver Springs MD - we go out of our way to eat there when we travel down that way. Wish I could get one in DE.

          2. The Cheesecake Factory people also own a restaurant in Century City CA called Rock Sugar. I love everything about this restaurant (and I'm not a CF fan at all). I wish there was one (or two) location on the east coast.


            1. Burgerville, from the Portland, OR region. But if they moved south, then they wouldn't fresh and local.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pamf

                Love these guys. Glad they are close. Have 2 less than 2 miles away!

              2. I can only come up with 2 local (Berlin/Hamburg) and 1 national (Germany):

                The Bird, a fantastic burger joint run by two NYC expats in both Berlin and Hamburg;

                Dolce Pizza: a local Berlin focaccia chain that cranks out some amazing stuff. Better than pretty much any pizza OR focaccia I've had stateside.

                Maredo: a German steak restaurant chain that sources its meat exclusively from Argentina. Very reasonable prices and reliable quality of meat, also a fabulous salad buffet.

                5 Replies
                1. re: linguafood

                  Maredo was also well liked for beef in the 80s. And the lobster dishes were also very well done.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    God I love The Bird. I would take it with me everywhere I go if I could. And I could annihilate a patty melt with fries and a side of their homemade blue cheese salad dressing right now!

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      I'm partial to the Ghetto Deluxe. I once tried their napalm wings but didn't get past the first one.

                      The fries are just ok for me, but I clearly need to try the blue cheese dressing, which I've never had.

                    2. re: linguafood

                      I've always wondered about Maredo- haven't visited one as of yet.

                      1. re: prima

                        It's far from fine dining - it is a chain after all.

                        But if you have a steak craving in Germany & don't want to pay an arm and a leg, that's the place to go. I've sent steaks back a few times for being overcooked, and got a perfectly done one pretty quickly.

                        And I could make a meal from the salad bar. I used to be able to put away 5 plates worth of salad there.... ah, yout'!

                    3. I dearly wish In N Out would come to the East Coast.

                      Skyline Chili would be much appreciated, too.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        I'm so with you on both of those!!!

                        Also: Artic Circle (yay fry sauce!)
                        Krystal (I know we have White Castle, but I love it's Southern "cousin!")
                        Waffle House (I know, I know...) ;)

                        1. re: Sra. Swanky

                          Absolutely agree on Waffle House. I knew I was forgetting something!

                        2. re: Boston_Otter

                          Is Skyline the Cinci one? That sounds welcoming during these colder times.

                          1. re: BuildingMyBento

                            Yup, there's several local "Cincinnati style" chili chains, but the only one that's successfully branched out of Cincy is Skyline. I don't know how their style of chili would do on the East Coast, but I pine for it.

                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                              Skyline is the iconic Cincy local chili chain. Gold Star has occasionally had pretensions at being the best, but it isn't, really. They tried to open a Wall Street location in the '80s and it never worked.

                          2. re: Boston_Otter

                            I used to live in LA and I don't "get" In N Out. Is it the price? Because it's definitely a good value. But Shake Shack on the East Coast tastes better so I don't miss In N Out at all.

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              Apples and oranges, really. Shake Shack serves one kind of burger, In N Out serves another. Both places smartly keep their menus focused on what they do best.

                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                I've had both burgers and although they're different styles of burgers, I personally don't think they're that different :)

                          3. Earls and Cactus Club from Vancouver, Canada should be everywhere. Excellent food, pretty waitresses, the whole megilla.

                            1. With you on Mos Burger, especially for their sweetcorn relish.

                              AM:PM -now defunct 7/11 style chain in Japan. Best egg salad sandwiches and Suntory Premium Malt beer.

                              Wendys- sad they exited the UK. Square burgers and the first burger I remember having.

                              Legal Seafood Boston- pretty good seafood for a chain iirc (was 12 yrs ago ).

                              Popeyes Fried Chicken-not been but it's gotta be better than KFC?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Paprikaboy

                                IMO KFC doesn't exist, Popeye's for the win!

                              2. Fuddrucker's. I'm not sure if the quality is the same, but about a decade ago I loved it.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  Here's another chain that I used to see near NYC but now have only noticed abroad (e.g. in Abu Dhabi). But they still have other US outposts, no?

                                  1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                    I think so, just not around here. I think there is one an hour or so away.

                                  2. re: fldhkybnva

                                    We have one about 15 minutes away. Haven't been there lately, though.

                                  3. Sonic. Just Sonic.

                                    They air commercials for them here, but the closest one is over an hour away. But maybe it is for the best. Because if I had constant access to those tater tots and breakfast burritos, I would become the 400 Pound Woman of The Valley.

                                    1. Unami Burger now has several locations. I'd love to see it expand to my area.

                                      1. I've always loved everything I've gotten at the Wienerwalds in Germany and Austria. The highway restaurants in Italy are great also. I don't know their names.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: shoo bee doo

                                          The Italian truck-stop restaurants are Autogrills.

                                          1. re: Jeri L

                                            Loved Autogrills. Also - L& L Hawaiian BBQ

                                        2. Sonic,In n' Out Burger and Shake Shack...

                                          1. I live in Tokyo and would love to have some sort of Mexican food chain, even Taco Bell would be welcome.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Tripeler

                                              I know how you feel. When I lived in Beijing I had lucid dreams about eating at Taco Bell, to the point where I would wake up making chewing motions with my mouth. My brother recently moved to China for work and I made sure to send him off with a year's supply of taco seasoning.

                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                Oddly enough, there was once an Orange Julius a few stops away from Shibuya. Closed about 15 years ago, I guess.

                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                  There was a Taco Bell in Nagoya in the 90's I think. That was there test location and it failed. But I think they have them on the US bases these days....There used to be an Arby's on Center-gai in Shibuya. I would go sometimes. Then it switched to a Blue Seal, a great Okinawa-based ice cream shop. I would go there sometimes too! I think it's a keitai denwa shop now....There also used to be a Kenny Rogers' Roaster in Kamakura, of all places, that I went to a few times. That's long gone.

                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                    There was also a Kenny Roger's place in Yoga, near Futago Tamagawa. A few times, I just dropped in to see what condition the chicken was in.

                                                    Shibuya also had a cheesy Am-Mex chain "Taco Time" but they disappeared a few years ago. It was so amazingly un-Mexican, and I called it the "bean-free zone".

                                                2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                  Christmas of 2010, we went to ShangHai JUST BECAUSE there was supposed to be a Taco Bell AND an Applebee's there.

                                                  Neither were.

                                                  BUT, we did find Carl Jr's [Hardees] and Krispy Kreme, so we were more than partially sated.

                                              2. I wish Mister Donut would come back to the States, specifically the Twin Cities. I worked for Mister Donut for 2 years, and with the Dunwoody baking school a mile away I can say that we had the best bakers to be found in doughnut land. Sadly, the baking program is no more, either. Still, I want Mister Donut!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: MplsM ary

                                                  <Still, I want Mister Donut!>

                                                  Me too! Fond doughnut memories from my youth,fresh from the fryer.. Best d-nut chain ever in Canada!

                                                  1. re: petek

                                                    I amend my desire to include North America for a Mister Donut re-launch. Orange counters and all.

                                                    1. re: MplsM ary

                                                      Mister Donut exists in El Salvador. I particularly enjoyed their take on the Salvadoran dessert "nuegado."

                                                2. I really miss Ivar's (a Seattle chain). Now I live in Utah. :-(

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: UTgal

                                                    It's not a chain, but I miss Dick's Drive In.....a lot.

                                                  2. Pans and Co is everywhere in barcelona- always good for a pan con tomate or a tortilla sandwich. A decent version of patatas bravas too.

                                                    1. wagamama...noodles and dumplings, but, mostly so that i can say "wagamama". :)

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Vidute

                                                        "...mostly so that i can say "wagamama". :)

                                                        How selfish of you.

                                                        1. re: Vidute

                                                          Weren't they planning a big US expansion a while ago?

                                                          1. re: ferret

                                                            They have locations in Boston, and maybe another city in the US.

                                                          2. re: Vidute

                                                            Yep, this is the top of my list.

                                                          3. About seven or eight years ago there was a Canadian seafood restaurant chain that opened up some locations in the Twin Cities.

                                                            The family that opened the Joey's Only Seafood* (as they were known in Minnesota) restaurants were experienced in the business having operated the Embers chain of resaurants. Nonetheless, the Twin Cities franchises only lasted a few years.

                                                            I think that in the fast casual restaurant business, all of their restaurants needed to have liquor licenses and that was not the case.

                                                            We enjoyed their Tuesday night all you care to eat fish fry without worrying about alcoholic drinks. I suppose that is what helped to make their bottom line not attainable.

                                                            (We generally did not order alcoholic drinks when eating out with our younger children.)

                                                            I think another problem Joey's Only Seafood may have had is with their identity. Some locations also advertised rotisserie chicken. Some locations had rotisserie chicken and BBQ ribs (without an actual smoker at the restaurant). I believe this confused the potential customers.

                                                            I do miss their fried fish.

                                                            1. I'd like Pret a Manger in my town.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                                Chicago's chock full of 'em. On the downside, the menu's dumbed-down for American tastes.

                                                                  1. re: ferret

                                                                    Yeah, I would love the Chicago Pret A Manger to be in the same league as the ones in London. But they are so dumbed down. I am craving my posh cheddar and pickle baguette!

                                                                    1. re: lbs

                                                                      I was so thrilled when Pret came to Boston... until I saw the menu. All the same generic wraps, sandwiches, and salads that every other lunch spot in town has. I loved Pret A Manger in London, and wish they'd bring some of its specialties over here.

                                                                1. Now that I know Nando's is in the US, now I need one less than 2 hours away from the Philly area!

                                                                  As for US chains, I need an Original Pancake House in my area. (My brother would like one in Boston, as well!)

                                                                  A Biscuitville (NC/VA) would be welcome.

                                                                  I second the need for better fried chicken options than KFC nearby. If in desperate need, there's a Church's and a couple of Popeye's 20 or so miles away, and a Bojangles in Reading, but I'm not usually motivated to go that far for a fix. Maybe that's just as well...

                                                                  Best of all, chicken-wise, would be a Golden Skillet, but they're dying out even in their Virginia home base. (But that lonely holdout in Hackettstown, NJ is still hanging in...)

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: brandywiner

                                                                    your wish has been granted. nando's is in baltimore, less than two hours away from philadelphia!

                                                                  2. How about Nordsee in Germany and Austria? It was wonderful in the 70s and the 90s when I lived in Europe. I'm not sure if they are good anymore.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: shoo bee doo

                                                                      Ooh, totally forgot about them - thanks for reminding me!

                                                                      My mom and I used to pre-order all kinds of seafood salads and various shellfish for our Xmas eve feast.
                                                                      I also used to dig their takeout salad w/steamed shrimp as a quick lunch. and they sold fresh fish to make at home, too.

                                                                      Nowadays it looks like it's mostly fried stuff, and I can't remember the last time I ate there.

                                                                    2. I want a Pollo Tropical so badly I could scream. The charred chicken, fried plantains, beans and rice, and Caesar salad. Oh I could swoon.

                                                                      1. I don't know that it qualifies as a "chain" -- yet -- but I'd love to see NYC's Eataly open an outpost in the Philly area. There's been talk about it, but as far as I know, nothing definite. There's also been talk about opening branches in a couple of other cities (Miami, Boston). That place is a feast for the senses!

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                                                          I heard DC.

                                                                          I've been to the NY a few times. What is prepared on site has been hit or miss, though I do dig the zucchini focaccia.

                                                                          1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                            Their meats and seafood are great. So are their breads. And I love the assortment of pasta they've got.

                                                                        2. El Pollo Loco

                                                                          Back Yard Burger was here but they left in the mid 90s.

                                                                          A decent taco chain.

                                                                          Is there a Pho restaurant chain?

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                            There's a small pho chain in the UK called Pho. Mainly in London. Not amazing but not really bad either.Certainly better than Wagamamas.

                                                                          2. I'd eat at Nordsee if it opened in Canada. I wish our Movenpick Marches in Toronto offered the better quality and better tasting food found in European Movenpicks.

                                                                            1. I wish Marks and Spencer would return to Canada. Realize it isn't a chain restaurant, but I like a lot of their products from their Food Hall.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: prima

                                                                                2nd this wholeheartedly. I never realized how great M&S snacks were until I got some while in Dubai. The salt and vinegar potato thin crisps, wine gums, and shrimp chips are all childhood nostalgia that is worthy of being eaten again.

                                                                                1. re: Nevy

                                                                                  I bring the prawn cocktail snacks home from M & S after visiting the UK.

                                                                                2. re: prima

                                                                                  We had one next to our hotel in London, We were exhausted one night and grabbed a couple of baguettes and cheeses from M&S. It was probably my favorite meal of the trip.

                                                                                3. I'd love to have a Trader Joes just for the snack and candy aisle! Dried organic fruit for half the price anywhere? Yes please!

                                                                                  Also I'd love to have a Mitsuwa Japanese store that specialized in wagashi and mochi.

                                                                                  Does Bouchon count as a chain? If so, I'd love to have that in Toronto as well. Kouignn Amann, cannele, giant cookies, and flakey croissants ... Please!

                                                                                  Grom gelato as well! I had it in Florence and it's pretty amazing especially for a chain

                                                                                    1. So pedestrian, so American (or British inspired, if you prefer): Arthur Treacher's.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                                                        I live in the fried-seafood district of the US (New England, near the Capes) and I still have nostalgic cravings for the seafood chains of my childhood: Arthur Treacher's, Captain D's, and Long John Silver's.