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(The Daily Meal)   Chain restaurants worth eating at, presented as a 10-course prix fixe slideshow. We begin with an amuse bouche of Cheesecake Factory and finish with a subtle yet flavorful In-N-Out Burger   (thedailymeal.com) divider line 221
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14850 clicks; posted to Main » on 03 Jan 2012 at 8:10 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-01-03 10:36:04 PM
10. Cheesecake Factory - most needlessly overwhelming menu I've ever looked at. MIGHT go back one day to sample a freakin cheesecake.

9. Chipotle Mexican Grill - Good quick lunch and does well with my Weight Watchers diet.

8. Five Guys - Meh. They're ok. Wish they knew what a "small fry" is though.

7. Jason's Deli - Never tried. They always looked kinda skanky to me from the outside.

6. California Pizza Kitchen - No.

5. Outback Steakhouse - Bleh.

4. Ted's Montana Grill - Pretty good. Love the burgers especially, the steak is good and the onion rings are superb.

3. Houston's - Never been. Not even familiar with them.

2. Melting Pot - Never been and never really saw the point.

1. In-N-Out Burger - I'd rather go to Five Guys.
 
2012-01-03 10:38:41 PM

Daniwould: downtownkid: UNC_Samurai: QDoba > Moe's > Chipotle

Also, this list absofarkinglutely fails without Skyline Chili.


You ARE kidding, right? Skyline is watery, flavorless crap. Their cheddar cheese is shredded plastic. Ugh. Awful, awful chili. I wouldn't feed it to my dog.

Skyline is food of the gods. I'm originally from Cincy and I crave Skyline on a fortnightly basis. Now, Goldstar, OTOH, is crap that comes out of a can and served at malls.

I love it when my mom sends me Graeter's and Skyline care packages.


Skyline is shiat. People who like Skyline are also the same people who drink sugared pop throughout their entire adult lives - because they need the sugar, or corn syrup, or "sweet taste".

Gold Star is Cincinnati Chili for refined fast food taste buds. Skyline is for fat people, diabetics in denial, teenagers, the homeless, and rampant loose Sugar Gliders. Skyline chili is just bad Cincinnati chili but with extra, extra sugar and even worse spaghetti. Nothing but sugar.

If you like Skyline Chili, you probably dismiss Coke Zero as "not sweet enough", Orange Crush as "would be better mixed with Mountain Dew", and think you drink "coffee" once it has 1,200 extra calories of sugar and syrup added to it.

Skyline Chili is to Cincinnati chili as Purple Drank is to Diet Coke. It's just terrible.
 
2012-01-03 10:43:46 PM
I grew up in New Orleans where we hate chain restuarants, was eating at Ruth Chris's when there was only 1 location, and I have to say I will eat at a Houstons anywhere I see one. I have eaten at them all over the country and they are pretty damn tasty.

It is not on the menu anymore but they have a prime rib platter with au jus, horseradish, baked potato, and garlic toast that is to die for.

www.chezpei.com
 
2012-01-03 10:47:48 PM

Darkviking: First a pizza thread, and now this? Don't the moderators know we're all on our new year's diet, or are they just evil?

/five pounds down, twenty to go


You lost 5 pounds in 3 days? That doesn't sound like a healthy diet.
 
2012-01-03 10:53:44 PM
Texas Roadhouse. Yeah, I ain't crazy about the atmosphere, but the food's damn good.
 
2012-01-03 10:55:00 PM

theflatline: Houstons


I just had Houston's French Dip for New Year's brunch (third time in 3 years) and must say with a Bloody Mary, it's a hell a combo! 18 dollars where I live...but mmmmmmmmm

/ all that prime rubbing your tummy
 
2012-01-03 10:58:41 PM
The best chain that i have been to recently would be Bonefish grill. I live 20 miles off the coast of Georgia so most of my seafood I get locally and just cook myself but we will occasionally go to bonefish and the food is always good.

Five guys is good but we have a local burger place i like better that makes their own ketchup so we rarely go to five guys.

My five year old loves fondue so we eat it often and its so much cheaper to just do at the house but the one time i went to melting pot I liked it...for what it is.

We will get soups from Carrabas as takeout every so often. Thats about our extent of chain meals. I have nothing against going to a chain restaurant but the waits are usually long and you can get better food if you are just willing to research an area a little before visiting.
 
2012-01-03 11:00:27 PM
jack in the box...
that is all...
 
2012-01-03 11:01:40 PM
I used to love Waffle House... so perfectly existential in the wee hours of the morning.

A couple of experiences sullied my passion for the brand, though. The first was about a year ago, when I walked into one at about 3am... it was open, the lights were on, but a) no hired help were anywhere to be seen/heard, and, b) there was not a clean seat/booth to be found. EVERY FARKING SEAT needed to be bussed. I waited for 3 minutes or so, even called out (no answer), then got the fark outta Dodge.

About two months ago, at a different location, I ordered a ham & cheese omelette for takeout, with a side of bacon. The tab came to an astonishing $13.50... they'd started adding a surcharge for takeout, as well as substantially raising their prices.

\misses Waffle House
\\but not that much
 
2012-01-03 11:02:09 PM
www3.images.coolspotters.com
 
2012-01-03 11:13:08 PM

adjmcloon: kyuzokai: Found a new favorite chain when I was in Charlotte NC, recently:

Genghis Grill (new window) Mongolian BBQ. Great concept: just pay for a bowl, load it up, sauce it up, choose a carb, let the cooks do their thing, and then chow the fark down. Add unlimited bowls thereafter for a nominal fee.

Went to their homepage to find the link and noticed they just opened one up in my hometown. I know where I'm going for lunch tomorrow!!

LOVE some Genghis grill. Mongolian bbq FTW. Sadly I have to travel to Houston (closest location) to get it


Seriously?

When I go out, I want something that I can't do at home, or would involve major difficulty.

Mediocre stir fry is something I can easily make at home.
 
2012-01-03 11:16:13 PM
The only chain worth spending money at is Waffle House. End of discussion.
 
2012-01-03 11:19:09 PM
I'mma join in the Outback hate.

SO. MUCH. SAAAALLLLLTTTTTTT!

Seriously, the food at Outback is little different to this:

img401.imageshack.us

And before you question me, know that I am the person who salts almost everything I eat except desserts. And I'm the person among all of my friends and family--with the sole exception of my father, before his doctor persuaded him otherwise--who puts the most salt on my food.

If I say it's too salty, it's too salty and a half.
 
2012-01-03 11:23:34 PM

MaxSupernova: The best chain that i have been to recently would be Bonefish grill. I live 20 miles off the coast of Georgia so most of my seafood I get locally and just cook myself but we will occasionally go to bonefish and the food is always good.


I had been told that Bonefish Grill was awful, but found myself at one grudgingly for dinner one night last year before we moved. It was really, really good food and the wait-staff was on the ball. I think we need to try the one over in Alpharetta now that we've moved to Roswell.
 
2012-01-03 11:27:17 PM
the outback is the wendy's of steakhouses. longhorn is better: better cuts, better menu selections, and just better food.

can't believe they didn't include sonic but had a fondu place. some people are apparently still stuck in the 1970s.
 
2012-01-03 11:32:01 PM

bdub77: I knew you were in Raleigh before clicking your profile. I used to live in Founder's Row - right next to El Dorado. That was amazing and awful at the same time; no one should have that kind of temptaion 10 steps from their door. Not a chain, but have you done the $1 margarita Mondays at Toreros?

Yeah, but the Nachos Pollo at El Dorado are the bomb, if you don't mind the caloric intake. El Dorado sometimes has some decent margarita deals too.

My favorite deal at El Dorado though was a $2 24-oz glass of Dos Equis.

I don't always go to El Dorado, but when I do...I drink Dos Equis.


We used to be regulars at the El Dorado in Cary. Those Margaritas served in the near-goldfish bowl-sized glasses were no joke.

/now live in a Mexican food desert (new england)
 
2012-01-03 11:32:04 PM
I finally had a chance to try In and Out on a recent trip to California.

The cramping and nausea I experienced on the flight back to the east coast was the worst I have felt in years.

I will NEVER stray from Five Guys again.
 
2012-01-03 11:37:37 PM
Cheesecake Factory makes great martinis? Can anyone vouch?
 
2012-01-03 11:48:08 PM
I like Chipotle. It's good, clean, grilled chicken with some good rice and beans, and whatever sides you want. It's healthy and you get a good sized portion.

It's a lot better than most chains, and that includes stuff like subway.
 
2012-01-03 11:48:11 PM
Stonefire Grill, Link (new window) locations in the Los Angeles area, decent food, good prices.
Avocado eggrolls at the Cheesecake Factory are awesome.
Outback Steakhouse blows.
 
2012-01-03 11:48:37 PM

bdub77: Actually a very good list. Eaten at all but #9, #3, and #1. I will say I had an awful experience at Melting Pot. Combining wine, very low lighting, uncooked food, and no timer....yeah I god food poisoning on my anniversary. Melting Pot is better as a cheese and chocolate place. Forego the cooking your own chicken and shrimp.

I'd throw in Bonefish Grill and my local chain, El Dorado.


El Dorado? The food has always been decent but every El Dorado I've ever been in seems like it's one visit from the sanitation inspector from being shuttered. I prefer Los Tres myself but really I've found that all of the Mexican joints around here are basically the same: even the numbers on the "combination dinners" are the same.

I confirm your sentiments on Melting Pot: let me do the cheese & desert course at the table but cook my farking entree in the god damn kitchen. If I wanted to cook my own dinner I should have stayed home!

// unfortunately Mrs. carej loves Melting Pot
 
2012-01-03 11:52:31 PM

Nina_Hartley's_Ass: natmar_76: 10. Cheesecake Factory meh
9. Chipotle Mexican Grill meh
8. Five Guys meh
7. Jason's Deli meh
6. California Pizza Kitchen meh
5. Outback Steakhouse meh
4. Ted's Montana Grill meh
3. Houston's never been
2. Melting Pot fondue? you gotta be kidding
1. In-N-Out Burger never been

I don't think any of these are worth driving past a taco bell for.
Had a nice bowl of black-eyed peas the other night.


I'm not going to claim any of the above options are great or even much better than good, but all of them, that I'm familiar with, are definitely better than taco bell.

I hope you're being fantastic - if you're not you are suffering from a serious inability to palate food.
 
2012-01-03 11:54:09 PM

Darkviking: Bathia_Mapes: Darkviking: First a pizza thread, and now this? Don't the moderators know we're all on our new year's diet, or are they just evil?

/five pounds down, twenty to go

You've been here 10 years and you still don't know that the admins greenlite the threads?

Admins...mods, they are all shadowy figures in the night to me. Still thinking about the pizza thread.

But to add my two cents on a good burger, when I lived in Little Rock there was a place called Cotham's that served a one pound Hubcap Burger. One of the best burgers I've ever had.


One of the best places for burgers in my area is Giant Burger. To make certain that people understand that they can't walk in and have their order ready in under 5 minutes, they have a sign that says, "This is NOT fast food".
 
2012-01-03 11:55:44 PM

bigdanc: Nina_Hartley's_Ass: natmar_76: 10. Cheesecake Factory meh
9. Chipotle Mexican Grill meh
8. Five Guys meh
7. Jason's Deli meh
6. California Pizza Kitchen meh
5. Outback Steakhouse meh
4. Ted's Montana Grill meh
3. Houston's never been
2. Melting Pot fondue? you gotta be kidding
1. In-N-Out Burger never been

I don't think any of these are worth driving past a taco bell for.
Had a nice bowl of black-eyed peas the other night.

I'm not going to claim any of the above options are great or even much better than good, but all of them, that I'm familiar with, are definitely better than taco bell.

I hope you're being fantastic - if you're not you are suffering from a serious inability to palate food.


I'd eat Taco Bell over Outback, CPK and CF. Hell, I'd eat a homeless bum's dirty anus before I ate at those three places.
 
2012-01-03 11:57:03 PM
Culver's and Jimmy John's for me
 
2012-01-03 11:58:49 PM

realbigfun: Don't forget the DONG CHOW at Panda Express

Bad food at a mall wherever you are


A Panda Express just opened down the road from here. Not in a mall. I'd never seen that before, i thought they only existed in malls, like Sbarro and Steak Escape and Orange Julius and Cinnabun and the cajun place and the cookie place and the pretzel place....
 
2012-01-03 11:59:07 PM
can i just order some taco bell and be done with this?

logo-world.info
 
2012-01-04 12:05:43 AM

prgrmr: can't believe they didn't include sonic but had a fondu place. some people are apparently still stuck in the 1970s.


I remember when Sonic went public a few years ago and nobody on MSNBC had ever heard of them.
 
2012-01-04 12:10:35 AM
Melting Pot
Really?! I've had an ex-employee tell me that it really is just a wad of cheap chocolate with various reheated Costco items sold to you at $25+ per person. My girlfriend made me go anyway, and I had to agree. There's nothing quite like freezer burned marshmallows.
 
2012-01-04 12:15:34 AM
upload.wikimedia.org

I'll say it. Five Guys burgers are bland as cardboard.
 
2012-01-04 12:17:16 AM

Do You Know What I Am Saying: UNC_Samurai: QDoba > Moe's > Chipotle


You've got that backwards.


Baja Fresh > Chipotle > Tijuana Flats > poop > Moes/QDoba

Baja has the best (chain) burritos, Chipotle the best burrito bowl/fresh toppings, Tijuana has the best tacos and the others are just complete shiat.
 
2012-01-04 12:18:01 AM
I'm an unapologetic food snob, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with liking Chipotle. The founder Steve Ells is a classically trained chef and has been praised by some pretty significant food critics for his approach to food, including by Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathon Gold. He was a classically trained chef and it shows. The food is fresh and made with sustainable ingredients. They don't open up stores in areas that they cant distribute fresh ingredients to. You can get carnitas and barbacoa and freshly made chunky guacamole with real avacado. The few times I've tried other burrito chains they simply offer generic and ubiquitous "steak" or "chicken" of grade F meat and some smooth bright green paste referred to as guacamole.

What's interesting, and what I'm hoping takes off, is that he's now trying his hand at a new potential line of restaurants based off of Southeast Asian Street Food. He brought in James Beard winning chefs to help him assemble the menu to try to make it accessible to mainstream America. Damnit America, we need to be eating more Vietnamese Banh Mis with fresh ingredients, and less 5 dollar foot longs of pale grey coldcuts. We need more currys and less alarmingly flourescent orange General Tso's Chicken glaze. Let's make this happen.
 
2012-01-04 12:21:59 AM

carnifex2005: As someone who is on the road a lot, that is a very good list. Never have gone to the Melting Pot but have to all the others. Very solid choices if you are in a strange town.


The Internet exists.

/how I find local stuff in a strange town
//also by asking the locals
///if you're driving through in a rush, fine, I guess, but after I drive a route more than once I figure out where to stop
////Theo's in Lansing, simply for being 24 hr and off the freeway has saved my sanity many a time in a way McD never could
 
2012-01-04 12:24:21 AM

rustypouch: adjmcloon: kyuzokai: Found a new favorite chain when I was in Charlotte NC, recently:

Genghis Grill (new window) Mongolian BBQ. Great concept: just pay for a bowl, load it up, sauce it up, choose a carb, let the cooks do their thing, and then chow the fark down. Add unlimited bowls thereafter for a nominal fee.

Went to their homepage to find the link and noticed they just opened one up in my hometown. I know where I'm going for lunch tomorrow!!

LOVE some Genghis grill. Mongolian bbq FTW. Sadly I have to travel to Houston (closest location) to get it

Seriously?

When I go out, I want something that I can't do at home, or would involve major difficulty.

Mediocre stir fry is something I can easily make at home.


Well, I live by myself and stocking my fridge with the 6.02 X 10^23 ingredients available at the bar just isn't practical (unless I develop a taste for moldy slush).

I take it you never eat burgers out? Sausage, bacon, & egg breakfast? Bratwurst? They can be made easily at home. I can prepare steak and mushrooms at home that blows Outback's crap away (and often do). Most of us go to chain restaurants for convenience and the necessity of 1 hour lunches. Add the 'distinctive' flavor of many of the dishes they provide in the mix, and whether or not one can make it at home is irrelevant.

When I cook at home (about 2-3 times a week, excluding sammiches for lunch), I usually make something that I CAN'T get in a restaurant (or not to the level of satisfaction that I like for the price I feel is reasonable).
 
2012-01-04 12:24:33 AM

rustypouch: Seriously?

When I go out, I want something that I can't do at home, or would involve major difficulty.

Mediocre stir fry is something I can easily make at home.



When I traveled through Mongolia I thought I would be seeing Mongolian Grills everywhere, the way you see gyro's on every corner in Istanbul or Banh Mi or Pho carts in Vietnam. Turns out Mongolian Grills are a strictly American marketing invention to get people to pay $7 for $2 worth of stir fry.

/csb.
 
2012-01-04 12:25:59 AM
Houston's/Bartlett's best on the list, of course most expensive on the list by a wide margin. Get the Hawaiian rib eye.
 
2012-01-04 12:33:08 AM

Dahnkster: [foodnetworkhumor.com image 450x273]
[foodnetworkhumor.com image 450x258]
[farm4.staticflickr.com image 640x457]
[media.2leep.com image 220x165]
[images.blippitt.com image 288x240]
[images.blippitt.com image 288x240]
[www.maildigi.com image 450x336]

...You can never get in the 'Bung Hole'
Well, YOU can.


I'll see all those and raise you some

img.photobucket.com
 
2012-01-04 12:33:09 AM

Mentalpatient87: Skyline tastes like brown sugar and slightly meaty puke.

I'd kill a man to have a Smashburger built in Evansville...


Indiana? Not many good burgers here, though a friend of mine swears by Major Munch.
 
2012-01-04 12:34:53 AM

InmanRoshi: rustypouch: Seriously?

When I go out, I want something that I can't do at home, or would involve major difficulty.

Mediocre stir fry is something I can easily make at home.


When I traveled through Mongolia I thought I would be seeing Mongolian Grills everywhere, the way you see gyro's on every corner in Istanbul or Banh Mi or Pho carts in Vietnam. Turns out Mongolian Grills are a strictly American marketing invention to get people to pay $7 for $2 worth of stir fry.

/csb.


In Japan, there is a dish called "Genghis Khan" of lamb and bean sprouts cooked on an upside-down, ridged, wok-type thing (see below). It is so named because the pan looks like the helmets worn by the Mongolian warriors of old. I always assumed that the American take on it was based somewhat on that but with a hot plate (teppan in Japanese, or Hibachi to Americans) substituting for the helmet.

farm3.static.flickr.com
 
2012-01-04 12:36:08 AM
The list is worthless without Chick-Fil-A.
 
2012-01-04 12:36:32 AM

cmb53208: KidneyStone: And I definitely 2nd the Waffle House, although I have been told there are none north of the Mason Dixon line

I found one in Toledo actually


Toledo, oddly enough, for years also had the northern-most Cracker Barrel.

I suspect, seeing as Toledo sits at the intersection of I-75 (which replaced the old Dixie Highway) and I-80/90, they get a lot of southerners passing through.
 
2012-01-04 12:41:32 AM

slepygryhnd: Mentalpatient87: Skyline tastes like brown sugar and slightly meaty puke.

I'd kill a man to have a Smashburger built in Evansville...

Indiana? Not many good burgers here, though a friend of mine swears by Major Munch.


Nonsense. Culver's, Five Guys, Steak n Shake. And in Indy we're getting a Jack in the Box on the west side, and we also have 96th Street Steakburgers which is awesome, as well as Bub's (also amazing, and featured on Man vs. Food).
Indiana is chain restaurant hell, but we do have places to get good burgers.
 
2012-01-04 12:45:27 AM
Oh and if you're ever in Lafayette, Indiana, go to the Triple X, for amazing greasy fare.
 
2012-01-04 12:46:16 AM
Considering all the places you have on the mainland that I miss here in Hawaii (In N Out, Five Guys, Jason's Deli to name a few), I am glad to see that there are a couple excellent burger joints here that you do not have on the mainland. If you ever visit, I highly recommend Burgers on the Edge (new window) and Teddy's Bigger Burgers (new window). I also like The Counter (new window), which can be found in California and elsewhere. But I LOVE their sweet potato fries!
 
2012-01-04 12:47:54 AM

InmanRoshi: What's interesting, and what I'm hoping takes off, is that he's now trying his hand at a new potential line of restaurants based off of Southeast Asian Street Food. He brought in James Beard winning chefs to help him assemble the menu to try to make it accessible to mainstream America. Damnit America, we need to be eating more Vietnamese Banh Mis with fresh ingredients, and less 5 dollar foot longs of pale grey coldcuts. We need more currys and less alarmingly flourescent orange General Tso's Chicken glaze. Let's make this happen.


You do realize that curry just translates into seasoning or melange, right? It's a generic noun.

Salt and pepper is a farking curry if you choose to define it as such.
 
2012-01-04 12:53:51 AM

NASAM: slepygryhnd: Mentalpatient87: Skyline tastes like brown sugar and slightly meaty puke.

I'd kill a man to have a Smashburger built in Evansville...

Indiana? Not many good burgers here, though a friend of mine swears by Major Munch.

Nonsense. Culver's, Five Guys, Steak n Shake. And in Indy we're getting a Jack in the Box on the west side, and we also have 96th Street Steakburgers which is awesome, as well as Bub's (also amazing, and featured on Man vs. Food).
Indiana is chain restaurant hell, but we do have places to get good burgers.


I meant Evansville, Indiana, clarifying his "Evansville" since there are several, but I clicked on his profile and saw he's in Indiana. Culver's burgers are awful, Five Guys is okay, Steak n Shake is okay. A lot of people here in Evansville also swear by Ritzy's.
 
2012-01-04 01:26:33 AM

InmanRoshi: What's interesting, and what I'm hoping takes off, is that he's now trying his hand at a new potential line of restaurants based off of Southeast Asian Street Food. He brought in James Beard winning chefs to help him assemble the menu to try to make it accessible to mainstream America. Damnit America, we need to be eating more Vietnamese Banh Mis with fresh ingredients, and less 5 dollar foot longs of pale grey coldcuts. We need more currys and less alarmingly flourescent orange General Tso's Chicken glaze. Let's make this happen.


Holy shiat, that looks awesome. Knowing my luck itll be decades before we get one in milwaukee.
 
2012-01-04 01:28:30 AM
Wow, I thought I'd get responses more along the line of "where the fark is Evansville?"

I don't see what everyone likes about Ritzy's, Culver's burgers are indeed awful, Steak and Shake is ass, we don't have a Five Guys or Major Munch. Burger options are limited to Hardee's and... that's about it.

I'd also kill a much more important man for a Dunkin Donuts in this hole...
 
2012-01-04 01:43:44 AM
I don't think there is even one of those ten in the whole state.
 
2012-01-04 01:46:10 AM
Well, there's one or 2 Outbacks.
 
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