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As I grow older, some of my positions harden to immovability, but on the topic of national restaurant chains, I find myself softening somewhat. While I still greatly prefer independent mom-and-pops, as well as a few local chains, there are a very few national chains starting to grow on me.

I'm eliminating the hamburger and pizza chains, and I'm avoiding the high end Ruth's Chris or Morton's as well. I'm eliminating local chains, which takes Lebanese Taverna off my list and GAR Group restaurants off your list. And I remain repulsed by Olive Garden, Chili's, TGI Fridays, and Outback Steakhouse, and that ilk.

I'm talking about The Waffle House, where you can get honest food for reasonable prices. If you don't expect much, you'll come out of there happy and full, and without a significant dent in the wallet. I'm talking about Sizzler, and whenever I'm in the SoCal area, I'm hitting a Sizzler for that salad bar that goes perfectly with my so-so steak. I'm talking Hillstone Restaurant Group, with its local outpost the Woodmont Grill, which has a national standard of quality for all of its restaurants. And I might even be talking about PF Chang's, even though the "PF" is Paul Fleming, but I can't resist those chicken lettuce cup appetizers and my guilty pleasure crispy string beans.

There, got that off my chest.....

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5 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

As I grow older, some of my positions harden to immovability, but on the topic of national restaurant chains, I find myself softening somewhat. While I still greatly prefer independent mom-and-pops, as well as a few local chains, there are a very few national chains starting to grow on me.

I'm eliminating the hamburger and pizza chains, and I'm avoiding the high end Ruth's Chris or Morton's as well. I'm eliminating local chains, which takes Lebanese Taverna off my list and GAR Group restaurants off your list. And I remain repulsed by Olive Garden, Chili's, TGI Fridays, and Outback Steakhouse, and that ilk.

I'm talking about The Waffle House, where you can get honest food for reasonable prices. If you don't expect much, you'll come out of there happy and full, and without a significant dent in the wallet. I'm talking about Sizzler, and whenever I'm in the SoCal area, I'm hitting a Sizzler for that salad bar that goes perfectly with my so-so steak. I'm talking Hillstone Restaurant Group, with its local outpost the Woodmont Grill, which has a national standard of quality for all of its restaurants. And I might even be talking about PF Chang's, even though the "PF" is Paul Fleming, but I can't resist those chicken lettuce cup appetizers and my guilty pleasure crispy string beans.

There, got that off my chest.....

I was willing to go along until you got to PF Changs.  That being said, Popeye's is one I'd add to this list, although the salt content has gotten stratospheric there.

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If we're breaking the Paul Fleming seal....I'll add Pei Wei and Z'Tejas.

liked (not loved) ShopHouse, but I suppose there had to be a binding constraint on the fast casual space.

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5 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

As I grow older, some of my positions harden to immovability, but on the topic of national restaurant chains, I find myself softening somewhat. While I still greatly prefer independent mom-and-pops, as well as a few local chains, there are a very few national chains starting to grow on me.

I'm eliminating the hamburger and pizza chains, and I'm avoiding the high end Ruth's Chris or Morton's as well. I'm eliminating local chains, which takes Lebanese Taverna off my list and GAR Group restaurants off your list. And I remain repulsed by Olive Garden, Chili's, TGI Fridays, and Outback Steakhouse, and that ilk.

I'm talking about Sizzler, and whenever I'm in the SoCal area, I'm hitting a Sizzler for that salad bar that goes perfectly with my so-so steak.

There, got that off my chest.....

I didn’t realize Sizzlers still existed.  Oh gee  back in the day I had this “bright idea” about a “big” real estate deal for the owner  of the local/regional Sizzlers franchise.  Ate there too much.  Thought they were lousy.  

Presented my idea.  He laughed in my face.  Never ate there again.  Never missed it.  Don’t think they had salad bars back then, not that that would have improved the “steaks”.

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43 minutes ago, DaveO said:

I didn’t realize Sizzlers still existed.  Oh gee  back in the day I had this “bright idea” about a “big” real estate deal for the owner  of the local/regional Sizzlers franchise.  Ate there too much.  Thought they were lousy.  

Presented my idea.  He laughed in my face.  Never ate there again.  Never missed it.  Don’t think they had salad bars back then, not that that would have improved the “steaks”.

Not to be confused with Western Sizzler.

The real Sizzler is all up and down the west coast, with some outposts through Arizona and Utah, and a few other states out west. The salad bar is really incredible, from the cold salad options to hot items like pasta and meatballs, or do-it-yourself tacos. Not to mention the famous desserts. You can order the salad bar and eat to excess, or you can add the steak options.

 

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1 hour ago, zgast said:

I was willing to go along until you got to PF Changs.  That being said, Popeye's is one I'd add to this list, although the salt content has gotten stratospheric there.

I'll add Popeye's....if a Popeye's was next door to a PF Chang's, I would eat at Popeye's.

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After one meal, I refuse to darken the door of a red lobster ever again. Inedible. The food at bonefish Grill can be OK, but the service, at least at the one by me, is just comically bad.  I'm happy with the lettuce cups at PF Changs.  Popeyes is a guilty pleasure, best consumed only occasionally. I really like the bagels from Brooklyn water bagels.  Stopping at IHOP, especially while traveling, can be very satisfying.

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One up side to national chains is that they tend to be easy for those with food allergies and their drinks can be giant. Chili's is good enough food and Red Robin has the best kids menu ever. 

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1 hour ago, dcandohio said:

After one meal, I refuse to darken the door of a red lobster ever again. Inedible. 

The last time I ever darkened the door at a Red Lobster was in the early-mid 1990s in San Diego, when I went out to visit my little brother and his family - I doubt I'll ever go again.

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8 hours ago, jasonc said:

Quick question about those cheddar bay biscuits. Is there crack in those things?

Ewwww. I don't like them. 

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Costco is currently selling Red Lobster biscuit mix.  I went through a box and had okay results, but you can probably have amazing results with any biscuit mix or recipe, if you add a lot of shredded cheese to the batter and brush the top with a lot of butter.

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On 11/28/2017 at 8:50 AM, NolaCaine said:

Red Robin has the best kids menu ever. 

 

Red Robin would have never been on my radar if it weren't for my hamburger-obsessed kid. For what it is, they do a good job (though the fries suck). However, my seven-year-old never orders off the kid's menu. She wants the full-size "grownup" burgers.

I'm convinced that the majority of Chinese restaurants are actually part of a secret national chain. How else can they get the Americanized food to taste exactly the same in each restaurant?

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I somehow doubt this December promotion will work among this crowd to entice you to go to your local Applebee’s but this cocktail remains quite popular for various folks and demographics and at $1/pop it’s a great price  (oh but I dread the quality of the rail liquors they use for this concoction)

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On 11/27/2017 at 11:32 AM, Kibbee Nayee said:

I'm talking about Sizzler

I remember the Sizzler in North Arlington.  It is now a credit union.  But what sent me down memory lane was a steak chain from my high school years in New York:  Tad's Broiled Steaks.  It was across the street from where my sister and I worked on Saturdays, Macy's Herald Square.  It was such a treat to eat there.  Steak, baked potato, garlic bread, salad.  I think it was $3.49 (ok, I'm old!!!).  A splurge back in those days and we felt really grown up and mainstream American.  A nice change from the Chinese food my mother was cooking at home.  I can still remember the taste of it in my mind.  Once in a while, we also got the apple pie.  Sigh!  I think it is closed now.

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My only beef with his #1 choice of the Cracker Barrel is that they are a highway destination place.  I like the food, but it is the last thing I want to eat on a long road trip.  

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I haven' read the whole article because it's behind a WaPo pay wall, but from the summaries I've seen, I wouldn't voluntarily eat at any of them.

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56 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I haven' read the whole article because it's behind a WaPo pay wall, but from the summaries I've seen, I wouldn't voluntarily eat at any of them.

I appreciated the article. I'll eat at chains in the future just as I have in the past.  Gives us a heads up on what is okay and what is miserable.  One thing surprised me  and I admittedly haven't eaten at an Outback for a long time.  I used to eat at Outback's.  I thought the steaks were okay.  I recall both eating there and comparing them to the miserable steaks at Sizzler's referenced above. 

But its been a long long time since I've last eaten at an Outbacks.  Isn't there one off Rte 50 in Arlington?  That was both convenient..;.but why eat there when there are tremendous alternatives so close by.

In any case I'm appreciative that Sietsema went out and surveyed all of these places.  It will save me the effort and might keep me from ordering something horrible next time I'm at one of those restaurants.  BTW:  I've always liked patty melts but have had some lousy one's recently.  Maybe I'll have one at IHop per Sietsema's article.  Couldn't be more disappointing than some of those I've had elsewhere.

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3 minutes ago, DaveO said:

Maybe I'll have one at IHop per Sietsema's article.  

 

I haven't been to an IHOP since I was a kid, but this ad made me think I'm missing out on something:

 

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Y'all are missing out on some artery clogs. The wonderful Bloomin' Onion has about 2K calories and the sauce is another 200 per serving...I 'm assuming that's a tablespoon. And IHOP sucks. It's where my kids trick me into going when our house looses power or water at breakfast time. It just sucks.

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