Travelers often scoff at chain restaurants, preferring instead to seek out local flavor and unique dining experiences in the cities they visit.
But if you’ve ever been on the road, far from home and lonely, there’s a good chance you’ve come across a chain and breathed a sigh of relief. Then you parked your car in the vast lot and waited for your table while sipping a frozen daiquiri and admiring the bartender’s flare.
You’re not alone. Hey, there’s a reason there’s a Red Lobster (and a Bubba Gump Shrimp and an Applebee’s) in Times Square. And who could forget the Olive Garden review that went viral?
Consumer Reports knows we Americans love our chain restaurants. It also knows not all chains are created equal. And that’s why they asked 47,500 diners to rank 102 of the nation’s most popular eateries. Nine ranked especially well according to Consumer Report’s criteria: taste, value, service, mood, noise, menu, and cleanliness.
- Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
- Black Angus Steakhouse
- Bob Evans
- Bravo Cucina Italiana
- First Watch
- J. Alexander’s
- Le Peep
- Fatz Eatz & Drinkz
If you’re not familiar with all of these, here’s how a few more big-name chains fared:
Most healthful dishes: First Watch and Legal Seafood
Worst tippers (highest percentage below 15 percent): Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cheddar’s, Country Kitchen, Don Pablo’s, El Torito, Joe’s Crab Shack, Logan’s Roadhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse, McGrath’s, Shari’s, and Shoney’s.
Best tippers (tips 20 percent of more): The Capital Grille and Morton’s.
Best mood (ambiance): McCormick & Schmick’s, Ruth’s Chris, Chart House, Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy and Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano.
Lowest-rated family restaurants: Friendly’s and Waffle House.