Top 10 Chain Restaurants in America (Sorry, Olive Garden)

Here’s the full top 10. For the rest of the top 25 rankings, visit the Money web site. [For Headline Health’s take on the Top 10, and places we think you’ll like way better, see below.]

  1. Steak ‘n Shake … Average meal price: $4.39
  2. Bob Evans … Average meal price: $6.65
  3. Waffle House … Average meal price: $5.04
  4. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews … Average meal price: $10.53
  5. Johnny Rockets … Average meal price: $9.15
  6. Buca di Beppo … Average meal price: $14.73
  7. Cicis … Average meal price: $6.09
  8. Buffalo Wild Wings Average meal price: $11.43
  9. Friendly’s… Average meal price: $8.56
  10. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store … Average meal price: $8.19  Original post at AARP

(Headline Health) The above list is based on popularity, not on health, so read menus carefully!

Here’s our take on these top-rated chains, of the ones we’ve visited:

  1. Buca di Beppo … fabulous Italian, way better than Olive Garden. Just go!
  2. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews … “Gourmet Burgers and Brews” says it all, two thumbs up.
  3. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store … great option when traveling, including free overnight parking for RVs at many locations. Watch the fat and calorie count on the menu, though.
  4. Friendly’s … this legacy chain has been re-invigorated and is worth a try. The location next door to their Wilbraham, Mass. headquarters is epic.
  5. Cici’s … for pizza in a hurry, Cici’s buffet works fine. We’d still rather find a local pizza parlor, as styles vary tremendously by region. Go to Giordano’s Pizza House in Pen Argyl, Penn., Arcaro & Genell in Old Forge, Penn. (both out of the way but worth it – Northeast Pennsylvania has its own pizza culture), the original Pizzeria Uno location in Chicago, and America’s original pizza place, Lombardi’s in New York (www.firstpizza.com ).
  6. Buffalo Wild Wings … we found B-Dubs to be boring and corporate, sorry! We’d much rather find an authentic local sports pub. Boneless wings are always a healthier choice; even though they are still fried, you’ll still get less fat and more protein per serving.
  7. Waffle House … has a cult-like following, with eccentricities such as wait staff shouting out food orders to cooks. We prefer Panera for healthier options, wider selection, and relative peace and quiet.

We have never eaten at Steak ‘n Shake, Bob Evans, or Johnny Rockets. Chains we’d rather visit … Chili’s, Jimmy John’s, and Bennigan’s (though there are only a few left).

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