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Fast Food/Restaurant Chains in America - which ones are good, which ones to avoid?

(31 Posts)
Earlybird Mon 25-Jun-07 06:47:24

Hello to all the American residents and any others who may be interested:

My questions are about eating out with children:

1. America is the country that practically invented fast food. If you are out and about with the kids and need to grab something to eat relatively quickly - where do you go? Is there vaguely healthy/appealing fast food to be had? Where do you go, and what do you order?

2. I am amazed at the number of malls/strip malls in suburban America, and many of them seem to have chain restaurants as tenants. It can be nice to see a familiar logo wherever you are so you know what you are getting, but sometimes it seems you could be interchangeably almost anywhere in America! (Hey look - a TGI Fridays!)
What restaurant chains do you/the kids enjoy (or is that not quite the word? ) Any to avoid at all costs?

christie1 Mon 25-Jun-07 07:45:52

tbh my experience with fast food in north america is that even the healthy stuff is so high in fat content. I am canadian but we have alot of fast food too, and many of the same chains. Even the salads at the chains are very high in fat, sometimes worse than a burger. so we often stop at a supermarket and pick up stuff for sandwhiches and fruits, biscuits etc for a meal. If that is not practical, we tend to go for pizza as a reasonable healthy option. Subway which you have in the uk is pretty good if you pick their low fat options and load up with veggies.

NotQuiteCockney Mon 25-Jun-07 07:47:31

I have a soft spot for Harvey's, but as we don't live in North America, it's a rare treat rather than an everyday thing.

Surely there must be some healthy fast food places starting up there, like Leon in the UK?

SueW Mon 25-Jun-07 08:59:42

We like Olive Garden. It's a restaurant but the service has always been quick (sometimes a little too quick).

You can't view the menu unless you have a zip code - we used to go to the one at 93036.

DH would have the Pasta e Fagioli whilst DD & I would share an unlimited refills salad. DD normally chose pasta from the children's menu whilst DH & I could have more grown-up choices.

For other eating out we would often do the Mongolian Barbecues which seemed to be in every shopping mall food court. Basically stir fry meat and veg you choose yourself and add sauces if you want them.

expatinengland Mon 25-Jun-07 11:11:28

Baja Fresh and Rubio's (on the west coast)are good for healthy Mexican and you're low in calories if you opt for grilled chicken, shrimp or fish tacos, although the burritos are fattening because they are so big. All the salsa and guacamole is made fresh throughout the day. All the food is never frozen or canned and is made fresh while you wait, but is still quick.

Avoid Taco Bell (or Taco Hell) which is just crap, KFC, Red Lobster or Dominos's...do they even use real cheese?

PJ Changs and the Cheesecake Factory are chains, but really good ones..Changs is sort of Chinese/Pacific Rim and the Factory has huge salads and sandwiches...order half a portion per person.

tinpot Tue 26-Jun-07 03:14:37

You really are doing your research before you arrive aren't you!

Chick fil A is allegedly 'healthy' fast food (true sense of the word, drive through, paper bag etc). It takes a bit of getting used to but it is OK.

Restaurant Chains - on the border (mexican), Chili's (american), TGI's are all family friendly and favourites of ours (or is that favorites). Max and Erma's - similar to above.

Cheesecake factory is expensive but nice for a treat. Just go for coffee and cheesecake or you'll be too full to appreciate the main event!

Panera Bread makes the nicest bagels and other bakery goods (it could be your saviour when it comes to avoiding overly sweet supermarket bread - you were warned). It is my favourite breakfast spot.

Macaroni grill - nice italian chain. Maggianos - more upscale italian chain.

Jason's Deli - sandwiches / salad / soups in a hurry.

Can't think of others at the moment, will write more when I think. Healthy could be an issue though...just remember to get a box for what you don't eat and have the rest the next day.

tinpot Tue 26-Jun-07 03:18:21

IHOP for pancakes at breakfast too (international house of pancakes - makes me chuckle everytime I say it)! Can you tell that eating out has been my favourite hobby in the USA!

Califrau Tue 26-Jun-07 03:50:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

eidsvold Tue 26-Jun-07 05:34:20

enjoyed chillis, tomato brothers, olive garden
red lobster.

however found portion sizes to be huge and took a lot of getting used to.

ihop for breakfast although found a nice family 'diner' sort of place when staying in Florida that served the most scrumptious breakfasts.

those are my experiences.

had taco bell once - never again!!!!

sbarro - not too bad.

mamama Fri 29-Jun-07 15:05:08

Lol @ taco hell!!

I rarely eat fast food but, if I have to grab something while I’m out,

California Pizza Kitchen – unusual pizzas but quick and very kid-friendyl

Chipotle Grill – Mexican – Burritos, taco salad etc – It’s meant to have good ethics & I think counts as relatively ‘healthy’

Cheesecake factory is great, but has really long waits. Not cheap, but huge portions so you can usually share 1 main course between 2 adults. Not fast food. Cheesecake is always disappointing. Grand Lux Café is owned by the same company.

Panera Bread - good for sarnis, soup etc while your out and about.
Macaroni grill - nice italian chain. Maggianos - more upscale italian chain.

Ihop for breakfast.

suzywong Fri 29-Jun-07 15:14:12

good lord I LOVE reading these menus, it is a perverse culinary pleasure for me
Next time I go to the States I will stop at an IHOP to have
"Rooty Tooty Fresh ’N Fruity®*
Two eggs, two bacon strips, two pork sausage
links and two buttermilk pancakes crowned
with cool strawberry or your choice of fruit
compote and whipped topping."
jsut so I can ask for it in an RP accent

DH once came back from NO raving about Popeye's Chicken "KFC but twice as bad"

Whoooosh Fri 29-Jun-07 15:17:40

God this thread has made me miss the States-you probably want to avoid HOOTERS

suzywong Fri 29-Jun-07 15:50:11

MM-mmmm
Fried Pickles for me, please. honk honk!

bossykate Fri 29-Jun-07 15:52:40

do they still have kenny rogers roasters?

chopchopbusybusy Fri 29-Jun-07 16:12:25

Another International House of Pancakes fan here but then I also like Dennys and all of the diner type family restaurants. They usually do excellent omelettes.

Not sure where you are going but there is a buffet restaurant in Orlando called Sweet Tomatoes (there is one on International Drive and at least one other one) which I really like. They have a huge salad buffet and they have some hot food too. Jacket potatoes, pasta and pizza by the slice. Puds are fresh fruit and frozen yogurt. Yumm
Children are charged according to their height rather than age.

NotQuiteCockney Fri 29-Jun-07 16:19:34

Oh, I love diner culture. I found it really hard, upon moving to the UK, to find there wasn't anywhere nice you could get breakfast at breakfast time. All the local nice breakfasty places open at noon. What on earth is the point of that?

mamama Fri 29-Jun-07 20:40:33

Oh yes,sweet tomatoes is good too.

Also PF Changs for pretty good chinese food

And, if you are in the Chicago area, Giordano's for Chicago style Pizza or Eduardos.

Original Pancake house is similar to IHop but better!



lol @ Suzywong - get a grip, girl!!

expatinscotland Fri 29-Jun-07 20:42:08

Good Times for burgers, or InNOut.

Chipotle for burritoes.

Swing Thai for thai.

PF Chang's rocks.

expatinscotland Fri 29-Jun-07 20:42:31

Oooooo, diners! I miss those! IHOP, Shoneys, Perkins, Denny's.

southeastastra Fri 29-Jun-07 20:43:02

what about wendy's. we had a few then they shut down. i loved their frosties

bewilderbeast Fri 29-Jun-07 20:43:34

Chillis, Outback
avoid denny's like the plague

expatinscotland Fri 29-Jun-07 20:44:20

Wendy's fries are rank.

Good Times or InNOut.

Teh blooming onion in Chilli's.

Steak at Outback.

toomuchtodo Fri 29-Jun-07 20:44:47

avoid white castle if you see any

I love Harveys for their burgers

NotQuiteCockney Fri 29-Jun-07 21:48:53

I like those malted milkshakes at Wendy's.

Oh, and I miss Harvey's fries. And there's a burger I always get at a nice burger place in Montreal. <<drools>> God I miss Montreal food.

Waswondering Fri 29-Jun-07 21:52:38

Not US, but love Tim Hortons for coffee and donuts in Canada - and Second Cup. Verrry nice.

(Esp the TH French Vanilla coffee on drive thru, oh yum!)

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