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Americas 20 best chain restaurants


We ate the breadsticks, chugged cocktails and sat in the rocking chairs to bring you Americas best chain restaurants

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By Lauren Rothman
Posted: Wednesday March 23 2016

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

We often celebrate the fancier end of the dining spectrum at Time Out, crowning the linen-favoring best French restaurants in America
(http://www.timeout.com/usa/restaurants/best-french-restaurants-in-america) and celebrating the countrys coziest and most elegant and best
wine bars in America (http://www.timeout.com/usa/bars/best-wine-bars-in-america). Here, we shu e down the spectrum a touch to hail the
efforts those big-on- avor, short-on-frills eateries that are always there, waiting (often by a roadside late at night) to serve up heaping plates of
deliciousness and familiarity: Americas best chain restaurants. Theyre the guys serving some of the best burgersin America
(http://www.timeout.com/usa/restaurants/best-burgers-in-america), giving us breakfast at all hours, and pouring us cocktails the size of our
heads. Their signature disheshello, Olive Garden breadsticks, my old friendsare household names, and their servers always come with a
side of excellent chat. Here, we rate and rank the best chain restaurants in America.

Best chain restaurants in America

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Shake Shack
It may be easy to make a burger, but its not always easy to make a great burger. Shake Shack, however, has tender, juicy patties on lock
at 60-plus locations worldwide (with hundreds more to come). With professional, lightning-fast service and an always-tasty menu that
also includes killer loaded dogs and house-made frozen custard, the answer to the question Wanna go to Shake Shack? is always a
resounding yes.

Signature dish: Shackburger, with single or double patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato and Shacksauce.

Tender Greens
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If you live on the Best Coast, the wildly inventive Tender Greens is yet another reason to feel pretty darn content about your life. With 20-
plus locations in L.A., San Diego and Orange County as well as the Bay Area, the fast-casual spot serves up hearty, veggie-heavy soups,
salads and sandwiches whose creation is overseen by trained executive chefs. Think small-batch salami served over kale with crispy
garbanzos and roasted garlic vinaigrette, or rare, herb-brushed tuna steaks with mashed yukon golds. So California.

Signature dish: Chipotle barbecue chicken salad with avocado, queso fresco, crispy tortillas and cilantro-lime dressing.

Umami Burger
Serving up juicy burgers inspired by ne-dining avors, this Cali-born chain focuses on the chef-lauded fth taste, that assertive,
mouth- lling avor found in tomatoes, aged cheeses and soy sauce. With comfortable table seating, waiter service and a full bar, Umami
sets itself apart from other burger chains, promising a full-on restaurant experiencenot just a great sandwich. There arent as many
locations as with other burger chains, but sometimes tasty things come in small packages.

Signature dish: Umami Burger with parmesan frico, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and Umami ketchup.

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Five Guys
Speaking of burgers, this 1,000-plus strong chain puts out a delicious one: thin but moist and served up on a quintessential sesame-seed
bun and loaded with your choice of as many of the Guys 15 toppings and condiments as you wantall for free. With exemplary house-
cut fries and a welcoming but super-casual atmosphere, its an obvious choice for a quick but exponentially satisfying meal.

Signature dish: Bacon cheeseburger and fries.

Chipotle
Serving super-craveable, Mexican-inspired burritos and bowls that are packed with avor but sold at a low price, Chipotle is an obvious
choice for one of the best chain restaurants in the country. Even better? This is food with a conscience: serving only non-GMO
ingredients and pasture-raised meat, Chipotle has set a high bar for its competitors. Sure, the whole empire had to shut down in early
2016 after several E.Coli scaresbut, lets face it, its were sorry free burrito offer in February lured us right back in.
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2016 after several E.Coli scaresbut, lets face it, its were sorry free burrito offer in February lured us right back in.

Signature dish: Carnitas burrito with rice, beans and fajita veggies.

Texas Roadhouse
With 400-plus restaurants in 49 states, this meat-centric family restaurant is obviously doing something right. Plating up big, budget-
friendly plates of steaks and ribs anked by starchy sides like loaded baked potatoes and cheese- and bacon-studded mashers, the
Roadhouse also emphasizes fun with its jukeboxes, occasional line-dance performances and solicitous waitstaffnot to mention a
plethora of boozy draught cocktails such as frozen margaritas and potent punches.

Signature dish: Fall-Off-the-Bone ribs with signature barbecue sauce.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Guian Bolisay (https://www. ickr.com/photos/instantvantage/7181957216/)

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Friendlys
Wed like to think that the unof cial motto of Friendlysever a highway-side beacon of hope during those long, cross-country drivesis:
Friendlys: because with ice cream, what could possibly be bad? With comfy booths, perky waitstaff and a comfort food-spanning menu
of burgers, melts and fryer favorites, its hard to feel anything but pure contentment when eating at a Friendlys. To add to the enjoyment,
theres that extensive list of frozen delights: shakes, sundaes, oats. Just try leaving without something from the freezerwe dare you.

Signature dish: Original Big Beef burger with American and mayo.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mike Mozart (https://www. ickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14247260284/)

Benihana
Showy teppanyaki-style cookingwherein a chef cooks Japanese-style dishes on a large hibachi attop grill and presents them, with
air, to a crowd of diner-spectatorswas introduced to the U.S. by this historic chain in 1962. While teppanyaki has faded as a dining
trendfor a couple of decades there, it was the number one choice for special occasions like birthday partiesit remains a fun and tasty
choice for an unusual evening out. Well take a round of aming onion volcanoesstat, please.
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Signature dish: Hibachi chicken breast with mushrooms, butter and sesame seeds.

The Cheesecake Factory


Foodies love to hate on this 188-location-strong chain of comfort-food restaurants, but the fact is: diners love it. The Cheesecake Factory
regularly ranks at the top of nationwide customer satisfaction surveys for its attentive service, tasty food, and, of course valuethe
plates of burgers, ribs and grilled seafood here are huge. And with 36 varieties of genre-bending cheesecake available dailypeanut
butter cup fudge ripple cheesecake, anyone?its a craving-resolving destination for the sweet tooths among us.

Signature dish: Original cheesecake with graham cracker crust and sour cream topping (simple, but so good).

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P.F. Changs
With its abundant portions of approachable, Americanized Chinese foodthink sweet, soy-glazed Mongolian beef and Singapore-style
rice noodles tossed with shrimp and cabbageits easy to see why this chain, established in Arizona in 1993, has multiplied so quickly,
with 260 locations around the world. For those in living in smaller towns, where more strictly authentic Asian fare is nonexistent, P.F.
Changs offers a welcome sampling of worldly avors. For those in bigger towns with straight-from-China dishes at every turn, Changs
is still a solid guilty pleasure.

Signature dish: Changs spicy chicken, with chili sauce, scallions and garlic.

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Maggianos
Everyone and their mother knows about Olive Garden, and while the soup-salad-and-breadsticks chain can adequately satisfy a red-
sauce craving (youll see it further down our list), we have to rule in favor of competitor Maggianos for the quality of eats being offered.
Serving heaping platters of family-style dishes (eggplant parm, chicken marsala, Moms lasagna), Maggianos fosters a fun group dining
experience that families love.

Signature dish: Moms lasagna, with meatballs, sausage and ricotta.

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Applebees
As Americas largest casual dining chainwith nearly 2,000 locations in 49 states and 15 countriesApplebees is clearly doing
something right. Combining a low-key, family-friendly atmosphere with an encyclopedic menu of bar snacks, burger, sandwiches and
steakspretty much anything that any diner might be craving at any given timeand adding low prices into the mix, Applebees has
struck upon a golden formula that works no matter where it opens its doors. Also: giant cocktails!

Signature dish: BBQ Riblets with fries and coleslaw.

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