If you've ever read my comments on restaurants, you know that I far, far prefer locally owned restaurants over chains. All things being equal, the independent proprietor - with his life savings possibly invested in the business - will almost always get my business over even the best of chains (Side note; I understand that the free market dictates why an business will succeed or fail [and that's the way it should be] but I just can't get a handle on why Red Lobster's parking lot is always packed, there have been about four different restaurants on the corner on 76th & Forest Home in the past decade.)
In fairness, I should note that I actually really appreciate local chains, like George Webb, Real Chili, Omega Burger and the various Mo's restaurants. These are examples of local entrepreneurs that became successful enough to grow and expand. I will eat at these restaurants without a second thought.
However, I also have occasion to eat at a national chain restaurant (I am not the sole arbiter of dining choices) and therefore I now offer some of my favorite chain restaurant meals (in no particular order)...
- Strawberry Pancake Stackers from IHOP - (Side note; Do you remember what IHOP used to stand for? Well, the company doesn't want you to remember International House of Pancakes, just like the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network no longer exists, and American Telephone and Telegraph... do you realize, its not even called a telephone anymore? This is an acronym world, so let's get back to business PDQ, OK?) I don't eat eggs, so my breakfast choices are limited, basically coming down to pancakes or waffles. The particular day that I tried these Stackers, the waitress had suggested that I looked like I was in the mood for something different. Sure I know suggestive selling is a marketing gimmick, but when the product is this creative and delicious, I will let it slide.
- Pecan Waffle at Waffle House - Yes, I know that there are no stores in this area (the closest one is 258 miles from my house in Indianapolis) but the waffles are crisp, the pecans plentiful and the hasbrowns with onions and peppers can't be beat. When out of town, I will sometimes actually seek out a Waffle House as I know that I can get a great start to the day with their pecan waffles.
- Homestyle Chicken Dinner at Cracker Barrel - In addition to not liking eggs, I'm not a huge fan of chicken, either. Chicken, to me, is like the stick in which other ingredients bond. And that batter at Cracker Barrel that ever-so-gently hugs that juicy piece of chicken... It seems a shame that this is only offered on Sunday. For an added treat, order the hashbrown casserole as your side.
- Chicken Mango Salad at Qdoba - OK, I said that I don't have many breakfast options, so two of my favorite chain restaurant meals are breakfasts. Then I explain that chicken is just a flavor carrier, and now I list a second favorite meal that is chicken. Must explain a lot about the rest of the flavors in this salad!
- House Sirloin with bleu cheese at Applebee's - Granted, the steak isn't on par with the Five O'Clock Steakhouse, for about $12 when I concede the dinner choice to My-Sugar-Na, I could do a lot worse.
- Cherry Limeade Chiller at Sonic Drive-In - It started in Des Moines and Albuquerque with a Limeade (a lime squished in a Sprite). At the time, Sonic hadn't made it to Milwaukee, so I allowed it. When Sonic came to Milwaukee and (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Son, Mitten, told me to have cherry syrup added. Finally, they started adding ice cream! From a limey Sprite to a frozen piece of Heaven. That's a good morph.
- Pot Roast Melt from IHOP - IHOP twice? Considering IHOP is usually not in my top five choices, it surprises me, too. Well, blame Father's Day, but My-Sugar-Na (to whom I am not her father, but, whatever) was paying so who am I to argue. The waitress comes around and I proudly state "Strawberry Pancake Stackers, please." and I was disappointed when she said they were out. So having been denied my first choice, nothing really stood out as being a decent alternate, so I went completely off-the-board to something I would never otherwise order. The soft pot roast, in an onion gravy, is placed on grilled sourdough with two slices of cheese. Low on fat and calories its not, but it tasted so much better than it sounds.
- Numero Uno deep dish pizza from Uno Chicago Grill - Let's be up front. The same pizza from Pizzaria Uno or Pizzaria Due in Chicago is ten times better than from their franchised Uno Chicago Grill. However, this is the closest to deep dish pizza in Milwaukee, and that buttered crust is to die for (Side note, in case you have forgotten, this blog is about my favorite chain restaurant meals. It is NOT a referendum on the best pizzas in Milwaukee).