RE: Consumer Reports Chain Survey
Being that I've traveled up and down the East Coast of these United States, I have an opinion on the familiar restaurants - TGIF, Ruby Tuesdays, etc. You only see Waffle House from MD on down to FL. My favorites are in GA - along 95. I love their Hash Browns or Grits Smothered & Covered. I've also had them with the jalapenos and they are terrific.
What I love about Waffle House is that everything is made to order, nothing is leftover on steam tables. It isn't exciting food by any means but it is well made and quite good for the price. Very cheap, which is excellent when you are traveling.
I've had some terrible food in little places that are not chains and I've had some really good food in Mom-and-Pop places. I found an absolutely terrible Friendly's along the road in Upstate NY. It was attached to a gas station, that should've told me something. Yet the Friendly's in my local mall in NJ and the one in Hackettstown are quite good. I love their new Baja sandwiches and their Buffalo Chicken Wrap. Delicious for what it is.
The Nathans in Coney Island is still the best one, the original and the best. Now their French Fries are sold in the freezer case at Shoprite and they still taste amazing. I love Nathan's French Fries! I'm a Brooklyn girl from way back. The best part of the summer was going to Coney Island, hanging out on the beach and then going to Nathan's for hot dogs, french fries, and corn on the cob with a Coke. Great meal. These days all that would give me gas but then it was such a treat.
These days the only thing I like at the franchises of Nathan's is their Tex Mex Dog.
When it comes to chains in MA, the best one is Legal Seafoods but they are very expensive. If you want cheap food, but good food, then you have to go and eat ethnic - Thai especially. There is a great place, not a chain, in Boston close to Brookline. Delicious Yellow Curry. Almost any place in the North End is great for Italian. Mikes Pastry Shop has the best cannolis and cappuccino bar-none. I ate at a place called Al Dente, that was very expensive but excellent Italian food. Yum. Wonderfully fresh pasta. Can't beat it.
When it comes to chains in RI, Cheesecake Factory at the Providence Place Mall was very good. I had never eaten in one before, altho there is one at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, NJ. The Pad Thai I had was pretty good. What I expected and the Tiramisu Cheesecake was amazingly good.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it depends on the chain, it depends on what kind of food you are in the mood for, there are really good ones and really bad ones along the road. Same with Mom-and-Pop places. I've been to some terrible ones. I've been to some amazingly good ones - Mecca in Raleigh, NC for one - great fried chicken and mac n cheese, Lloyd Hills in Lincoln, NH fabulous breakfast - unbelievably good Veggie Benedict (eggs benedict with grilled veggies on top instead of Canadian Bacon), and incredible homemade Strawberry Muffins along the road in a dumpy place near some lake in NH. Stinky Louie's?? I forget the name but the muffins were amazing.
I don't see what the argument is anyway - good food is found everywhere, so is bad food. I've had bad food are some very famous restaurants too.
BTW, I've been to Joe's Crab Shack in Myrtle Beach and it was great. The crab cakes were terrific, the hush puppies were delicious and my soft shell crab sandwich was one of the best I've ever eaten. My husband had lobster and it was terrific and my son was happy with his kids meal. So, I guess the Joe's you've been to wasn't good. Try the one in Myrtle Beach, Broadway on the Beach. Yes, it was noisy. I don't expect chain restaurants to be quiet but the food was very good. I had no complaints except that we spent a bit too much.