I’ll usually be the first one to say “Let’s not go to a chain!” when people are planning to go out to eat. But as much as I enjoy trying new local restaurants, there are still some good chains out there, and a few awesome ones. With the other thread about nuking restaurants from orbit going on, I thought I could spread some positivity and get people talking about some of their more familiar favorite restaurants.
I’ve talked about Texas de Brazil before – an all-you-can-eat Brazilian rodizio-style restaurant where “gauchos” come around to your table with huge skewers of delicious grilled meats, and slice off as much as you want. Different cuts of steak, beef, chicken, pork, lamb, sausages, ribs, and more exotic cuts every so often. They also have a sprawling salad bar with fresh artisan cheeses, roasted vegetables, sushi, and other delights – the kind of salad bar of your dreams, nothing like what you’d find at Golden Corral or your high school cafeteria. The entire experience is overwhelmingly decadent, and you pay $45 for the privilege (or about half that for lunch, which is usually what I do on the very rare occasion I treat myself here). But if you sign up for their e-mail list at http://www.texasdebrazil.com , you’ll get many coupons from them, including 50% off at dinner and buy one meal/get one free offers. Highly recommended if you have one near you!
Sonny’s Real Pit Barbecue – a local chain that started in Gainesville, Florida (where I went to college) and is now based in Maitland (not far from where I am now), they have recently been opening new locations, advertising on TV, and adding all kinds of new things to their menu. But they offer good Southern-style barbecue, huge portions, and cheap all-you-can-eat specials. Moist and tender beef brisket, succulent smoky sliced pork, great ribs, amazing sweet barbecue sauce and wonderful garlic bread. Sonny’s helped me get through two degrees in Gainesville, and I still visit them every month or two. http://www.sonnysbbq.com/ shows they are still only in the Southeast, but if you have one nearby, give them a try some time.
Sweet Tomatoes – if you’re hungry but don’t know what you want, or if you want something a little lighter or healthier, this is a great place to go. Another all-you-can-eat place with an expansive and clean salad bar full of fresh veggies and toppings, a wide variety of fresh, homemade soups, a pasta bar, a bakery with savory and sweet offerings, and even soft-serve ice cream and fresh fruit for dessert. The salads are great, but the soups are the real standouts. They really are fresh, and as good or better than any soups I’ve gotten in “nice” restaurants. Get small bowls and try more than one! They also have kick-ass strawberry lemonade full of real strawberry pulp and seeds. http://www.sweettomatoes.com/ says they are called Souplantation in some locations.
Finally, Fuddruckers makes the best burgers around, and that includes Five Guys, fancy steakhouse burgers, and yes, even the ones YOU make on your backyard grill. Fresh-ground beef (and sometimes buffalo or ostrich, depending on the location), crispy and soft buns baked in-house, and an array of condiments and fresh toppings that allows you to customize your own dream burgers, plus they also have some suggested combos you can order with premium toppings. They also have some of the best fries ever, and THE best onion rings ever to go with the best burgers ever. Sadly, a lot of Fuddruckers locations have closed in Florida, so we only have three left, but luckily one of them is in Orlando so I get to go a few times a year. Yes, I get the one-pound burger and load it up with toppings. Yes, I eat the whole thing. No, I have no regrets. At least I don’t do it too often. Check out http://www.fuddruckers.com for locations.