For a long weekend where you are perhaps considering dining out at some point, I humbly submit to you this subjective, unscientific, unresearched and 100% accurate breakdown and rankings of the important national restaurant chains.
Note: these chains fit into the category of 'Casual Dining', that staple of medium-sized towns and access roads just off the Interstate everywhere. But the point is that places like Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and Chipotle (New ad pitch: 'Now with LESS Ecoli!!!!'), are not in the running.
10. Outback Steakhouse - Fun fact: I once ate in an Outback Steakhouse each week on Monday night for six months while on a project in Hickory, North Carolina.
Signature item: Bloomin' Onion
9. Chili's - Ate there last night. Am totally not kidding.
Signature item: Baby Back Ribs
8. Red Robin - Seem to have recently undertaken some kind of re-branding.
Signature item: Royal Red Robin
7. Olive Garden - This is terrible food, more or less, but the one near where I live is ALWAYS packed, so that has to count for something.
Signature item: None really. But usually they will keep bringing you food until you explode.
6. Red Lobster - 83% of the shrimp consumed in the USA are eaten in Red Lobsters. Actually, I have no idea if that is true. But it seems like it could be true, if you know what I mean.
Signature item: Cheddar Bay biscuits
5. T.G.I. Friday's - Am kind of surprised these are still around. I guess someone had to survive the epic battle between Friday's, Bennigan's, and Houlihan's in the 90s.
Signature item: Pretty much anything from the appetizer menu. You are proably a little drunk already and are not that picky about the food.
4. Carabba's Italian Grill - My son's favorite on this list. Also had a 90-minute wait to get in at 5:45PM on a recent weekend night. That's nuts.
3. Applebees - Feelin' good in the neighborhood. Perhaps too good.
Signature item:Two or three shady as hell local drunks that are at the end of the bar at 11:35PM on Thursday night.
2. Buffalo Wild Wings - I used to stop in the BWW on the way home from my old teaching gig. Nothing more sad than going to a bar by yourself at 10PM on a Tuesday. Good wings though.
Signature item: Wings, you dummy.
1. The Cheesecake Factory - The choice of big time ballers everywhere, especially in Las Vegas. Go at midnight, sit at the bar. Order draft beer and dessert. You won't regret it.
Signature item: Original cheesecake. Don't mess with a classic.
You can comment if you like, but if you disagree with me, of course you would be wrong.
Have a great weekend!