There are many things in our country than can be considered purely American. Things like Football, NASCAR, and the Grand Canyon are all quintessentially American. Probably the most American concept there is, however, is a reliance on fast food and chain restaurants.
In fact, chain restaurants are such a staple in the good ol’ U.S. of A that many of them gain a considerable following. Most chains have a loyal fanbase of people who treat their restaurant of choice like it’s holy ground. The problem here (despite the obvious health concern) is that certain chains are just overrated. Whether it's based on food quality, service, or brand recognition, many of America’s most iconic chains are just not that good.
Without further ado, here are the five most overrated American chain restaurants. We’re likely to get a ton of heat for this, but, remember, it’s just an opinion.
5. White Castle
Of all the fast food joints built around the concept of burgers and fries, White Castle is probably the worst. In fact, their signature Sliders are so awful, they can be found in the frozen food section at most grocery stores. To further illustrate, many diehard fans of the White Castle franchise claim these frozen variations are very similar in quality to the Sliders one would get in the restaurant itself. That’s a problem.
Despite this, White Castle continues to be one of the most beloved American restaurant chains out there. With 420 locations over 12 states, the franchise even had a movie. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, dedicated to two stoner friends risking their lives to get to the restaurant. The movie is actually hilarious and spawned a series of films starring the ganja-loving duo.
However, the only thing the first film got right about White Castle is that you’d have to be stoned out of your mind to think that their food is any good whatsoever.
4. Olive Garden
The worst thing about Olive Garden is that, for years, people have considered the chain to be some kind of fancy, authentic, Italian restaurant that signifies high class. This is wrong. So wrong.
Olive Garden’s food truly consists of bland, overpriced dishes, salad so wilted you could mistake it for Popeye’s canned spinach and free “breadsticks” harder than Chuck Norris on a Total Gym. It’s just awful. Yes, they do serve wine, but even that can’t mask the internal suffering one usually endures from sitting through a tasteless dinner hosted in the dimly-lit Neanderthal cave known as Olive Garden.
Nevertheless, many people still treat Olive Garden like it’s the pinnacle of Italian cuisine. So much so, in fact, that there actually exist 840 locations in the U.S. alone. Our response? Eat at any one of the tens of thousands of privately-owned Italian restaurants in America instead, then come back and apologize. We’ll wait.
3. Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings is mostly known for one tagline: Wings. Beer. Sports. Straightforward and simple enough. But what that tagline doesn’t tell you is that the wings are almost meatless, the sports are often interrupted by hordes of screaming children, and the beer — well, the beer is fine.
Buffalo Wild Wings is known for 22 signature wing sauces and rubs. The problem here is that only about seven of those sauces and rubs are distinguishable, and even fewer are as tasty as the chain would have you believe. To make matters worse, they barely give you enough sauce to coat the wing as it is, with the majority of the flavor ends up covering the paper liners of the basket instead of your tongue. Even worse is the boneless wings, which are basically charred chicken skin covered in splashes of weak hot sauce.
Despite these flaws, Buffalo Wild Wings has almost 1,200 locations around the world, and they all generate high reviews. Having given many locations another chance time and time again, I can tell you: it doesn’t get better. We suggest hitting up your local sports bar before one of these.
2. Long John Silver’s
Long John Silver’s is a total rip-off of the far superior (and now, mostly defunct) Arthur Treacher’s. There, I’ve said it. Once owned by the parent company Yum! Brands, Long John Silver’s is probably the hardest to eat of any of the chains on this list. Their “food” is so thickly battered that it might send one into cardiac arrest just by thinking about it.
Apparently, Long John Silver’s mostly serve seafood, but it’s so coated in grease and fat that it’s barely distinguishable from the chicken they also serve. That's not to mention Long John Silver’s is among the most expensive fast-food chains out there, and all you’re paying for is indigestion and shame.
By some miracle, Long John Silver’s has more than 1200 locations worldwide, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen more than a handful of customers in-store at a time. How LJS continues to stay open, let alone stand on its own two feet now that it is its own company, is beyond us.
1. Panera Bread
Without a doubt, the most overrated chain restaurant is the U.S. -- perhaps even in the entire world -- is Panera Bread. Ask any Panera Bread regular out there, and they’ll tell you that the food is simply divine, the atmosphere is relaxing, and the service is grade A. The problem is absolutely none of that is true.
Panera Bread is by far the most overpriced quick-service sandwich chain in America. A simple Turkey Club could cost upwards of $8, and we haven’t even gotten into the premium menu yet. On top of that, the food just isn’t good. Often dry and bland, Panera Bread offers cardboard on a plate. The atmosphere is fine if you’re into that snobbish, millennial entitlement feel.
One could say the service is friendly, but friendly to the point of annoying is what you’ll find here. They’re relentless policy of screaming out your name to a crowd of people when your order is done is anxiety-inducing.
Any one of the stores 2,000 locations will have your pockets and stomach feeling lighter. For a restaurant chain that presents itself as a being a few steps above “peasant” restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King, Panera bread just doesn’t deliver.
What do you think is the most overrated American chain restaurant? Do you agree with our list? Are there any overrated chains you would add? We hope you enjoyed our list!