If you’ve read our earlier list of five of the most overrated chain restaurants in America, then you probably know what to expect. However just to be fair, we’re not always so negative.
Fast-food and chain restaurants are among the most American concepts that exist. While many of these historically unhealthy chains are, in fact, overrated, there remain many that are actually quite underappreciated.
Whether based on the food quality, the service, or the limited number of locations, these are five of the most underrated American chain restaurants. As always, remember this is just an opinion, and feel free to respectfully disagree.
5. Checkers and Rally’s
One chain you never really hear about when discussing America’s best fast-food chains is the southern-based duo of Checkers and Rally’s. Merged into one chain in 1999, Checkers and Rally’s specializes in hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and milkshakes. It’s among the best-quality drive-in chains in the States.
Checkers and Rally’s doesn’t offer much in the way of indoor seating, but they do have a few tables outside their enclosed kitchen. Mostly, however, it’s a drive-thru operation designed for on-the-go dining.
Despite its 784 locations throughout the U.S., it doesn’t seem to have the same level of recognition as the big burger joints. That’s a shame, because the Steakzilla is next level good.
Probably the least recognizable chain on this list is Cook-Out, a Steak ‘n Shake style restaurant specializing in Hamburgers, Barbeque, and Chicken prepared “outdoors style.” One of the key staples of Cook-Out are its hand-dipped milkshakes, which are offered in 40 unique and delicious flavors.
Cook-Out is one of the smallest chains in America, with only 211 locations spread out across 10 deep-south states. Despite their small stature however, their food is of the highest quality, tasting every bit as good as the burgers your uncle grills at your family’s 4th of July picnic.
Originally, the franchise was founded in Greensboro, South Carolina. To this day, it has never expanded north of the Mason-Dixon line nor west of the Mississippi River. Hopefully, one day that’ll change.
3. Moe’s Southwest Grill
Usually, Moe’s Southwest Grill is overshadowed by its trail-blazing, trendsetting, competitor Chipotle. That’s not very fair because Moe’s similar Mexican-based fare is just as good and just as healthy, but they offer superior service.
Don’t get us wrong; we’re not knocking Chipotle (they’re amazing), but Moe’s is the arguably the better of the two. Moe’s prices are far more affordable than Chipotle, and they use similar high-quality ingredients. Additionally, the delightfully affable cheer of “Welcome to Moe’s!” upon entering any one of the chain’s 600+ locations gives the franchise an approachable atmosphere.
Things only get better once one approaches the efficient assembly line. Workers are almost always friendly and accommodating without being too in-your-face. Unfortunately, Chipotle’s service is lacking in comparison.
2. Jimmy John’s
Having gained some significant notoriety in the past few years, Jimmy John’s is a submarine sandwich chain whose food quality alone blows all of its competitors out of the water. Compared to global giant Subway, the food is more filling, better tasting, and better prepared.
Despite very few people having ever eaten a sandwich from the chain, Jimmy John’s has over 2,600 locations across 46 states. The majority of Jimmy John’s brand recognition comes from its numerous sponsorship deals, including NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick, NHL teams the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings, and even former UFC fighter/professional wrestler Brock Lesnar.
A significant reason behind Jimmy John’s recent success is their “Freaky Fast Delivery” Campaign, which all but promises a safe and speedy delivery in a maximum of twenty minutes. Believe it or not, that’s actually accurate, with the average delivery time for a Jimmy John’s order being fifteen minutes between order placement and arrival.
1. Texas Roadhouse
Hands down, the most underrated chain restaurant in America is Texas Roadhouse. The quality of Texas Roadhouse’s food is among the highest of any American chain restaurant. With the exception of children’s menu items such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, applesauce, and hot dogs, everything on the Texas Roadhouse menu is made from scratch using an original recipe, including salads and dressings. Every one of their famous steaks are hand-cut and never frozen, with the exception of their T-bone steak, which is prepared off-site and vacuum-sealed.
The service is just as legendary. Steak-hungry customers are encouraged to hand pick their very own steak upon entering the restaurant, but there’s never too much pressure on customers to spend more then they’re comfortable with. As another testament to how care-free each establishment is, every table offers a free bucket of shelled peanuts, with patrons encouraged to throw the empty shells on the floor.
Even outside the restaurant, Texas Roadhouse employees participate in a variety intercompany competitions including the bartender’s "Real Bar" competition, and an annual “Meat Cutters” competition, which allows for various restaurant workers to show off their skill. All the quality of Texas Roadhouse, despite the chain having over 450 locations spread out across 49 U.S. states and a number of foreign countries, is extremely consistent, making Texas Roadhouse the most underrated American chain restaurant currently in operation.
What do you think is the most underrated American chain restaurant? Do you agree with our list? What chains would you add? We hope you enjoyed our list!