Many people will be traveling to see family this holiday or hosting guests of their own, but at some point, the dreaded question might come up: where should we all go out to eat? A chain restaurant may be the only place picky eaters and family foodies can find something they'll both like. But which one? Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has ranked the nation's top ten.
Your best bet: Cracker Barrel
"I liked the way I was welcomed. I liked the little general store that you walk through," he says, "and the food sort of called to me. I'm a Midwesterner, and I could get roast beef and mashed potatoes."
There isn't an outlet in Southern California just yet, but one is on its way to Victorville in the coming months. Sietsema says it might be worth the road trip after the holidays when it opens.
"Out of the ten restaurants that I went to, it's the only one where I brought home leftovers," he says. "It's the only one whose pork chops reminded me of my grandmother's cooking."
Your worst bet: Buffalo Wild Wings
"You expect a place whose name includes 'wings' to serve good wings," says Sietsema, "but this was not the case there."
Don't expect to get a great salad there either, he adds, and the ambience was shattered by the cacophony of TV screens blasting sports games.
In his review, the chain got an F.
"Better to miss a meal than to find yourself in this loud, garish and thoroughly soulless restaurant-in-name-only," he writes.
Bottom line: avoid fries everywhere
"Mashed potatoes are almost always a better bet than french fries at any of these places," says Sietsema, "and none of the kitchens know how to cook broccoli."
Plus, try not to think about calories too much. Most chains' lighter menus are so bland that you could make the case to break your diet.
"If it says 'lite' on a menu – L-I-T-E – that should be a stop sign," he says.