In the face of farm-raised turkeys and homemade trimmings involving organic cranberries, I’m sitting on Park Place in a Monopoly board of chain restaurants from my childhood home in Columbus, Ohio.* If you turn right out of my neighborhood towards the mall, you will come across a Skyline Chili, Waffle House, Arby’s, Tim Horton’s, Brio, Potbellies, Ruby Tuesday, Chipotle, Pizza Hut, Red Robin, P.F. Chang’s, Jimmy John’s, Quiznos, and no less than three Starbucks within a two mile radius. If you venture left, there’s a Jeni’s Ice Cream (it’s the tony part of town), City BBQ, Panera, McDonald’s (a new one with WiFi, a fireplace and muted color scheme), Subway, another Starbucks, another Arby’s, and the godsend that is Graeter’s Ice Cream within close proximity. And that’s just going by memory.
If you find yourself in a similar situation this holiday season or are just a straight-up true American believing in the transformative power of 2-for-1 appetizers, may we point you in the direction of First We Feast‘s list honoring the 25 best dishes from chain restaurants across the country. To this, our staff offers some personal favorites deserving to have made the cut because turkey is great (or tofu turkey, for some of you creeps), but things that are crispy from Chili’s can be even better if the mood is right. (In Columbus, Ohio, the mood is often right.) Let’s do this.
*Go, Bucks, beat Michigan