Favorite 3: Chain Restaurants
Lauren's Take: I have a hard-on for foods that come wrapped in tortillas and flatbread. The compact cylindrical packaging makes Chipotle's burritos an ideal lunch option for busy days when you have to do lunch at your desk. Just had dinner at Fleming's a few weeks back, and it was better than ever. The place was packed but the wait on a Saturday night was less than five minutes. I'll admit to being extremely anal when it comes to cooking temperature, but my steak arrived a perfect rare/medium rare. And Armadillo Palace's chicken fried steak and live music -- life doesn't get much better than that.
Amber's Take: At Cracker Barrel, I enjoy the hash brown casserole and those random impulse buys in the old-lady heaven also known as the "country store." Nobody makes a better waffle than Waffle House, especially not at 4 a.m. Macaroni Grill is the first place I ever ate orzo pasta. I like the bread served with olive oil instead of butter, fresh mozzarella and bruschetta. Plus, drawing on the table is pretty fun.
Stacy's Take: I know not one item on the Cheesecake Factory's menu is less than 700 calories (or something crazy like that), but when you feel like indulging, it's a top spot for me. Can't decide what to order on their novel long menu? Try the Crusted Chicken Romano. You won't be sorry. As for the Melting Pot, I used to live in Switzerland so any chance to get traditional Swiss fondue (with Emmentaler and Gruyere), I jump at it. The Melting Pot wouldn't be my first stop, but for a chain, it's pretty damn good. Plus, it's fun to cook your own food, isn't it? And as for McCormick & Schmick's, two words: Lobster Bisque.
Kevin Shalin (me)
My Take: The Rigatoni D at Maggiano's is fabulous. The tender chicken and tiny mushrooms scattered throughout the cream sauce and pasta is tops. Try out their stuffed mushrooms for a nice treat. Say what you want, but Pappasito's does a few things very well--the Matador Nachos and the pork tamales. The complimentary thin chips have always been a favorite of mine. I like Perry's signature pork chop more than most of my relatives. I'd adopt that pork chop and give it a loving and nurturing home.
The React: Wow, Waffle House gets a mention 2 out of 3 weeks for the Favorite Three. That's damn near amazing, but props to them. Stacy's choice and description of Cheesecake Factory was dead on. Lauren is all over the place, from Chipotle to Fleming's. Props go out to her for mixing it up a bit. There was a time when I'd have agreed with Amber's Cracker Barrel selection, but I'm of the belief that their food has gone downhill. However, I still love me that country store.
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1151-01 Uptown Park Blvd., Houston, TX