If you’re a food-fanatic like I am, you’re probably a huge supporter of local, independent restaurants. Because it’s those chef-driven, family-driven, owner-driven restaurants that usually offer those special, unique menus and personal touches in their service. And yet, I hate to write off ALL chain restaurants. I’m usually not a fan of chain restaurants and eateries but there are some decent ones in the Triangle. Here are some of my favorites in the area covering an array of cuisines: barbeque and smoked meats, donuts, Tex-Mex, pizza and good ol’ American!
- Blaze Fast Fired Pizza – While I LOVE my authentic Neapolitan pizza, Blaze Fast-Fired does a great job offering up a Neapolitan-style pie for not much money. Love the Chipotle style ordering system and ability to add as many toppings as you’d like. But don’t abuse it given the structural quality of thin-crust pizza! If I had a Blaze Fast-Fired Pizza in my hood, I’d be there pretty often even with all the other great pizza in the Triangle!
- City Barbeque – When it comes to smoked meats, I am a huge fan. And City Barbeque does it right, covering a variety of barbeque styles ranging from Texas to North Carolina and more. Choose from brisket, smoked turkey, pulled pork along with some great Southern sides! My faves include the corn pudding, baked beans and collard greens. Don’t be fooled by the casual setting here, the food and service at City Barbeque are consistently excellent!
- Cheesecake Factory – Now the Cheesecake Factory takes a lot of flack for its calorie counts but if you’ve got some to spare, you could do far worse. From their delicious bread basket, perfectly fried chicken with pasta plates, to huge appetizers and the signature cheesecake, you will never leave the Cheesecake Factory, hungry. And don’t miss their happy hour from 4 to 6pm, Monday to Friday for some fabulous deals.
- Metro Diner – While there’s only one Metro Diner (that I know of) in the area, I am so glad to have it reasonably close in N. Raleigh. What Metro Diner does really well is the tasty diner breakfast! From omelettes, to benedicts and french toast, Metro Diner nails the first meal of the day and does it with fast and friendly service. And while I do love my Waffle House, the Metro Diner just does it better!
- Rise Biscuits and Donuts – It’s hard to complain about Rise Donuts as a chain since they started and grew locally from Durham. And thankfully even with 10 locations in the Triangle, they’ve managed to keep the quality of their biscuits and donuts up to a very high level! Love the fact that they allow each store to offer its own unique and creative biscuits and donuts, I gotta say that my Cameron Village Rise rocks it for me on a regular basis. Don’t miss the oreo donut and chicken-fried steak biscuit!
- Tijuana Flats – While Tijuana Flats is whole-heartedly Mex-American fare, what it does it does really well. From large crunchy tacos to big ol burritos, Tijuana Flats is perfect for families and a quick bite. Service is always excellent and don’t miss their cool hot sauce bar! Add in the funky decor and regular food specials you’ve got a great option in the area to cure your Tex-Mex fix.
In the end, many of these chain restaurants start out as independently owned restaurants and end up becoming regional chains and then national chains. And you’ll think back fondly to when it all started and can say “I remember when”