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Consumer Reports Ranks Top Chains

If you want to save your cash and eat out too, you're in luck. Experts predict a sales decline at restaurants this year, so diners are in the driver's seat. "Today's dining deals are incredible," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm based in Chicago.

Our recent survey of 70,403 subscribers who made 158,744 visits to 101 restaurant chains revealed good meals, good deals, and choices for every budget and taste. Readers gave 21 chains top marks for food, and five very different chains earned exceptional scores for value: Black-eyed Pea (home-style comfort food), Sonny's Real Pit BBQ, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, Cheddar's Casual Café (eclectic American), and First Watch (eggs, pancakes, and sandwiches).

At the other end of the spectrum, with lower marks across the board, were Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Joe's Crab Shack, and Friendly's. 

A look at the top-rated chain restaurants in various categories as ranked by Consumer Reports:

  • Traditional American: Houston's
  • Barbecue: Sonny's Real Pit BBQ, Famous Dave's (tie)
  • Italian: Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano
  • Mexican: Abuelo's, On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina (tie)
  • Steakhouses: The Capital Grille
  • Pub Style or Grille: Cheddar's Casual Cafe
  • Unique Dinner Houses: P.F. Chang's China Bistro, California Pizza Kitchen (tie)
  • Family: First Watch
  • Seafood: Bonefish Grill
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