Quick Recipes and Easy

Afraid to Eat at “Mom and Dad” Restaurants? Try These Tasty Chains While in Orange County, CA

When we go out, my husband and I look, on purpose, for small out of the way cute places. We like the homey atmosphere, the willingness of the staff to cater to our dietary needs, the sometimes unusual dishes that the chef (and usually owner) makes. But, there is a couple of family members who have always been of the belief that “larger is better”, whether it be the size of their car or how many restaurants someone has spread across the county (or country). With that in mind, I chose to check out some of Orange County, CA’s chain restaurants. I was nicely surprised! There were so many that had fantastic choices and atmospheres. Most are also quite family friendly and able to accommodate our ever growing crowd-here were some of the ones our group of 12 loved the most:

Claim Jumpers-If you can, share meals. Honestly, I remember when this chain started down the street from where my sister and I grew up. The decor is “ancient camping miner town” theme, parts are huge and frankly, in over 30 years, no matter which unit we’ve gone to, we’ve never had a terrible meal. Even when something was messed up, the manager bent over backwards to make up for even the most minor of mistakes. CJ’s doesn’t take reservations, so if you’re going with a large group-send someone ahead to get your name in.

California Pizza Kitchen-Parts are huge. Decor is bright and airy. My husband can feed his need for pizza, the teenagers have fantastic fun tasting the gourmet calzones, the grandparents like the grilled chicken dishes and I’m content with the vegetarian fare. Even my picky brother-in-law finds something excellent enough for his palate.

BJ’s Brewery-Everything is fresh out of the stone ovens and the air heavy with the aroma of the beery bread dough. Like California Pizza Kitchen, choices are all over the map and there’s something tasty for everyone. Atmosphere is that of a beer factory. High ceilings with pipes, noisy and dimly lit, yet loads of fun.

Ruby’s-Bright, light and awash with activity from the flying transportation above your head (depending on the restaurant it could be planes, trains, automobiles, boats or even bicycles) and done in a 1940′s theme, this chain has expanded from the usual burgers and fries fare to include breakfast, various types of burgers and numerous types of fries. A fantastic kid’s menu. Fun music! My four month ancient grandson found the fans and just likes “talking” to them and laughing the entire time we’re there.
Only drawback-grandparents aren’t thrilled eating their burgers out of a plastic basket.

The Cheesecake Factory-More upscale than the rest, but the atmosphere is fun, the food terrific and it’s perfect for a regular night out for two or for a family birthday celebration. The largest drawback? This place is always packed to the gills and they do not take reservations. Best suggestion: go on the off hours and never on holidays!

There are of course many other chains that have fantastic menus-PF Changs, In and Out, Jerry’s Deli, El Torito, just to name a few, but ones mentioned handled our large group with the widest menu choices and the most accommodating service staff.

Carine Nadel is on The Reader’s Advisory Panel of Woman’s Day magazine and has had numerous articles and recipes published both on various websites and print publications. To read more of her work, log onto: Carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com Carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com

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