While it may not be considered a significant life achievement, one of my favorite pastimes is dining out at various restaurants. I have always enjoyed experiencing different eateries and what they have to offer. Building relationships with certain waitstaff and visiting their locations repeatedly to request their service is something I particularly enjoy. Over time, I have been able to visit virtually every restaurant in my area, and have discovered that each one has its unique offerings, even those with the same name but in different locations. While some have been less impressive than others, I have compiled a list of my favorite restaurants and my thoughts on each of them.
Previous “Do Not Go” List
My list of Restaurant Breakdown to avoid has changed over time. Previously, Italian Oven, Ruby Tuesday’s, and Chili’s were on that list, but it’s different now.
In my first version of this post, I listed restaurants that I had a bad experience at and would never go back to. I usually don’t give a restaurant a second chance if I have a bad experience. I have only a few restaurants on my “Do Not Go” list, and they are listed below with my reasons for not returning. While some of the reasons are specific to a certain location, I wouldn’t return to any of them regardless.
- The Italian Oven – I generally enjoy Italian food, but I was not impressed with the food during my first visit to one of their locations. The food was mediocre compared to other Italian restaurants I like, and our waiter was not good. The service was slow and unresponsive. It was a terrible experience, and I don’t think the food was worth a second chance.
- Ruby Tuesday’s – I used to eat here, and I have no personal issues with the restaurant. The food was decent, the waitstaff was good, and the environment was great. However, I got sick twice after eating their food, and I even passed out once. I’m not sure if it was an allergic reaction, but I always have an awkward feeling about their food. Most people I have gone with also complain about bowel issues after eating there. I wouldn’t return due to my past experiences.
- Chili’s – I have never actually had their food, but I don’t like the environment of their restaurant. It feels too much like a bar, and it just doesn’t appeal to me. I may give it a try in the future, but I don’t typically think of eating there.
Since my previous post, my Restaurant Breakdown list to avoid has changed. Here are my updated thoughts on each restaurant:
- Italian Oven: It’s been 4-5 years since I last tried this restaurant, and the one time I went, the experience was terrible because of the poor service from the waitress. However, I realize that every location and its staff are different. I’m willing to give Italian Oven another chance and try a different location in the next few months. I now believe that the restaurant’s quality varies by location.
- Ruby Tuesday’s/Stella’s: I still avoid these restaurants because their food always leaves me feeling overly full and odd, even when I eat very little. I can taste preservatives, which isn’t appealing to me. I believe this is consistent across locations.
- Chili’s: I was wrong about this restaurant in my previous post. It has become my favorite place to eat since then. I go there more than any other restaurant. The food, staff, and atmosphere are all great, and I always order the same items: Table side guacamole, country-fried chicken with extra gravy, mashed potatoes with gravy, and macaroni and cheese. I have come to love this restaurant, and it’s now one of my absolute favorites.
Generic Eating Establishments
I’m open to trying out most Restaurant Breakdown, and I enjoy a wide variety of them for different reasons. There are a few that stand out to me, but I’ll save those for the last section. Some of my favorites include Applebee’s, Ted’s Montana Grill, Scalini’s, Provino’s, Red Lobster, and TGI Friday’s, among others. Each restaurant has its own strengths and weaknesses that make them unique.
In the last section, I’ll share my two absolute favorite restaurants.
My Favorite Restaurants
I should note that this list has also changed significantly. My original list was as follows:
Now, on to my crowning achievement. After years of dining out and visiting thousands of restaurants (some more than 100 times), I have compiled a list of my absolute favorite restaurants.
Below, I have listed each one in order of how much I like them and why they’re my favorites.
This restaurant was one of my top favorites and probably tied for first place with my other favorite. Provino’s is a special Italian restaurant that operates a scratch kitchen. This means that they make everything from scratch when it’s ordered, and you can customize your order as much as you want. I always order the same thing here – the Cannoloni & Bianca with extra cheese (x3) and add a half bottle of cheese on top. Then I get a sweet tea. This is my absolute favorite dish, and I get it every time.
Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to this restaurant. While the food was still good, I’ve discovered even better options since then. While it’s still a good restaurant, it’s no longer my favorite.
This restaurant ties for first place with Provino’s. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever eaten at, but it’s also more expensive than other places I frequent, so I don’t go as often. I usually order one of their three primary $20 dishes – the seafood trio, ultimate lobster, or something else on the menu. However, my absolute favorite dish is one of their sides, the Lobster Linguine. I order it every time I come here. The atmosphere is great, and I enjoy dining here as much as I do at Provino’s.
Second Rate Italian Restaurants (Scalini’s/Magianno’s)
I want to clarify that I don’t mean any disrespect by calling these restaurants “second rate”. Both of them are still among my favorites, but they’re not my absolute favorite Italian restaurant. I’m always happy to eat at either of these restaurants, but I usually choose based on what I’m in the mood for at the time.
At Maggiano’s, there is one pasta dish that I really like, but I’ve been having trouble remembering exactly which dish it is lately. When I go there now, I usually try different dishes to see if I can find the one I loved so much. I’ll be very happy when I finally remember what it was.
Both of these budget-friendly restaurants are among my favorites, but I don’t go to them as often as I used to. I’ve had bad experiences at O’Charley’s with a manager at one of the locations, so I stopped going there for a long time. And while I used to frequent Applebee’s a lot, I got tired of it after a while, especially after the alcohol fiasco they were involved in.
My new favorite list is short and sweet. I absolutely love Gus’s Restaurants, which includes Marietta Fish Market, Marietta Diner (which is my least favorite of the four, but still good), Cherokee Cattle Company, and Pasta Bella. These restaurants are owned by a great guy named Gus, and they quickly became my top favorites. I visit Marietta Fish Market and Cherokee Cattle Company the most, but I occasionally go to the others as well. The food is excellent, and the people, including the managers, create a great environment.
Chili’s is also now my all-time favorite place, which is a big change from my “Do Not Go” list. I explained why in that list, but now I cannot get enough of this place. The people, food, and environment at the specific location I visit are all amazing.
That’s about it for my Restaurant Breakdown list. I may revise it in the future if more restaurants come to mind. Hopefully, my list can help you when trying to decide where to go. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of all the restaurants I’ve been to, so I may add more in the future.
Other blog posts that are archived on my website can be found here.
A list of some of the top restaurants to go with my Restaurant Breakdown can be found here.