There comes a time in just about everyone’s life when they feel the urge to eat some red meat. Sure, a supermarket steak cooked in a frying pan might suffice, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of going to one of those big chain steakhouses. We’ve come to depend on these places for a good steak and a cold beer, enjoyed in a comfortable and just-boisterous-enough atmosphere, with an overall experience that leaves you full and content. From sea to shining sea, it’s our right to have unrestricted access to chain steakhouses, darn it, and for that reason we set out to find out which are the country’s best.
There are two very different types of chain steakhouses, and for today’s purposes we’re ranking only one of them: the casual chains. While both Outback and Ruth’s Chris specialize in steak, they couldn’t be more different otherwise, so comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. Comparing Outback to LongHorn, on the other hand, well that’s something worth exploring.
So when you think "chain steakhouse," what comes to mind? Odds are it’s a rustic, masculine, most likely wooden building, emblazoned with an eye-catching, brightly lit logo. Inside, there’s a bar with some TVs, plenty of comfortable seating, maybe some cattle paraphernalia on the walls (or boomerangs, in the case of Outback), neon beer signs, and a steak-heavy menu, obviously. But there are plenty of subtle differences, and no chain is exactly like any other.
To assemble our ranking of America’s top chain steakhouses, we took a look at all the steakhouses across the country with more than 15 locations, and ranked them according to the variety of steaks on the menu, the quality of the meat used, the overall dining experience and atmosphere, the quality and variety of side dishes and other menu items, and additional perks like lunch deals, charitable efforts, promotions, and efforts to go above and beyond, like mentioning when specific menu items are in peak season. We assigned each of these categories a point value, tallied them up, and at the end of the day there was one clear winner.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.