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Food

LAist's Who's Better, Who's Best: Chain Restaurant Edition

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There's nothing like a chain restaurant to get the juices flowing.

In reality, LAist finds comfort in knowing that if we see a chain restaurant somewhere (no fast food joints, people) that we can probably get the exact taste we want just by ordering a signature dish we've had at another location of same said restaurant. I mean, isn't that what a chain restaurant is all about -- the same dining experience no matter where you go?

Uh, no.

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Today, we'd like to examine a few of the chain restaurants and tell you Who's Better, Who's Best. Because although all the corporate HQ's of restaurants would like to think that everything's the same -- in reality, they never are.

Marmalade Cafe: Located in Malibu, Calabasas, The Grove, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Westlake Village. It's the kind of soup & salad place that does up the high-priced dinner entres like Filet Mignon pretty damn well, and for a decent price. A comfortable and warmly inviting place, with friendly service and damn good hot bread rolls. Who's Best? There's no question that the locations in Malibu and The Grove far exceed the rest of the family. While Filet Mignon is juicy and perfect in those locations, places like Sherman Oaks and Calabasas leave something to be desired.

El Torito Grill: Located in Beverly Hills, Irvine and Newport Beach. It's that step up from fried-ice cream and chips and salsa that make the El Torito Grill the far better choice compared to its second-cousin El Torito. From homemade warm tortillas and salsas (they're free!) to lobster fajitas and unique Mexican creations -- it's the high-brow version of an El Torito Restaurant with a more upscale look. Sure, you may pay a little bit extra, but the food reflects the cost. Who's Best? Having eaten at all three, we must say that Newport Beach sits in a comfortable lead. Everything from the environment (which is laid out much better than the L-shaped B.H. location) to the quality of the freshly-made tortillas, to the Happy Hour crowd gives Newport Beach a decidedly-good lead.

The Cheesecake Factory: Everywhere. Really, they're like the Starbuck's of Cheesecake. Huge salads, huge portions, huge bread baskets. And huge lines. Who's Best? After sampling the dining experiences at 95% of the Los Angeles locations (Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, Woodland Hills) our decision is not only based on food, but on crowd-control (which is a huge deal with TCF). The Brentwood location garners a huge lead for a comfortable waiting environment that doesn't make you feel like herded cattle. An outdoor patio that actually doesn't feel like a make-shift one and a bar that's separated to feel like a bar gives the Brentwood location a huge lead over places like Sherman Oaks (where they still have yet to figure out how to get people in and out in a timely manner) and the Beverly Hills location -- where throngs of people clog the very-narrow entryway to just try and get their name on the list.

Have your own Who's Better, Who's Best? restaurant you'd like to plug? We'd love to hear from you here at LAist, where "if you've got an opinion, we want to hear from you as long as you're not a total whack-job."