Best Chain Restaurant - 2008
If you're sick of Jared and his eternal fat-gram count, head to any of Penn Station's sixteen locations in the St. Louis area. The chain was founded by a Buckeye who took a tour of east-coast sub shops and endeavored to bring home the best elements: sizzling Philly cheesesteaks and fresh-squeezed lemonade, like you might find on some beachfront boardwalk. We're not sure why Penn Station's Ohio-born founder chose to name his restaurants after the place in New York where you catch the Amtrak and New Jersey transit trains, but whatev. The word to keep in mind about this chain is not "authentic," but "tasty." In keeping with east-coast style, Penn Station's bread is toasted. While it is the foundation of a menu chock-full of comfort food, it stands on its own as incredibly flavorful and satisfying. The outside is flaky, while the soft inside is dense, buttery and very filling. This bread can be topped with peppery cheesesteak, of course, as well as ham, corned beef, turkey or Italian deli meats. For the vegetarian, there are artichoke hearts, or just cheese. Then there are the fries. Cut fresh from potatoes stacked under the counter and cooked skins-on in peanut oil, the fries alone give reason to forsake all other sandwich joints. Unlike the so-fast-you'll-freak guys, Penn Station's operation is centered on the grill, so you gotta sit down and wait a minute for that piping-hot sandwich/bomb. You'll always find sports playing on the tube, and the only in-house advertising on the walls consists of testimonials drawn up by local students. In the words of one full-bellied devotee: "Penn Station Rox My Sox."