Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Six Best Chain Restaurants in St. Louis

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Page 2 of 2

Lion's Choice (multiple locations)

It remains a mystery to us how national success has eluded Lion's Choice, while the vastly inferior Arby's can be found all over. Our gain. The chain's signature roast-beef sandwich is fast-food perfection precisely because it doesn't taste like watery fast-food meat. Instead, the thinly sliced beef tastes like a roast you might have prepared yourself -- even better, it's ready in a matter of minutes, not hours.

click to enlarge KELLY HOGAN
  • Kelly Hogan

Penn Station (multiple locations)

The sandwiches are the third-best thing at this Cincinnati-based sandwich chain. The first reason to go here are the fries, thick-cut and cooked (for the second time, after a proper blanching) to order. Second-best is the freshly squeezed lemonade. Then come the sandwiches. If only third place were always this delicious, whether you favor a combo of Italian cold cuts or the almost Philadelphia-worthy cheesesteak.

And the Best of St. Louis 2011 "Best Chain Restaurant" is...

Yia Yia's Euro Bistro (15601 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield; 636-537-9991)

To call Yia Yia's a chain feels a bit like sacrilege. This is no cookie-cutter feeding trough with cutesy drinks and heat lamps and servers who address you as "bro." The only thing "chain" about Yia Yia's is the fact that, yes, there are multiple locations (although you'd have to go to Kansas City, Little Rock, Wichita or Denver to find another one). You won't see the Sysco truck backing up to Yia Yia's -- instead, you'll find a menu brimming with the freshest seasonal items, sourced largely from local producers. Foodie favorite Benne's Best Meat in St. Charles County provides the restaurant's chicken; tender grass-fed beef comes from Fruitland American Meat in Jackson, just north of Cape Girardeau. All of the seafood on the menu is sustainable. The only thing that outshines Yia Yia's ethos is the skill with which the kitchen turns out dishes. The specifics change from season to season -- as is only appropriate for a restaurant that touts its local cred -- but you're sure to find fare that is delightfully inspired and beautifully presented, like this summer's pairing of grilled Hawaiian wahoo with local mushrooms, heirloom beans and roasted potatoes, all tossed in a vinaigrette featuring truffles and summer corn. The scallop risotto is heavenly, packed with bay scallops abetted by smoked pork belly, garlic chives, bell peppers and summer squash. The service is genuinely friendly, the expansive patio divine. In sum, when you head for Yia Yia's, leave your preconceptions about chain restaurants at the door.

-- Yia Yia's blurb reprinted from the Best of St. Louis 2011 issue

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