Nearly half of every dollar budgeted for food is spent eating out. And much of that money is spent at table-service restaurants, where you can sit down and be served. So where should you be eating?
Consumer Reports surveyed nearly 70,000 readers about their experiences at close to 240 restaurant chains, from diners to fine dining, to help you find the best meals and deals.
For contemporary fare, Hillstone and Seasons 52 stand out for food and ambience.
Seasons 52 boasts a seasonal menu. It’s one of the few restaurants topping the ratings where you can grab dinner for $40 or less.
For a truly great steak regardless of price, try Capital Grille. Dinner runs about $64 per person. You’ll spend less than half that at Longhorn Steakhouse. You give up a bit on service and ambience, but the food out scored several other chains, including Outback.
For families, Dave and Busters serves up plenty of arcade fun, but it’s at the very bottom of the ratings for ambience, service, value, and food. If you are dining with kids, standouts include Cracker Barrel, Ruby’s Diner, Islands Fine Burgers and Drinks, and Rainforest Café.
Overall, most people think they don’t get great value at chain restaurants. The Consumer Reports survey did find that people are much more likely to feel they’re getting a “bang for their buck” at independent restaurants. Nearly 60 percent of people said the value they get at local restaurants is either very good or excellent.