Maybe your friend is obsessed with Cheesecake Factory. Maybe your kids scream for nuggets every time you pass Chik-fil-A (we don't blame them), but you don't exactly agree with their politics. Maybe you're just in one giant, chain-restaurant-filled eating rut.
We've urged you to step away from the big chains in lieu of local alternatives once before in our first Like That Chain Restaurant? Try This Local One Instead post.
Well, we're back at it again with another chance for you and your loved ones to try something new and support the community at the same time.
Check out these local alternatives to popular chain restaurants:
If you like: KFC Try: Haven
After getting a taste of Haven, you'll never want KFC again. You can get a family-sized pack of Chef Randy Evans's heavenly buttermilk-fried chicken -- along with two pint-sized sides, six rolls with butter, and andouille cream gravy -- for $35. The restaurant even offers "Kirby-side" pick-up, which delivers the meal-for-four straight to your car, every day of the week after 5:00 p.m. Try sides like creamed mustard greens with tasso ham, fried green tomato croutons, or pecan-smoked bacon spaetzle alongside some of the best fried (or herb-roasted) chicken in town. Even better? The incredibly juicy and tender chicken is both free-range and organic...this is Haven after all.
Don't yell. Some people do love In-N-Out burgers despite there being a perfectly amazing, Texas-born-and-raised chain available all around town. It's no doubt because of their infamous double-patty burger, the Double-Double...but you don't have to leave town to get it. That's because Chef Chris Shepherd unknowingly re-created the burger at Underbelly.
Having never been to In-N-Out, Shepherd named his double-meat, double-cheese burger the "UB Double Double". That is, until the restaurant received a cease-and-desist letter from the California-based chain demanding a name change. Lawsuits aside, the " Cease and Desist Burger" is now available at Hay Merchant and occasionally during lunch hours at Underbelly (the menu changes often). And true to Chris Shepherd fashion, the lusciously legal burger is made with locally grown produce.
If you like: Subway Try: Spec's Deli
Skip the sad, limp sandwiches at Subway and "eat fresh" at Houston-owned and family-run Spec's Deli instead. Yes, the unlikely sandwich shop is located inside a liquor store, but we can assure you this deli whips out some of the best sliced-to-order sandwiches in town. Build-your-own sandwich or go with house favorites like the Reuben to Die for, stuffed with hot corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing; or the California Dreamin', with sliced turkey, Havarti, avocado, cucumber and sprouts. Both sandwiches are loaded with one-third of a pound of meat for a reasonable $7.99.
If you like: Chik-fil-A Try: Super Chicken
Good news! This homegrown chicken joint is just like Chik-fil-A, only better. That's because in addition to using fresh ingredients and being open on Sundays, they make a mean crispy chicken. Get the tenders on po' boys, in made-to-order salads, or order 3- to 6-pieces alongside dips like creamy horseradish and the namesake "super sauce". But the fowl play doesn't stop there; grilled chicken sandwiches, soups, and chicken salad round out the menu, while sides like jalapeño-studded Texas slaw and fresh broccoli salad with bacon, almonds, and raisins wow. And screw Chik-fil-A's wimpy waffle fries; Super Chicken makes the cross-hatched spuds in sweet potato form.
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If you like: Cheesecake Factory Try: Liberty Kitchen
Do you need options when dining out? Love a place with a larger-than-life menu, huge portions and fantastic desserts? Skip the played out Cheesecake Factory and head straight to the Heights' Liberty Kitchen.
In addition to a stellar selection of raw and wood-grilled oysters (take that Cheesecake Factory!), the restaurant offers a huge menu of Louisiana-New England hybrids -- including soups and gumbos; appetizers; big-bowl salads; fish, chops, beef, and chicken plates; sandwiches and burgers; mac and cheese; daily specials; vegetables and sides; and even an all-day breakfast plate. And that's before we get to the custard, shakes, and cakes and pie from local-favorite Petite Sweets. There is certainly something for everyone here.
If you like: Buffalo Wild Wings Try: Plucker's Wing Bar
Just like B-Dubs, Austin-import Pluckers is known for its expertly-fried chicken wings and spice-leveled, mouthwatering sauces. But unlike the nation-wide chicken chain whose sides and sandwiches often disappoint, Plucker's other offerings -- like stuffed jalapeños, Texas patty melts, or housemade mac' and cheese -- are just as delectable as the chicken. Get the wings bone-in or out and tossed in sauces like the medium-spiced Dr Pepper, sweet honey bbq, or super-flaming "Fire in the Hole". Add taps of local beer, plenty of seating, and a great TV set-up for watching the games and we have ourselves a winner.
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If you like: Panera Try: Local Foods
If you love Panera for its relaxed-and-easy combos of sandwiches, soups and salads, look no further than Houston-born Local Foods. But you won't find your typical sandwich-shop offerings here. Instead, you'll find truffled egg salad on a pretzel bun, scratch-made lemongrass chicken soup, or shrimp-and-pecan arugula salad -- all made with fresh, local ingredients.
Sandwiches range between $9 to $13 and come with the choice of two sides (think Tuscan kale with roasted pine nuts and a pistachio beet salad) or a soup. The selection of "mom's homemade" desserts and Texas-made beers and wines doesn't hurt, either.