You don't see food stories about chain restaurants in the newspaper all that often. But why not? Dallas-Fort Worth residents eat at chain restaurants all the time.
"Chains don't have to be uncool," says Nick Ouimet. He eats at chain restaurants a lot. Of course he does: He's dad to two little kids and the founder of four local Super Chix restaurants, the most recent of which opened in December near Stonebriar Centre in Frisco.
Before he opened his North Texas-based chain a few years back, Ouimet got the ultimate chain-restaurant experience working at Yum Brands, the company that operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.
"I know how hard it is to do something really good at multiple locations," he says. At Super Chix, for instance, his staff hand-cuts the french fries. It's a time-consuming move in a restaurant where time is money, but Ouimet thinks they taste so much better that it's worth it. "I think operating a chain is harder than doing one good restaurant," he says.
He has a point. If he likes chain restaurants so much — and since he knows how tough the business is — he offered up a list of his favorites in Texas, in no particular order.
"I just think the food is fantastic," Ouimet says of the Austin-bred chain that has made its way to D-FW in a big way. The queso at Torchy's was voted GuideLive readers' favorite in D-FW last year. Ouimet agrees. He also orders the Democrat and the Crossroads tacos. "Each restaurant seems to get better as they expand," he says.
The magic at gourmet eatery Eatzi's is that it feels like nowhere else. "I think they do a great job of creating an emotional connection with people," Ouimet says. "The food, the smells, the music. As soon as I walk in there, I get lost."
Yes, the owner of a chicken sandwich shop admires other chicken sandwich shops. Whistle Britches' first restaurant, in Far North Dallas, is a comfy, fashionable spot that sells pimento cheese and saltines; buttermilk biscuits; and fried chicken. It's a bit of a higher price point than Super Chix: "If we sold $10 chicken sandwiches and $14 chicken tenders, that's what I hope they'd taste like," Ouimet says. Whistle Britches has a new restaurant opening soon at the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano.
"I don't even like salads. I do not eat salads. But I eat at Snappy Salads three times a week," Ouimet says. This build-your-own salad shop has more than a dozen restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Mighty Fine Burgers Fries and Shakes
Are you up for a road trip? Mighty Fine Burgers Fries and Shakes is only in the Austin area, but Ouimet says it's worth the drive. And it sells hand-cut crinkle-cut fries, which Ouimet says "everybody loves." (He might be right.) "I'm surprised they don't have more stores," Ouimet says.
Sixty Vines comes from a restaurant group that has had no trouble with exponential growth. Front Burner restaurant group owns Whiskey Cake, Velvet Taco, Legacy Hall and many more restaurants. But it's Sixty Vines, with the original restaurant in Plano and a second opening any minute in Dallas, that is Front Burner's best, Ouimet says. The food is good -- at a good price -- and the wine selection is fun and approachable. "I think it's revolutionary," he says. "You sit in a parking lot next to the Tollway and feel like you're in Napa."
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
"Anything the Pappas folks do" is great, Ouimet says, speaking of the Houston brand with many offshoots. Seafood restaurant Pappadeaux is his favorite because "it's an old-school seafood restaurant that consistently delivers a classic menu and amazing service," he says.
In-N-Out Burger is not born and bred in Texas. But it got here as fast as it could, in 2011, when lines were dozens of cars long, made up of burger lovers testing whether the Cali brand should get to have beef in Texas. For Ouimet, In-N-Out is "the only real fast-food place that we go." He even picks it over Whataburger. (And no: He's not a native Texan.)
Ouimet's two boys say Dillas Quesadillas is their favorite place to eat. Dillas finds a lot to put between two tortillas besides cheese. The kids' favorite is the Lone Star, a quesadilla filled with brisket, barbecue sauce and jalapeño ranch. ("Makes me proud of my little Texans," Ouimet says.) The restaurant also sells french fries -- including some "drenched" in queso, says the website -- and has a secret menu. Dillas is currently located in Plano and Frisco; a McKinney outpost is expected to open this summer.
In an area crowded with quick pizza shops, Ouimet says Cavalli Pizza (with restaurants in McKinney, Irving and Lewisville) is tops. It sells Neapolitan pizza, which means pies cooked in mere minutes in a 900-degree oven. Ouimet likes it because it's a family-friendly spot. And "the ingredients are better than anywhere," he says.
Super Chix celebrates a grand opening at 3311 Preston Road in Frisco starting Jan. 19. As has become common with hype-worthy restaurants, Super Chix will give away freebies to fans. It starts Jan. 19 with free fries and continues with goodies like free custard shakes on Jan. 21 and free fried pickles on Jan. 22.