Dine-In Chains That Serve Surprisingly “Gourmet” Food

Not every restaurant needs to win a James Beard Award in order to be considered gourmet. For many, the notion of what constitutes “gourmet” is a subjective opinion as wildly varied as bread baskets and drive-thru preferences. Sure, tasting menus take top billing when it comes to gourmet go-tos and special occasion meals—but you needn’t take out a loan and indulge in a multi-course degustation to experience something refined, comforting, and special. And that’s where dine-in chains come in for many Americans.

Despite having locations spread across the country, some dine-in chains ascend to gourmet glory for all kinds of reasons, be it nostalgia or culinary surprises. Even professional chefs can’t resist the all-American appeal of the comfort food served at some of these places. While certainly not all dine-in chains can be categorized as gourmet, just like fast-food guilty pleasures, these are certain brands that serve surprisingly above-and-beyond cuisine.

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For Pace Webb, co-founder and founding chef at sandwich-slinging Daddy’s Chicken Shack in Houston, dine-in comfort is all about nostalgia. “I’ve always been a fan of House of Pies,” he says. “Growing up in Houston, it was a perfect late night spot. My order is always the same to this day: a slice of Bavarian chocolate mousse pie and a side of cottage fries.” Doubling down on nostalgia, Webb says he likes to actually dip his fries in the pie, conjuring memories of another iconic chain.

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