Miami is not missing much. About 363 days of beach weather? Check. European tourists in Speedos plucking up overpriced designer items? Check. Damn near every taste, flavor, and kind of restaurant you can think of? Check.
There are, however, a few things we lack. Domestic restaurant chains that litter either the West Coast, Eastern Seaboard or the deep South often stop somewhere near Tampa or Orlando. They rarely make it to the Magic City. And when international chains hit the United States, they usually start off in New York or Los Angeles. In most cases, Miami is last on the map.
Wonder what we're missing out on? Here is a list of the top ten restaurants chains you'll have to catch a plane to catch a bite of.
10. Texas Roadhouse
Founded by a former manager at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Texas Roadhouse is known for featuring line dancing and serving a bucket of peanuts at every table. Though the second of now 67 locations is located in Gainesville, apparently Miami is too south -- or rather not "South" enough for the steakhouse franchise. Everything is made from scratch out of a menu that highlights cheese, mushrooms, and barbecue. The chain also hosts several cooking championships across the country featuring its ribs and steaks, which are sourced from Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods.
Yoshinoya is as legendary in Japan as McDonald's is on this side of the Pacific. Established in Tokyo in 1899, it is the country's largest chain of gyūdon (beef bowl) restaurants. The franchise has survived earthquakes, price wars with McDonald's, and even a mad cow outbreak. In the U.S., Yoshinoya has stores in California and Nevada. Stores were opened in New York City, Texas and Arizona, but closed within the same year of opening. No current aspirations of expansion are planned in the United States.
8. Famous Dave's
Dave Anderson, an Ojibwe Indian and former head of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, started the first Famous Dave's restaurant near Hayward, Wisconsin, in 1994. Today, the franchise has grown to over 200 locations in the Midwest and Canada. Inspired by ribs his dad brought to him as a child that were cooked in 55-gallon drums, Anderson is described as a "living and breathing barbecue encyclopedia." The Chicago native traveled all over Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Texas and stopped at barbecue meccas Memphis and Kansas City to perfect his craft. Dishes are a collage of barbecue tastes and styles from Anderson's voyages.
In 1950, Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson set out to "make a better burger that took two hands to hold and tasted so good that when you took a bite you would say 'What a burger!'" With 735 stores over the southern United States, looks like Dobson did pretty well for himself and his estate. (Whataburger shouldn't be confused with What-A-Burger, the San Antonio-based chain hit $1 billion in sales for the first time in 2007.) The menu features the original "Whataburger", the "Whataburger Jr.", the "Justaburger" (a Whataburger Jr. with only mustard, pickles, and onions), the "Whatacatch" (fish sandwich), the "Whatachick'n," and the very popular taquitos.
6. Potbelly Sandwich Shops
What started as an antique shop in Chicago has become one of the Windy City's most well known exports across the Midwest with over 275 stores. Potbelly's menu features a variety of sandwiches with high quality meats, cheeses, and veggies served hot on regular or multigrain wheat bread. Unique to the restaurant is the "thin-cut" style, in which one third of the bread is cut out and live music from local musicians during the lunch hours. The menu also includes very popular soups, shakes, malts, smoothies, and cookies.
5. Captain D's
Known originally as Mr. D's Seafood and Hamburgers, the first Captain D's was opened in Donelson, Tennessee, in 1969. Since then, the fast-casual chain's dedication to menu innovation and store redesign has helped the brand grow to 520 locations in 25 states primarily in the South and Midwest. The chain does a good job of pulling off the concept of affordable but tasty seafood, with full dishes that range from $4.95 to just $7.95 both grilled and fried. Recent years have seen the chain attempting to create a more "vibrant coastal experience and welcoming atmosphere."
We know what you're saying, "Italian fast food?" Though many have tried and failed, Fazoli's has come the closest to actually pulling off the concept. The Lexington, Kentucky-based franchise has 217 restaurants in 26 states, including north Florida (which is so drastically different from South Florida, we might as well secede). The menu features fresh and oven-baked pastas, as well as pizza, and classic "submarinos" with turkey, ham, meatballs, pepperoni, salami and provolone cheese.
3. Le Pain Quotidien
It may not be pronounceable, but Le Pain Quotidien sure is edible. Founded in Brussels in 1990, the international chain has over 200 stores in 20 countries and a strong presence in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.. The brand has a deep dedication to organic products in all its bread and cakes and features a homey, rustic service and style. In addition to many different kinds of bread, Le Pain also features soft-boiled organic eggs, organic steel-cut oatmeal, and homemade organic granola.
2. Papa Murphy's Take-and-Bake Pizza
Though you might mistake their commercial for a Seinfeld spoof of Papa John's, Papa Murphy's has managed to bring the buy-and-bake concept Kramer once dreamed of to life. The chain boasts over 1,400 franchised stores in 37 states, with 14 more in Canada and three in Dubai. Since its inception as a combination of Papa Aldo's Pizza in Hillsboro, Oregon and Murphy's Pizza of Petaluma, California, Papa Murphy's has enjoyed numerous accolades. It was voted "Best Pizza Chain in America" by Restaurants and Institutions magazine every year for nearly a decade. It has also snagged recognition from Pizza Today and Zagat.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. In-N-Out Burger
This is one of those food mysteries no one will ever figure out -- "What makes In-N-Out burgers so damn good?!" One unnamed patron in our last visit to Las Vegas may have had the secret when she said, "They must put crack in this shit!" Though you may not feel too strung out after enjoying the triple cheeseburger pictured above, you sure will be coming back time and time again to partake in the deliciousness. There have been faint rumors of the famed West Coast chain having snatched up five parcels of land here in Miami, but no right-turn arrows have been spotted from the familiar logo. All that's left is hope and prayer, or another trip to Las Vegas. Bummer.