While we are far from lacking a variety of national restaurant and fast-food chain options in the Lehigh Valley, isn’t there always room for more?
Whether you want a quick bite or a casual place to dine and relax, we found 17 dining options we wish would open their doors in the Lehigh Valley.
But if you can’t wait, we also let you know where you can travel to find the nearest location.
With more than 250 menu items (yes, there really are 250 dishes on the menu) and more than 35 signature cheesecakes and desserts, there has to be something for even the pickiest of eaters at The Cheesecake Factory.
According to the website, the Cheesecake Factory story begins in the 1940s in Detroit. Evelyn Overton found a recipe in the local newspaper that would inspire her “original” cheesecake. In 1978, her son, David, opened the restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif. Today, there are nearly 200 restaurants worldwide.
What it is: Small plates and snacks; appetizers, meats, brunch items, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, burgers, salads and desserts.
Nearest locations: Bridgewater, New Jersey; Willow Grove, Pennsylvania; Lawrenceville, New Jersey; Rockaway, New Jersey; and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
The Minnesota-based eatery got its start in 1994, serving barbecue in Wisconsin. It was started by David W. “Famous Dave” Anderson, a former assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the Department of Interior. Today, there are more than 180 locations across more than 30 states, as well as three international locations.
What it is: Authentic BBQ in a live-wood smoker stoked with genuine hickory logs. Pitmates hand-rub the meats with a custom blend of spices and slow cook for hours to extract natural flavors, the website states.
Nearest locations: Mountainside, N.J.; Cherry Hill, N.J.; there are two locations in Philadelphia; and seven locations in Maryland.
A quick-service Mexican grill since 1990. The restaurant is known for handmade and farm-fresh items and no cans, microwaves or freezers.
What it is: Tacos, burritos, taquitos, salads and sides
Nearest Location: Trevose, Pennsylvania; and Ocean Township, New Jersey.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill is an Italian restaurant brand founded in 1988. The eatery is known for its “open kitchen” concept, in which patrons can watch their meals being prepared. There are more than 40 locations in 15 states.
What it is: Italian-American fare. Think appetizers, pastas, pizza, sandwiches, meat and desserts. Wine pairings also are available.
Nearest location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A staple for those living in Cincinnatti. Founder Nicholas Lambrinides opened the first location overlooking the city’s skyline in 1949. Lambrinides prided himself in using secret recipes for loyal customers, according to the website. Today, there are more than 150 locations in four states.
What it is: A chili fiesta matched with salads. Popular is the “cheese coney,” a hot-dog on a steamed bun with chili and mustard and topped with diced onions and a mound of cheese. There’s also the 3-way, which is a concoction of streaming spaghetti topped with original secret-recipe chili and a mound of shredded cheese. These choices are often paired with a Greek salad.
Nearest location: Ohio
The eatery dates back to 1968 when a small taco stand opened in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was then bought by two businessman, Harold Holmes and James Woodson in 1969. It was named after the first man to buy a franchise — John. Today, there are 400 restaurants in 23 states, but none in Pennsylvania, making it one of the largest Mexican quick-service restaurant brands nationally.
What it is: Mostly meat and potato burritos, potato oles, nachos and taco burgers.
Nearest locations: three locations in Ohio; and one location in New York.
An Italian-American restaurant founded in 1991 in Chicago. Chefs draw inspiration from authentic Italian recipes, such as homemade spaghetti or spumoni just like “Nonna” used to make, according to the chain’s website.
Today, there are about 54 locations in about 22 states.
What it is: Appetizers, soups and salads, pasta, chicken, steaks and veal, seafood, sides, desserts and drinks.
Nearest locations: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; and Bridgewater, New Jersey
This burger joint has 334 locations in six states, but none in Pennsylvania.
Harry Snyder introduced California’s first drive-thru stand in 1948 at Baldwin Park — near Los Angeles. The eatery prides itself in using fresh, not frozen patties; no prepackaging or over-processing; or additives, fillers or preservatives. “We make things the old-fashioned way,” the chain’s website states.
And regulars know the eatery’s “Not-So-Secret” menu has become one of the worst kept secrets ever. You can find it here.
What it is: A place for a quick burger, fries and drink.
Nearest location: Texas
Founder Harmon Dobson wanted a burger so big, it would take two hands to hold and have patrons exclaim, “What a burger!,” according to the website.
And he created just that in 1950 at his first stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Today, there are nearly 800 locations in 10 states, spanning Arizona to Florida.
The company is known for creating 36,864 burger combinations on its menu.
What it is: Gigantic burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, breakfast items, fries and drinks.
Nearest location: Alabama and Georgia
The first restaurant opened in 1985 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Former federal prosecutors Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax founded the chain with a vision to combine fresh high-quality ingredients to form hearth-baked pizzas, according to the chain’s website.
Popular pies include the “Original BBQ Chicken,” “Thai Chicken,” and “Hawaiian.” All pies are cooked in an open kitchen concept. Today, there are more than 250 locations in more than 30 states and 11 countries.
What it is: Unique pizza pies, appetizers, sandwiches, pastas, salads and soups.
Nearest locations: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania; King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; and Bridgewater, New Jersey.
Based in San Diego, Jack in the Box includes more than 2,200 restaurants in 21 states and Guam. It was founded by Robert O. Peterson, who opened the San Diego location in 1951. It’s also known for its semi-scary mascot, Jack, a man with a round-head and painted smile.
What it is: A place for breakfast, burgers, chicken, fries, tacos, shakes and salads.
Nearest location: Ohio
An Asian-themed United States casual restaurant that opened in 1993 by founders Philip Chiang and Paul Fleming. One of the chain’s secrets is its scratch-cooking approach, according to the chain’s website. Since inception, P.F. Chang’s chefs have been hand-rolling dim sum; hand chopping and slicing all vegetables and meats; scratch cooking every sauce; and wok-cooking each dish; every day in every restaurant, the eatery says.
Today, there are more than 210 locations in the Unites States, including in airports, and more than 95 restaurants in more than 25 countries.
What is it: Appetizers, dim sum, sushi, sides, salads, chicken, beef, shrimp, spare ribs, noodles, rice, vegetables and desserts.
Nearest locations: Warrington, Pennsylvania; Collegeville, Pennsylvania; Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania; and Princeton, New Jersey.
An American doughnut house and coffee shop founded in July 1937 by the late Vernon Rudolph. Rudolph bought a secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe from a New Orleans French chef, rented a building in what is now historic Old Salem in Winston-Salem, N.C., and began selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts to local grocery stores, according to the chain’s website.
A highly popular doughnut — the heart shape — was crafted in 2000. Today, there are an estimated 1,000 shops worldwide.
What it is: An old-fashioned doughnut and coffee shop, featuring doughnuts, coffee and specialty drinks.
Nearest location: Bensalem, Bucks County; Havertown, Delaware County; Scranton, Lackawanna County; Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County; Collingswood, New Jersey; Springfield, New Jersey; and various New York sites.
An American restaurant and bar chain founded in 1972 and based in Leawood, Kansas. The chain cooks from scratch and offers “crazy delicious” craft cocktails, according to the chain’s website.
Restaurants feature design-forward finishes and architectural elements and a custom, curated playlist that changes monthly; many locations feature display kitchens, original artwork, and patios designed for social lounging, according to a news release.
Today, there are more than 35 locations in 15 states.
What it is: Appetizers, burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches, chicken, steaks, meatloaf, seafood and desserts, along with an everyday wine and cocktail selection.
Nearest location: Bridgewater, New Jersey; and Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania; Hershey, Pennsylvania; and Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
This chain began in New Jersey in 1966 when three local businessmen wanted to serve high quality meats to patrons in a restaurant setting, according to the chain’s website. It is known for having an extensive salad bar.
Today, there is a lone location left in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. At the beginning of 2020, there were 14 Charlie Brown’s restaurants in the Garden State, a number that has dwindled with each passing month. A company spokesman this past November told NJ Advance Media the coronavirus pandemic was the main cause.
What it is: Appetizers, steaks, chicken, salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches, ribs, seafood, desserts and drinks.
Nearest location: Scotch Plains, New Jersey
An upscale seafood restaurant chain founded by George Berkowitz in 1950. Berkowitz opened a fish market in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass., next to to his father Harry’s grocery store, Legal Cash Market, according to the chain’s website.
By 1968, the Berkowitz family opened its first seafood restaurant, next to the fish market. The fish was simply prepared, either broiled or fried, and served on paper plates at communal picnic tables. The slogan became, “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal!,” the website states.
The early success led to further expansion and ultimately led PPX Hospitality Brands, another Boston-based restaurant company and the parent company to Legal Sea Foods Restaurant Group Inc., to acquire the corporate facility, Quality Control Center, and 23 restaurants, as of December 2020.
What it is: More than 40 varieties of fresh fish and shellfish; appetizers, surf and turf, lobster, chowder, fish and chips, salad, sandwiches, sides, and desserts.
Nearest location: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania (currently temporarily closed) and Short Hills, New Jersey
Headquartered in Athens, Georgia, childhood pals Zach McLeroy and Tony Townley started the chain in 1990. The restaurant is known for its wings and chicken fingers and for putting a “Z” on everything, such as “zappetizers” and “zalads.” Its mascot is a chicken.
Today, there are about 900 locations in 17 states.
What it is: Chicken sandwiches and platters, salads, wings, fries, desserts and drinks.
Nearest location: Virginia
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.