The more my wife and I travel from coast to coast, the more we appreciate the fact that there are many outstanding restaurants outside our hometown of Chicago. And many of them, contrary to what you've probably hard, are members of restaurant chains. Remember when people said you should avoid hotel restaurants? And you shouldn't eat at restaurant chains, right? Wrong. There are lots of restaurant chains in this country, some based regionally, and most of them are very good. For example, my wife and I have visited several LongHorn steakhouses in Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia and we've had nothing but good experiences. One of the best was at the LongHorn location at 7070 West Forest Preserve Drive in the Norridge Commons section of Norridge, a Chicago suburb. Founded in 1981 in Atlanta, Georgia, LongHorn has nearly 500 locations, primarily in the Eastern United States, and specializes in a Western/Texas theme. We discovered LongHorn in Florida a few years ago and were pleased to discover that there are nine locations in the Chicago area. Enter a LongHorn dining room and the movie "Giant" comes to mind. Everything is Texas-big, from the bar to the booths to the ceilings to the paintings to the Old West memorabilia to the oversized menu. At least the waiter didn't open with a "Howdy, partner" greeting. We started with Wild West shrimp and shrimp and lobster chowder and LongHorn Caesar salad and roasted tomato basil soup. My wife chose one of LongHorn's favorites, hand-breaded chicken tenders, while I opted to sample a Big Sky burger, shaved American Kobe steak with Gruyere cheese, crispy onion straws, arugula and steakhouse sauce served with parmesan truffle fries. More than a mouthful. For dessert, we shared a Chocolate Stampede, six types of chocolate in peaks and layers with vanilla bean ice cream. LongHorn, which is headquartered in Orlando, Florida, paints itself as an upscale restaurant with a low key approach to fine dining. Whatever it is, it works. It's a steakhouse that delivers with ribeye, T-bone, New York strip, filet mignon, porterhouse and sirloin. But it also satisfies customers with ribs, shrimp and chicken. It's hard not to like a place like this.
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