In America, we like to think we have all of the best restaurants out there. While our classic go-to’s like McDonald’s and Burger King are in fact, iconic, there is a whole new world of restaurants all across the globe that we have yet to discover. It’s time to pack a bag and visit the Top 10 Restaurants We Wish We Had In America. (Part 3)
10. MAX Burgers, Sweden
Everybody loves a good burger. They’re juicy, greasy, and a comfort food staple in many parts of the world. We might have a lot of burger chains here, but one that is surely missing from our repertoire is MAX Burgers. The Swedish burger chain has been around since the late 1960s and is one of the first chains to have opened in Sweden. The two founders, Curt Bergfors and Britta Andersson, opened their first restaurant in Gällivare, high up in the northern part of Sweden, and it was an immediate success – and we understand why. Not only are their burgers ridiculously tasty and have had top results when it comes to taste tests around the country, but they’re also considered one of the healthiest fast-food chains. MAX Burgers started offering low-fat products while simultaneously reducing the amount of fat, sugar, and salt while only using quality and natural fresh ingredients to create their burgers. Plus, you won’t be able to find any Genetic Modified Organism (GMOs), transfat, antibiotics, or growth hormones. Whether you fancy hamburgers, chicken, fish, or even vegetarian alternatives, you can find it all at MAX Burgers. They say their success comes from their own secret recipes, product development, production process, and outstanding food handling. Needless to say, this is why we wish we had that thoughtful chain over here in America!
9. Flunch, France
A buffet is arguably one of the best ways to eat lunch. You get to pick whatever you like – and how much you’d like without having to worry about all the extra costs. It’s also the perfect way to try new things you would normally be too afraid to try. Flunch is a cafeteria-style fast-casual restaurant chain from France that’s been open since the 1970s. While it’s not your typical buffet, it’s still pretty darn close. We can only assume that the name “Flunch” is a witty play on words with “lunch” and “fast-food,” but in any case, it revolutionizes the fast-food experience. You can visit one of their 200 locations for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and can even get them to cater your next birthday party or business meeting. Flunch has a food selection you could only dream of. You’ve probably heard great things about French pastries, about how they’re so flaky, warm, and delicious, well, you can get as many as you want at Flunch. They also offer their famous grilled meats menu and a lot of American-style food options. But of course, they do serve some classic French dishes that are yummy enough to make you get up for more. The prices are low, but the quality is more than high. It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of Flunches around America; you can never have too many options when it comes to cheap and tasty food.
8. AlBaik, Saudi Arabia
What we wouldn’t do for fried chicken. It’s probably one of the most popular fast-foods these days, and we’re all guilty of indulging in a stripped white-and-red bucket every once in a while. However, there is more to fried chicken than our regular Popeyes and KFC. In Saudi Arabia, they have taken the game to a whole new level by opening AlBaik, one of the best and beloved fried chicken chains. The fast-food gem has been up and running for almost 50 years and has over 100 locations. They serve up some typical fried chicken meals and chicken burgers but also offer fish filet sandwiches, seafood, and French fries. While here in America, we might brag about our colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices, at AlBaik, they have a secret recipe with a whopping 18 ingredients, so you can only imagine how flavorful the chicken must be. With its quality chicken, AlBaik has created quite the following in Saudi Arabia. So much so that some vendors will buy tons of chicken and drive across the country to places that don’t have a franchise and sell it out of their cars – otherwise known as the “AlBaik Chicken Run.” Now, if they’re willing to drive around all through the country, how hard could it be to get some on a plane so we too can enjoy some of that delightful chicken.
7. Noodle Box, Australia
The name says it all: it’s a generous amount of Asian-style noodles all in a box – cardboard style. It might sound like a simple enough concept without any real “fancy” components, but rest assured, this is nothing like the cup noodles you would eat during your college days. Noodle Box is Australia’s largest and most loved Noodle brand and has over 70 locations all across the country. Headquartered in Melbourne, it was first founded almost 25 years ago when two Aussies traveled to Southeast Asia and decided to bring the flavorful aromas back to Australia. At Noodle Box, you can get noodles of all kinds and have them specially made just for you. You can have them with shrimp, teriyaki chicken, Mongolian beef, and even honey chicken, with loads of hearty vegetables and locally-made signature sauces. They believe in celebrating the best of homegrown, market-fresh ingredients, all the while delivering authentic dishes packed with intense flavors and fresh crunch. Their primary mission – besides serving quality food – is to inspire nostalgia of the bustling Southeast Asian street markets and bring it to their Australian kitchens – and perhaps, one day, to American kitchens. Who wouldn’t want a box of these noodles after that?
6. Lotteria, East Asia
At first glance, Lotteria might seem like your typical McDonald’s copycat. It’s a large chain that serves up fast-food burgers, so it would be a fair assumption to make. But, looking past the obvious resemblance to the Golden Arches, Lotteria is nothing like anything we know. Lotteria is widely present across major cities of East Asia, like Seoul and Tokyo. The first location was actually in Tokyo, and dates all the way back to the early 1970s. Since then, the chain has franchised in South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Lotteria serves the typical fast-food items such as burgers, french fries, and all things chicken = like fried chicken and chicken wings. Again, this might seem like your plain old fast-food joint, but there’s a little twist: since it’s an Asian restaurant, it goes without saying that the flavors are all of Asian influence. You can get squid burgers, a fried shrimp burger, and even bulgogi burgers – not exactly the kind of menu items you would commonly find at your local American fast-food place. While shrimp burgers have been brought to us by different chains over the years, the original belongs to Lotteria. They developed it in 1977 in the hopes of appealing to the Japanese palate, and it was an immediate success. It would be a bonus to get to try these flavors here; we can only wish Lotteria decides to expand a little more!
5. Swiss Chalet, Canada
We might be really close to our neighbors from the Great White North, and we may share a lot in common, but they’ve got something that we don’t – the delicious casual dining restaurant called Swiss Chalet. The Canadian chain was founded way back in the 1950s and has slowly but surely expanded over the years. With over 200 locations today, it’s safe to say it is still very much beloved by Canadians. The first Swiss Chalet was opened in Toronto, but the signature chicken was first introduced in Montreal by a man named Maurice Mauran. What makes Swiss Chalet so special is the quality of the food served. They only use fresh, grain-fed, preservative-free, Canadian raised chickens and a very small amount of salt before putting them in the rotisserie ovens, where they self-baste for 90 minutes before being served – always hot and juicy. But they don’t only serve chicken; they also offer some of the most delectable smoky BBQ ribs. They marinate for over 24 hours after being dry-rubbed with Swiss Chalet’s signature mesquite spice. They’re then slow-cooked and brushed with a tangy BBQ sauce. Pair the chicken and the ribs together as a combo, and have one heck of an iconic meal! Sure, crossing the border to enjoy some Swiss Chalet shouldn’t be too much of a hassle, but wouldn’t it even better to have one right across the street? For now, however, you’ll have to make the trip in order to try these heavenly-sounding delicacies.
4. West Cornwall Pasty, UK
When it comes to pasties, America doesn’t know a lot about the traditional English dish. These little turnovers filled with a wide variety of meats, vegetables, and sauces are still pretty much untouched territory in our typical fast-food restaurants. But just because something is foreign to most of us doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a fine addition to our regular menus. West Cornwall Pasty would be a good place to start our training in the art of pasties. It’s a fast-food chain from the United Kingdom, and it has specialized in making and selling pasties since 1998. It’s a relatively new chain and not too spread out yet, but it still has built quite the reputation for itself – mostly thanks to their great attention to detail and the unmatched freshness of their food. At West Cornwall, they hand make their pasties every single day to ensure top quality. Obviously, they make the classic Cornish pasty, but they also offer some vegetarian options as well, a very thoughtful move on their part. And, gluten free pasties are also available, which ensures that basically anyone can enjoy a pasty, worry-free. Pasties might not be the most popular dish out there, but they sure sound like something that could hit the spot any time of day.
3. Steers, South Africa
Again, burgers are pretty much the most-beloved fast-food item there is and it seems like no matter what you put on it, it’s always going to be delicious. One of South Africa’s largest and most recognizable burger chains, Steers, is known to serve some out-of-this-world, flame-grilled burgers, and has been doing so since the 1960s. The first Steers restaurant opened in Highlands North, Johannesburg and there are now over 600 locations in places like Namibia, Zimbabwe, and even the UK. The menu looks like a standard fast-food menu, but the chain is best-known for serving 100% Pure Beef Burgers, hand-cut fries and ridiculously thick shakes. On top of that, the buns are baked daily, the lettuce is sourced locally, and the cheese is real cheddar. They also serve other very delicious items like flame-grilled chicken, flavorful ribs, tons of hand-cut fry variations – like jalapeno, bacon, and cheese – and a very reasonable selection of desserts. But what they’re really famous for is their burgers and fries. The burgers and fries at Steers are so great, that they have won several Joburg awards for Best Burger and Chips. The fries have won at least 3 times while the burgers took the title about 20 times! If that doesn’t prove just how amazing Steers is, then what will!
2. Hoka Hoka Bento, Japan
If there’s one thing missing from the American food culture, it’s got to be the bento box. Very big in Asian countries, bento boxes are a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal of Japanese origin. While we can find some bento boxes in America thanks to Japanese restaurants, Hoka Hoka Bento makes the real deal. Affectionately known as HokBen, Hoka Hoka specializes in compact meal combos, with endless possibilities. You can get your fix of dumplings, popcorn chicken, stir fry, gyoza, and almost anything else you can think of. While this is originally a Japanese fast-food chain, it’s actually headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia, so the menu has been adapted to be more suitable for Indonesians taste. An example of that would be the addition of stronger flavors and spicy foods. HokBen’s serving arrangement is set similar to a high school cafeteria, in which you move along a line with a tray to collect the items that you want to eat. Kind of like McDonald’s, the kids menu includes a toy, which is something we’re all fairly familiar with. Over the years, Hoka Hoka has became the largest Japanese fast food chain in Indonesia, and who knows, maybe it could become the largest one in America too, if we gave it a chance!
1. Royal Castle, Trinidad And Tobago
If you want to experience some real tasty chicken, then all you have to do is wish for Royal Castle to make its way to American soil. In the meantime, you’ll have to visit the outlets in Trinidad and Tobago to enjoy these exquisite flavors. Royal Castle was first opened on Frederick Street in Port of Spain in the late 1960s and today, there are over 37 locations – nearly all on the island. Royal Castle is the only fully locally owned fast food restaurant in Trinidad and Tobago. The menu includes a lot of locally sourced ingredients – notably for their chicken recipes – spices, sauces, marinades and salads. However, the recipes are a closely guarded secret, so there’s no way of recreating any of these dishes – not for a lack for trying, though. You can pretty much get anything you could possibly want, like fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, flying fish sandwiches, and even veggie burgers. You can also enjoy their famous french fries, coleslaw, and potato salad – which you can ask to be “upsized,” if you want an even bigger meal. It’s also important to mention that Royal Castle has no relation to the Miami-based chain of the same name. This one belongs to Trinidad and Tobago and we really want it here!