8 American Restaurants we want to See Open in Toronto

Shake Shack (Image: Flickr/ Shinya Suzuki)

The rise of American eateries expanding their success into the six kicked off with the recent addition of Potbelly Sandwiches, and on the heels of the announcement of Nobu’s impending arrival and Drake weaving his love for the soon to open The Cheesecake Factory in the fall, it seemed highly appropriate to create a list of demands, a wish list of American chain restaurants we want to see in Toronto.

Being the economic hub of an entire nation, and the most diverse city on the planet, Toronto, lends itself well to be the guinea pig for new restaurants looking to expand north of the 49th parallel.

With that, here’s our list of American chain eateries we’d love to see open in Toronto.

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Pei Wei
Headquartered in the US, but technically an international restaurant, with locations in Dubai and Kuwait, Pei Wei would be a welcome addition to the city with their Pan Asian offerings. We may be holding our breath a while on that one, after their parent company P.F. Chang’s was mostly mocked after opening at Shops at Don Mills and Lawrence, lasting only a year before slinking back south. Pei Wei’s fast casual concept, with gluten free offerings, would make a better fit for grab and go grinds.

Pei Wei(Image: Instagram/@peiweiasianeatery)

This chicken shack specializes in mildly spiced Cajun chicken, like a Popeyes that actually tastes good. Based out of North Carolina, this franchise boasts more than 600 locations, with breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings. The menu features chicken in every imaginable format- sandwiches, bites, and tenders all paired up with biscuits, grits or Bo-Tato rounds, which look like nuggets but taste like potatoes. Toss some curds and gravy in the mix and we are already lining up out the door.

Shake Shack
If rapper Tupac was west coast In-N-Out, then Biggie would be the notorious Shake Shack. Based out of NYC, this chain of burger restaurants makes delectable smash patty style burgers, slightly loose on consistency, which results in a greasy-two-napkin-to-soak-all-the-juices up situation. A recent pop-up at Momofuku in Toronto was like a scene out of a Justin Bieber sighting- a queue down the street, and ravenous burger fans drooling all over themselves. Fingers crossed we get our own little shack in the near future.

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Shake Shack (Image: Instagram/@shakeshack)

King of California, In-N-Out Burger is the reigning champ of cheeseburgers, dominating the west coast with over 300 locations serving up the bare basics- burgers, fries, and shakes. Feeling adventurous, add cheese or another patty. You won’t find any chicken or fish sammies here, it’s all straight up 100% USDA ground chuck, served on a lightly toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and their special ‘spread’. Sometimes too many choices are a bad thing.

Olive Garden
This one cuts deeper than Target bailing on us. Olive Garden was once a shining star in the 90’s with multiple locations all over southern Ontario (and still operating now in Western Canada). But we all failed this beautiful garden of cheesy salads and endless breadsticks. Maybe we ate too many? Maybe we didn’t eat enough. Either way, the never ending bowl of pasta has ended, but maybe if we all boycott East Side Mario’s, OG will once again reign supreme.

Olive Garden (Image: Instagram/@olivegarden)

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Tough to swallow including this chain, with its prehistoric views on gay marriage, but setting their ridiculous bible-thumping views aside, their sandwiches are impossible to beat, and their super-clean tidy locations, all decorated with real flowers on the tables and over-the-top friendly customer service is like nothing I’ve seen in fast food in T-O. Their condiment game is strong, with multiple sauces free and up for grabs, making your chicken nuggets (grilled or fried, you decide) a flavourful journey into double dipping.

Cracker Barrel/Honky Bucket
Part restaurant, part quaint southern gift shop, this wooden saloon-style eatery is consistently wholesome, making road trip stops mandatory at one of their 643 stores across the US. They even offer a books on audio program allowing you to borrow CD’s and return to the next restaurant – bonus points if your beaver panel station wagon has a CD player. With an all-day breakfast and country style menu with all the fixin’s (biscuits, gravy, dumplins), this mystical American franchise feels like a warm hug from Roseanne Barr herself.  

Cracker Barrel (Image: Instagram/@crackerbarrel)

Sonic Drive-In
Like something out of set of The Outsiders movie, Sonic Drive-In’s are a cheerful reminder that laziness is to be rewarded, with their fleet of servers coming car side to serve you their diner style deals. Hotdogs, burgers, and fries are to be expected, but you don’t go to Sonic for actual food- it’s all about the drinks and shakes menu. I don’t even know what a Master Blast® is, but I know I will live an unsatisfied life without ever having one.

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RELATED LINK: 7 of Little Italy’s Most Underrated Restaurants 

Which American restaurants do you want to see open in Toronto? Did we miss any? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewtheVibe

Libby Roach

Libby Roach

Libby Roach has been following Toronto's food scene since 2011, stalking chefs, overeating and indulging to bring you the best bites in Hogtown. You can follow her new food adventures over at AuburnLane.com
Libby Roach