America's Favorite Casual Restaurant Chain Slings Pretty Decent Calamari, Actually

Each year, a customer experience management company called Market Force Information releases its restaurant Composite Loyalty Index, a complicated-sounding name for what is essentially a survey about Americans' favorite restaurants. And topping the list this year is Takeout-approved, calamari-slangin' suburban Italian stalwart Maggiano's Little Italy.

The chain has for five consecutive years topped the Italian restaurant category, and this year won top honors in both the "best food" and "best value" categories. The survey's methodology consists of polling more than 6,700 geographically diverse Americans and asking them "to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a casual dining chain, and their likelihood to recommend it to others."

Maggiano's was the setting for The Takeout editor (and former newspaper food critic) Kevin Pang's lightning-bolt realization that hey, suburban chains needn't be the objects of our derision. It all happened over a plate of fried calamari: "What it told me was the kitchen had probably cooked 50,000 orders and can nail a perfect plate of fried calamari in their sleep. Cookie cutters may be boring, but they are consistent. ... Look at the endless bread, olive oil, and parmesan! Mushroom ravioli al forno sounds dee-licious."

Other high scorers on the list also confirmed some reigning Takeout favorites: Blaze Pizza, a newcomer to Market Force's list, ranked number among pizza restaurants, as guests seem pleased with its pick-your-own-toppings setup, healthy options, and fast service. So who's struggling? Last year's top winner, Bonefish Grill, this year tumbled four spots in the overall rankings. May we suggest Bonefish up its fried-squid game?