5 Restaurant Dishes Worth Buying At The Grocery Store (And 2 You Can Skip)

Not all restaurant-to-grocery adaptations are created equal.

There are many reasons we might want to enjoy our favorite chain restaurant foods at home. Maybe we no longer live near a particular favorite. Maybe we are pressed for time. Maybe we'd just like to crack open a can of Wendy's Chili and watch Succession, thank you very much.

As one peruses the grocery store aisles, the logos of popular chain restaurants adorn shelves in the freezer section and inside aisles alike. But which of these branded products are worth it? I taste tested a bunch to find out.

My metric here was enjoyability first and foremost; next, I evaluated how close each product came to the experience of these foods in their natural dining room habitat. Here's what I found out.

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Although there is a lot of room for user error here—making the biscuits too big or small, baking them for too long or not long enough—at their core, I found these biscuits enjoyable and also quite close to the hard-to-resist signature biscuits at Red Lobster. I will say, though, that the process of making these was a little more involved than I was expecting. To follow the recipe on the box, you need a half a cup of shredded cheddar to throw in the mix and then a quarter cup of butter to brush on the top. The result was good, though. I'll buy these again.

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Panera Creamy Tomato Soup

You can find other types of Panera soup at the grocery store, but Creamy Tomato is my go-to when I eat at Panera for real, so I figured it was a good one to try at home. I was happy to find that the taste was very similar to what I've received at Panera itself. At home, though, I was woefully without the greasy croutons with which Panera serves this soup to dine-in customers. I did dip some of my Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits in it, which was a win.

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White Castle Cheeseburgers

These were a major win for me. They were pretty spot-on at mimicking the experience of White Castle's small fast-food sliders. The only snag I hit was that the box only provided microwave instructions, and I don't have one. I thought about putting them in the air fryer, but decided to wrap them in foil and throw them in the oven, which was already set to 425 degrees for my Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Wrapped in foil, they heated up perfectly in about 8 minutes, and the foil steamed them in such a way that resulted in a soft bun, melted cheese, and a delightfully warm burger.

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TGI Friday’s Jalapeño Poppers

I once made jalapeño poppers from scratch. I cut jalapeños, filled them with a cream cheese and cheddar blend, breaded them, and deep fried them. They came out great, but also, they came out tasting just like what you'd get from the box. To that end, if you're having a hankering for jalapeño poppers, these from TGI Friday's are a good bet. I put them in the air fryer instead of deep frying at home, and they came out great. Also, this particular box came with a raspberry habanero dipping sauce, which was delectable, and it reminded me of my favorite way to eat mozzarella sticks.

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I checked to see if Friday's serves its in-house jalapeño poppers with the raspberry sauce, and to my surprise, Friday's... doesn't have jalapeño poppers on its menu. Still, these are in the spirit of what you might get as an appetizer there (or at any of the many similar establishments we all frequent).

P.F. Chang’s Dan Dan Noodles

I was skeptical about these noodles, because I assumed that frozen noodles were going to be mushy. I was incorrect on that point—in fact, these noodles had the best consistency of any Asian-style noodle I've made at home. They were a bit firm and totally wonderful. The dish itself had a little bit too much sauce for me; I may try to making this again and remove some of the sauce before cooking.

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This was an easier meal to prepare than other frozen dinners I've made. There were no separate little packets inside the larger package to add at particular times. You just empty the entire bag in a pan, cover and cook for a few minutes, and then cook uncovered for a few minutes more.

Olive Garden Salad Dressing

Ugh. I wanted to like this so badly, because as we all know, there's nothing quite like that bottomless salad at Olive Garden. I assumed this was going to be the exact same stuff served in house, but either it isn't, or I'm in a different mindset when I'm at Olive Garden itself. This had an artificial tang to it that I couldn't quite overlook. Even just as a basic Italian dressing, it was not my jam. This, sadly, is one you can skip.

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Krispy Kreme Doughnut Bites

I am a big fan, generally, of the packaged doughnut. The Entenmann's pack with the cinnamon, powder, and old fashioned all lined up in a row? Yes, please. And Country Kitchen's individually wrapped donuts of the same ilk are a total win. So I really went in with an open mind as I tasted these Krispy Kreme Doughnut Bites, but I have to say, they really fell short. They tasted stale, despite being sealed. They were a far cry from getting Krispy Kreme treats in person, which have always been very fresh, in my experience. There are definitely better packaged doughnut products out there, and you should opt for those instead. Skip this branded product and go to a real Krispy Kreme, if you're lucky enough to live by one.

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