My, such variety...
I mean, the poll choices are all fast food or comfort food. Obviously there's no way a multiple-choice poll can cover the spectrum, but I feel like there's a whole lot of stuff that falls rather unfortunately into "other" - any nice
restaurant, for instance. And almost any sit-down restaurant.
No mention of Thai, Indian, or even good Italian places?
My recommendation: my girlfriend and I have spent a lot of time going to chain restaurants - these can be fun places but at the same time we as a result have been overlooking some incredibly good places on Main St. in my town - we've got an Italian restaurant that was established in Boston's North End (plus a couple more Italian restaurants there that we haven't tried), a fairly nice Indian restaurant that just moved in there a year or two ago - and then old standards like the Thai restaurant near my office.
These places are slightly less convenient (the places in my town don't have their own parking - you need to use municipal (free) parking about a block away) and they're usually busier than the On The Border or Papa Razzi - but the price for a good meal there is just a bit more than the chains and it's better food. Comparing the meal from an Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill to a good North End restaurant reveals a pretty stark contrast. On The Border compares similarly - it's tasty stuff but overall it's really not so great, especially for the price. If you go to a chain sit-down restaurant you'll pay a sit-down restaurant price (plus tip) for what is essentially assembly-line food. It's still a step up from "family restaurants" and diners and such and it's less hassle than going to a small place - but consider what you're paying for. Homogeny, basically, the promise that good or bad you'll always get the same thing. Whereas with smaller restaurants you have the potential for the food and service to be better - or worse - than average. So don't get drawn in by chains too much. Explore the other options. That's my advice.
(My girlfriend and I have also spent a lot of time exploring the nacho options at various places. It's like a little hobby of ours. Lots of places serve nachos and a lot of them aren't very good at it. Chili's serves you a plate with like 12 chips on it, but each one is individually cheesed. We don't go to Chili's anymore. OTB is surprisingly inept at nachos given that they're a Mexican place. Applebee's can make decent nachos, but they use cheese-whiz-type sauce by default, and tend to be stingy with real cheese if you ask for it. I think Cheesecake Factory made decent nachos, but that place is always busy. Best nachos we've had so far were at a Mexican place in Boston - again, these nachos were about the same price as you'd pay at Applebees, Chili's, OTB, etc. for nachos, but the results are much
better. And think about that: how do you screw up nachos
? It's tortilla chips with melted cheese and stuff on top...)
Oh, there is one chain I do like, though I don't go there so much these days: California Pizza Kitchen. My girlfriend and I love that place, but she can't eat there anymore (celiac disease - she can't eat bread, wheat, oats, pasta, etc. unless they're gluten-free. And even apart from their pizzas CPK has absolutely nothing she can eat.)
And about food courts - even these have a range of quality that's greater than you might expect. There's a small chain of Indian places in the Boston area, for instance: "Gourmet India" - very good for mall food. They're a little inconsistent sometimes (their Palak Paneer has disappointed me from time to time) but on average it's quite good. And being able to take a casual stroll to the mall and snack on Chana Masala, Nan, and a Lassi - beats the hell out of a toasted sub, chips, and a Dr. Pepper, you know?