While turkey bears an overwhelming association with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the United States, the data shows that Americans do, in fact, love the meat of the large, feathered bird no matter the season. According to the National Turkey Federation, the United States is the world's leading turkey-producing country, with a reported 5.1 billion pounds consumed by its residents in 2021. Some of the largest contributions to that staggering number come from the millions of whole turkeys roasted during the holiday season, the stacks of deli meat from the grocery store we purchase for lunch box sandwiches, and the tasty turkey-based dishes found at some of our favorite chain restaurants.
From sit-down establishments to fast food joints, turkey meat can be found on many menus, and in many forms. While some will only offer the flesh of the mouthwatering fowl seasonally, others will continue utilizing it in select recipes all year long. But whether a dish is temporary or permanent, it goes without saying that some bites are going to be better than others. Here are some of the most talked-about chain restaurant turkey entrées ranked worst to best.
Read more: Fast Food Hamburgers Ranked Worst To Best
Golden Corral Carved Bone-In Turkey
For the most part, it feels as though buffet-style dining is a dying concept in the restaurant industry. However, Golden Corral has been holding strong to the idea since 1973 when it first opened in North Carolina. To this day, their business model remains the same: pay a flat fee, and choose from a seemingly endless array of meats, sides, salads, and desserts until you can eat no more.
And among the ample selections of hot food like roast beef, fish, or pizza, is -- you guessed it -- carved and roasted turkey. However, according to consumer reviews across the internet, there's not much about the restaurant's sliced bird to celebrate. The meat is often described as being flavorless, undercooked .... or even unavailable altogether. "Stopped in for my regular dinner visit," wrote a displeased customer on Tripadvisor. "Today I was very disappointed in choices. There was NO roast turkey. Every time I dine at GC there always is roast turkey." This experience was echoed in other reviews, as well, so given the overwhelming amount of negative customer feedback paired with the chance of it not being there to satisfy your craving in the first place, Golden Corral's carved turkey comes in dead last on our list.
Perkins Butterball Turkey & Stuffing Holiday Dinner
Perkins Restaurant and Bakery began as Perkins Pancake House all the way back in 1958 -- and over 60 years later, consumers still praise its baked goods and hot dishes. "LOVE PERKINS!!!!!!!" said a Facebook user on the company's page. "My favorite place, and now I have my granddaughter saying the same thing."
And among the meat dishes offered up during a dining experience at the establishment is the Butterball Turkey and Stuffing Holiday Dinner. As the name states, large slices of Butterball turkey are placed atop a bed of stuffing, poured over with gravy, and finished off with a dollop of cranberry dressing. While the holiday-specific version of the dish appears to be seasonal, a regular Butterball turkey dinner appears to be available on the menu on a year-round basis, as well. This is evidenced by a Yelp review in which a customer uploaded an image of a turkey-and-gravy dinner ordered from the popular restaurant in the summer month of August. Unfortunately, the reviewer had mostly negative things to say -- namely noting a lack of freshness in the dish. "Ordered the Butterball Turkey with 2 sides," the description reads. "Nothing made fresh here. All frozen." Sadly, this disparaging sentiment over the meat seems to be shared among many consumers, so when considering where to go get your turkey fix, there may be some better places to visit.
Bob Evans Slow-Roasted Turkey & Dressing
When we think about a classic turkey meal, a pile of creamy mashed potatoes comes to mind as the natural pairing. And at Bob Evans, an Ohio-based sit-down restaurant that began as 'The Steak House' in 1946, one can find a traditional plate of gravy-smothered meat, chopped celery dressing, steamed carrots, and a pile of warm, seasoned mashed potatoes sitting right next to it.
Though the Bob Evans Slow-Roasted Turkey & Dressing appears to be available all year long, it harbors many mixed reviews. While some consumers describe it as being an overall decent meal, others have negative things to say. One user even took to the site to declare that the chain had used lunch meat, as opposed to freshly roasted turkey, on his entrée due to a shortage. "I've enjoyed Bob Evans turkey with dressing and mashed potatoes many times," the review on Tripadvisor reads. "Last night [...] the turkey was all curled up and appeared like they had used turkey lunch meat instead of roast turkey. [...] the manager arrived and explained that they had no roasted turkey available to serve at this time." While we're sure this bizarre happening is the exception and not the rule, based on overall feedback, it would appear that the Bob Evans turkey dinner is nothing to go out of your way for.
Panera Bread Turkey Chili
Panera Bread started as the humble St. Louis Bread Company out of San Francisco in 1987, and today there are over 2,000 locations spread across 49 states. While the chain has an extensive list of breakfast offerings, it is also renowned for its lunch menu full of sandwiches, salads, and soups ... and one of these liquid-based dishes is the Turkey Chili.
As the name states, the recipe's stand-out elements are the chunks of turkey stirred in with sauce, kidney beans, and whole chickpeas. While it offers a unique way to get your turkey on this holiday season, many consumers aren't entirely sure that you should. On a Reddit post in the Panera subreddit, consumers and employees alike engaged in a discussion regarding the recipe, and nearly all expressed some serious qualms over the chili's spicy taste and scent. One alleged worker divulged that it was cumin causing the potent smell -- and agreed that the recipe requires a far too heavy-handed sprinkle of it. Another commenter compared the chili's smell to body odor, while another brought up an interesting and thought-provoking theory as to the discontent surrounding the soup. "Paneras customer base skews towards a certain demographic," they suggested. "Idk if they can handle spice." All in all, if spicy is your thing, you might fare well with a bowl of this turkey-forward recipe. If not, you may want to consider skipping it.
IHOP All-Natural Roasted Turkey
Because of the chain's name, many associate IHOP (which stands for International House of Pancakes) with breakfast food -- but that is far from the only thing it serves. While stacks of syrupy creations can certainly be found on its menu, so can a full-scale list of savory lunch and dinner dishes. One of these is a modest turkey dish known simply as the All-Natural Roasted Turkey, and at only 310 calories, the dish presents the opportunity for a lighter, healthier take on a holiday meal.
But when it comes to consumer reviews, the plate loses some serious points. Interestingly, though, this is not because of the turkey itself. It is the dish's sides that appear to present the biggest issue for consumers. One thread on Reddit displayed a picture of the poster's meal ... which had been served with a steam bag still wrapped around their side of broccoli. The meat, however, appeared appetizing -- as was pointed out by users on the thread. Another reviewer who ordered the same dish called their mashed potato and dressing sides "commercial," but went on to praise the taste of the meat itself. It seems that, if juicy-tasting turkey in and of itself is your end goal, it might be worth it to give IHOP's version a try -- despite the overwhelming chance that the sides may let you down.
The Cheesecake Factory's Factory Turkey Burger
The Cheesecake Factory is one of those places that, because of the specificity of its name, many don't realize comes with a full-scale restaurant and an all-day extensive menu of delicious hot foods. Alongside choices such as avocado tacos, flatbreads, fried cauliflower, or shrimp pasta, there is a burger destined to call the name of turkey lovers everywhere.
Cue the Factory Turkey Burger -- a patty composed of the lower-calorie, lower-fat ground turkey meat which is topped with generous avocado slices and fresh arugula before being spread with aioli sauce and placed in a brioche bun. According to consumers who have tasted the treat, it is an absolute slam dunk if done right. However, there appears to be a lack of consistency when it comes to the burger dish. One user on Facebook on the company's official page noted, "Sometimes this burger is awesome; other times it is dry. I've stopped ordering it because of the inconsistency. When it's prepared right, it's unbelievably delicious." The fact that the best version of the delicacy may not be presented every time has to place it somewhere in the middle of our list -- but, if you do go the non-traditional route by going for a turkey burger at The Cheesecake Factory this holiday season, our fingers are crossed you get your hands on a juicy one.
Applebee's Clubhouse Grille
Many of us probably have fond childhood memories of celebratory or post-sporting event dinners with family, friends, and teammates at Applebee's. The restaurant, which got its start in Atlanta in 1980 and grew to become a household name, offers a consistent menu across locations -- making it a dependable stop for families who rely on their kids' favorite staples being available.
One of these staples is the long-standing Clubhouse Grille, a melty, cheesy sandwich stuffed with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ample slices of turkey. A filling meal acceptable for both lunch and dinner, the loaded sandwich comes with mixed reviews, compelling us to place it in the middle of our list. Some consumers on platforms like Reddit express nothing but love for the culinary creation — others, however, not so much. One user was so displeased when their Applebee's order was brought to the table, they snapped a photo of the particularly ill-prepared Clubhouse sandwich and uploaded it to the website for the world to see. "That's a sadwich," joked a responding Reddit user. While it stands to reason that you may be able to snag a better turkey-infused dinner elsewhere, there is some positive buzz surrounding the sandwich, too. We'd say you've got a 50/50 chance at receiving something that appropriately satisfies your turkey craving if you do end up at an Applebee's this season; whether you take the risk is up to you.
Arby's Roast Turkey & Swiss Sandwich
Every time you see an Arby's sign, it's hard not to hear its famous catchphrase playing in your head. The fast food joint with the commercials stating "we have the meats" is over 3,400 locations strong in the United States, and offers up a number of hearty, savory sandwich creations. On its menu, you'll find options for burgers, wraps, and sandwiches stuffed with chicken, beef, and yes ... even turkey.
One of the most well-known of these turkey-loaded creations is the Roast Turkey and Swiss Market Fresh. Multiple layers of oven-roasted slices are sandwiched between fresh bread along with tomato, onions, lettuce, mayonnaise, and Swiss cheese. All in all, this pick is pretty beloved by consumers -- and when a sudden turkey shortage caused Arby's to discontinue it for a time earlier this year, shock waves were felt throughout the restaurant's fan base. Multiple online threads were created by heartbroken consumers inquiring about the missing sandwich, with many employees reporting that their locations were having trouble acquiring turkey. Thankfully, the meat stock has returned to normal in time for Turkey Day, and the online Arby's menu once again lists the coveted Roast Turkey and Swiss. Given its positive reviews and all-the-time availability -- except during a bird shortage, of course -- we rate this one fairly highly on our list.
Denny's Turkey & Dressing Dinner Bundle
Little do many modern consumers know, Denny's actually began as Danny's Donuts in 1953. Over time it morphed into the familiar sit-down restaurant we know today, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a 24-hour, 7 days a week basis. And come November every year, a popular seasonal meal returns to the chain's menu: a classic Thanksgiving-dinner style dish known as the Turkey & Dressing Dinner Bundle.
While this one can be ordered in advance for take-home on Thanksgiving day, it can also be eaten in-house at the restaurant. The meal includes carved meat, bread-based stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and an additional side of the consumer's choosing (such as corn or mac and cheese). It's a very traditional turkey take -- and according to those who've tasted it, a delicious one, as well. Consumers, who rate the dish highly across the board, react positively when the news of its renewal is announced every year. "That's always really good. I wish they served it all year," said a customer on Reddit of the seasonal plate. We have to agree.
Cracker Barrel Country Fried Turkey
In Tennessee in 1969, a legend of a restaurant was born. Cracker Barrel, which started as a simple country store and roadside stop-in, has become renowned not only for its rustic home decor products, but also for its restaurant section, which serves hot meals from sunup to sundown. And on its current dinner menu lies a seasonal mouthwatering dish calling for its turkey to be served up a little differently than in the more commonly-done roasted style.
Cue Cracker Barrel's Country Fried Turkey, the star component of which are two massive breaded and fried turkey fillets. Topped off by a flavorful gravy and plated with biscuits, corn muffins, or cranberry sauce, this crispier take on the popular seasonal meat comes highly coveted by reviewers. "Highly recommend the country fried turkey," said a user on a recent Reddit post, echoing the overall consumer feel. "I do it every year." However, the only downside to this delicious dish is that it is only available during the holiday season. So, if you're hoping to sink your teeth into some crunchy deep-fried turkey, you'll have to make a point to do so quickly.
Panera Bread Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
While it remains a sad reality that many of our beloved turkey dishes will only be available during the time of year when consumption of the bird is most prevalent, this next one wins some points due not only to its deliciousness, but its all-year-long availability. Panera offers a ridiculously yummy sandwich on its permanent menu known as the Bacon Turkey Bravo -- and if you haven't yet tasted this meaty masterpiece, you need to put it on your list.
Described as being both fresh and filling, the bite seems to be nearly universally loved by consumers -- a difficult feat in the culinary industry, to be sure. "Bacon Turkey Bravo from Panera," reads the title of a recent post on Reddit. The poster follows up with no words -- just a beautiful photo of the amazing-looking assembled sandwich, which speaks for itself. "That's my fav from panera," said a responding user. "The sauce on it.... chefs kiss." If you're considering a sandwich as a way to tick your turkey consumption box this holiday season, Panera's take is a definite safe bet for an enjoyable experience.
IHOP Homestyle Turkey & Stuffing Melt
Let's be honest; stuffing is often the very best part of turkey day. That's why this next Thanksgiving-inspired dish coming to the masses out of the kitchens of IHOP is a genius pairing of flavors. A traditional Thanksgiving meal turned into a sandwich that makes everyone's favorite side -- the stuffing -- the star? We're here for it.
As it turns out, so is the rest of the consumer base. IHOP's Homestyle Turkey & Stuffing Melt is trending on TikTok, and it's not hard to see why. Roasted sliced turkey and cornbread stuffing are stacked up and held together by a sweet berry sauce and melted cheese. Add a spread of mayonnaise, caramelized onions, and some grainy bread, and you've got all the classic flavors of Thanksgiving sandwiched together in one bite. One reviewer from the Orlando Sentinel claimed that this unique creation was one of the best restaurant Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches they'd tasted. Oh, and it comes with a little cup of gravy for dipping, in case you thought the recipe couldn't get more perfect.
Cracker Barrel Thursday Turkey N' Dressing
At the end of the day, there's nothing like a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The combination of turkey, gravy, potatoes, green beans, cranberry, and stuffing simply sings to the American palate. The problem is that finding both a traditional and good-tasting plate is nearly impossible if you're not in the fall and winter months.
But at Cracker Barrel, there is hope. That's because a practically flawless rendition of a classic Thanksgiving meal exists, and it exists all year round. In the Thursday Turkey N' Dressing, we find both the presentation we know and the flavors we recognize ... but the best part is that it is a permanent resident on the menu. Every Thursday, customers have the opportunity to dine like it's Thanksgiving dinner -- and a delicious dinner, at that. The meal itself boasts practically unanimous positive feedback from tasters everywhere. "Thursday Means Turkey and Dressing!" reads a five-star review, while another Tripadvisor user praises, "You can't go wrong ordering turkey and dressing on Thursdays [...] The price is reasonable and you can get turkey, dressing, cranberries and sweet potato casserole." Once the holiday buzz wears down and you find yourself craving the taste of the season past, pencil in a stop at Cracker Barrel on a Thursday evening for a taste of perfect nostalgia.
Read the original article on Mashed.