Consumer Reports rates restaurant chains

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Joe Torres has more on Consumer Reports' findings.

Nearly half of every dollar budgeted for food is spent eating out, and much of that money will be spent at table-service restaurants where diners can sit down and be served.

So where should you be eating? Consumer Reports surveyed nearly 70,000 readers about their experiences at close to 240 restaurant chains -- from diners to fine dining -- to help you find the best meals and deals.

"Diners want a sure thing when they go out to eat," Consumer Reports Tod Marks said. "They want to have a clean restaurant, tasty food and good value."

For contemporary fare, both Hillstone and Seasons 52 stand out for food and ambiance.

Seasons 52 boasts a seasonal menu, and while it's not inexpensive, it is one of the few restaurants topping the ratings where you can grab dinner for $40 or less.

For a truly great steak, regardless of price, try Capital Grille. But dinner there runs roughly $64 per person.

You'll spend less than half that at Longhorn Steakhouse, but you give up a bit on service and ambiance. Still, their food bested several other chains, including Outback.

"It's all about expectations," Marks said. "People aren't necessarily looking for the same thing in a $20 meal as you are in a $60 meal."

Dave and Busters serves up plenty of arcade fun, but they're at the very bottom of the ratings for ambiance, service, value and food.

If you are dining with kids, standouts include Cracker Barrel, Ruby's Diner, Islands Fine Burgers and Drinks and Rainforest Cafe.

In the end, there are plenty of choices to keep most diners happy.

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