The independent restaurants you should try next time you fancy Nando’s or Pizza Express

Whether you stroll into Pizza Express with your head held high, or you shuffle into Nandos hoping nobody will clock you, we all occasionally succumb to the charms of a chain restaurant. Speaking of Nandos – it was voted Preston’s best restaurant in the local business awards. Whatever that means to you, it also reveals that people love a bit of casual, no-frills dining – especially if it involves perinaise.

The thing is, when it comes to chain restaurants, you know what you’re gonna get. The menu is the same across the board, the hygiene has to be top notch and you don’t have to book. What’s more, they’re usually family friendly. You can just stroll in when you’re hungry, grab a colouring in sheet for the little one and order your favourites with no fuss. For some diners, that’s a deal-breaker.

But you know what? Lancashire is full of talented chefs, making delicious food with beautiful local produce. Choosing somewhere new can be daunting, but when you’ve got independent alternatives like these, it’s worth taking the plunge. To make it easier, we thought we would help you out by making a list of the best Lancashire-based alternatives to everyone’s favourite chain restaurants so you can enjoy the food you love, and support independent businesses while you munch.

Like Pizza Hut or Pizza Express? Try these.

Stefani’s – Blackpool

There’s nothing quite like the crisp crackle of a traditional, hand-made, thin-crust Italian pizza, made in a wood-fire oven with a base that’s just recently been thrown up in the air.

Of course, Pizza Hut has the almost-irresistible buffet lunch option, and yeah, you can get salads there now but quality and quantity are certainly not the same thing. At this Blackpool pizzeria you get much more of the former.

Proper Italian pizzas at Stefanis (Image: TripAdvisor)

Stefani’s also provide a fantastic and varied selection of Italian wines and beers plus the added option of Calzones which Pizza Hut doesn’t do.

The Moorbrook – Preston

Authentically wood-fired pizzas made from scratch in a traditional, yet sympathetically updated local pub. They’re well-known locally as being some of the best pizzas around, and unlike those chain pizza places, they use fresh, local ingredients.

While you can get a beer at Pizza Express, you can bet you won’t be able to choose from a wide selection of cask and craft beers by independent breweries from all over the country. At the Moorbrook, you can.

Sun Pizza – Lancaster

There’s that word again: “Authentic”. But at Sun Pizza, they really are. Stonebaked, handmade pizzas thrown right in front of you, made with classic authentic ingredients. There’s a happy hour too, from Tuesday through to Friday.

You’re not missing out on a Pizza Hut style buffet here either. If you’ve got a larger party to cater for, or just a big family, book in advance for unlimited pizza. If we could make those words sparkle, we would.

Like Nando’s? Try these.

Chickanos – Blackburn

If you’re always in the mood for a cheeky Nando’s, you probably love a tender bit of well-spiced chicken, an incomprehensible number of sauces within arm’s reach, and a decent array of sides. It’s a winning combo. That’s why so many of us love the chain so much.

However, if you love Piri Piri chicken and have ever felt underwhelmed by Nando’s version of the dish, we would highly recommend Chickanos in Blackburn. They might be a small chain now, but they are still all about the Piri Piri chicken. They use 100% British chicken and pride themselves on making some seriously good burgers, wraps and grilled delights.

Plus they have some tasty and killer salads that taste like they were made with care, as well as a generous dash of dressing.

Piri Piri Grill – Ormskirk

Everything at Piri Piri grill is cooked on a real charcoal grill. Everything. This is a faithfully authentic Portuguese restaurant serving the trans-continental spicy chicken we all know and love, with a whole other range of delicious Portuguese dishes to try from too.

Food from Piri Piri in Ormskirk
Food from Piri Piri in Ormskirk

If you fancy the chicken, go for it, it’s really good. But if you fancy something a little different, you can be sure it’s not just going to be corn on the cob or roulette wings. Unlike Nando’s, Piri Piri Grill’s A La Carte menu offers traditional cured ham, sardines, steaks, stuffed peppers and belly pork. There’s a lot to get excited about here.

Like Costa Coffee? Try these.

Exchange Coffee – Blackburn and Clitheroe

Exchange Coffee has some of the most knowledgable staff in the coffee biz behind their vintage counters. With café-shops in Blackburn and Clitheroe, this local business roasts their own beans, and has a vast selection of coffee and tea varieties to choose from.

If you’re not sure what you want, that’s when Exchange comes into its own. While in Costa you might get looked at funny for saying “medium” when you mean “primo”, at Exchange Coffee you’ll get a run-down of each coffee’s flavours and aromas, if you like.

Exchange Coffee Company
Exchange Coffee Company

Or you can just order a really, really good cup of coffee to drink in or take out.

About Coffee – Colne

There’s so much debate about whether chain coffee houses have got the real love of coffee beans at heart but with this place there’s no question.

Freshly ground coffee, plenty of quiet drinking spots and fabulous homemade cake – with vegan options too –  makes About Coffee one of the best places to grab a brew in the north west.

No Filter – Lytham St. Annes

A new coffee shop in town with a load of fresh ideas. Lytham St Annes is packed with great places to enjoy a cup of coffee and a scone, but No Filter (or #nofilter as they prefer to write it) is keen to offer something a little different.

Coffee beans ranging from the traditional to the unusual, it’s less traditional seaside tearoom and more trendy artisan coffee house. But don’t worry, if this sounds a little hipstery to you, it’s still got bags of personality and the team of baristas are a friendly bunch. Try the cakes too.

Atkinson’s – Lancaster

Atkinson’s have been roasting coffee from the same spot on China Street for 180 years, so you could say they know a thing or two about a decent cup of coffee.

They really, really care about the quality of their coffee, so by all means ask questions before you buy. They’ll be glad you care too.

If you don’t want to ask anything, that’s fine too, of course. Just enjoy one of the best brews you’ve ever had, made by one of the most highly regarded coffee importers and roasters in the country.

Like Toby Carvery? Try These.

The Calf’s Head – Worston

This countryside inn at the foot of Pendle has a Sunday carvery that’s well worth the scenic drive.

It’s so popular that you’ll need to book in advance, but when you get there you’ll soon see why. It’s a homely sort-of place with friendly staff and comfy chairs and your food is served plentifully and without the sort of Sunday-rush stress you get at a chain restaurant.

On the menu is fresh bread, a choice of starters, three roast meats on the carvery (usually chicken, beef or pork but often lamb if it’s in season or readily available) and plenty of veg, plus a choice of desserts – all for £12.95 a head. Can’t say fairer than that.

The Ram’s Head – Longton

Run by local restauranteur family business Green Crab Pubs, The Ram’s Head is known by locals in the know as the best carvery in town. Perhaps even the world.

Cooked with the finest meats from local farmers, fresh vegetables and, of course, roast potatoes, this carvery spread is an all you can eat offer. And they stress this as being literally true. You can keep on eating until you’re full. All this is available for £7.95 (kids £3.95).

Like Bella Italia? Try these.

The Italian Orchard – Preston

We could spend three or four paragraphs just talking about Italian Orchard’s incredible wine selection alone, but then we would miss out on telling you about their food.

Yes Bella Italia offers decent enough dishes served quickly, but if you want an authentic Italian meal that isn’t just about giant pepper mills and Dean Martin on the stereo, then Preston’s Italian Orchard is for you.

The decor is almost as good as the food (Image: TripAdvisor)

Their huge menu includes cosmopolitan dishes like Medaglioni Stilton as well as true Italian classics, so there’s something for everyone every time you visit.

Ripasso – Darwen

Ripasso is a newly-opened family Italian restaurant that focuses on traditional dishes done well. And if you know Italian food, that means they don’t mess with the classics. When they taste this good, you know they don’t need messing with.

Pizza calabrese - the daydream interrupter
Pizza calabrese – the daydream interrupter

Delicious pizzas, authentic homemade pasta dishes and a proper old-school tiramisu is all you need, in our opinion. When it comes on a set menu that comes all-in at under a tenner, it gets even better.

Terra Nostra – Blackpool

Family run since 2006, Terra Nostra offers a menu that covers Italian and Sardinian flavours. So, expect a lot of fish, shellfish and delicious Sardinian cheese alongside more classic dishes.

Pizzas are made on site and the seafood is chosen each day fresh from the market by the chef – so you’ll have to take a look at the specials board to find out what’s good on the day you visit. Just like on holiday!

Like Chiquitos? Try these.

Cinco’s Mexican Restaurant – Poulton-Le-Fylde

Complimentary nachos, giant burritos and incredible cocktails. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better Mexican place in the wild wild (north) west, so the next time you get the urge to go to Chiquito, take a detour, and try Cinco’s out instead.

Their whole deal is seriously good Mexican food, made authentically with fresh ingredients. Not a can of nacho cheese sauce in sight.

The menu is updated regularly with a plethora of new dishes and ideas so it’s ideal if you’re the sort of diner who likes to try something different each time. Don’t worry though – your favourites aren’t going anywhere.

Fuego’s – Southport

This Spanish-Mexican crossover restaurant gives you the absolute best of both worlds. Love tapas? It’s perfect. Fancy enchiladas? De nada!

It’s got a cosy ambiance and friendly feel, so about as far away from a giant, impersonal Chiquito as you can get, and the cocktails are great too (and half prince on Thursdays…)

Fuego’s, Southport

They cater for parties, just like Chiquito, and all your Mexican-Tex-Mex favourites are on the menu. And it’s a local restaurant. What’s not to love?

Like KFC? Try these.

Quattro – Preston

Like KFC, Quattro is the type of place you head to when only salty, greasy goodness will do. Unlike KFC, the food is freshly made to order, the salads are crisp and tasty and if you’re in the mood for something a little different, they’ve got a whole menu aside from fried chicken too.

Food from Quattro

And have we mentioned the sauces? You need those sauces.

Freddy’s – Blackburn

Freddy’s actually comes in on this list under two headings – they make great fried chicken and burgers too.

Styled like an American diner, you can get crisp fried chicken wings and strips, chicken burgers and wraps, just like KFC. They also do a range of sides like loaded nachos, and a host of different sauces if you’re that way inclined.

Like Five Guys? Try these.

We Don’t Give A Fork – Preston

We Don’t Give A Fork in Preston is a burger-based revelation. All their burgers are made from select cuts of premium beef, and they even claim the meat they use is so local “it talks with a Preston accent.”

On top of the delicious burgers you get fresh, crispy salad, melty, delicious cheese including halloumi, mozzarella and even vegan cheese to match their chickpea, sweetcorn and courgette burger.

Food at We Don't Give a Fork
Food at We Don’t Give a Fork (Image: Luke Beardsworth)

There’s even a choice of bread for your bun – Sesame brioche, pretzel, poppy seed bun or a gluten Free Bun.

Ellis’s – Burnley

Ellis’s is the type of place you go to when you’re really, really hungry. A vast selection of freshly made burgers tops a menu full of waffles, hot dogs and shakes, and they aren’t just your standard burger-cheese-lettuce leaf-bun affairs either.

Here you can choose “amped” burgers, topped with anything from smoked bacon and fried halloumi to doritos, fries, frazzles and beer battered onion rings. If you fancy a fancier french fry, you can also choose to make them “dirty”, adding melted cheese, bacon, baconnaise, guacamole and… well anything else you can think of, really. Bring on the menu. And a bib.

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Author: Eric