Many big restaurant chains give dirty money to right-wing, reactionary causes, We show you the places to eat hate-free!

Early last year, I found myself on a yacht off the coast of Isla Mujeres with a group of older adults far beyond my own socio-economic status.

The presidential primaries were ramping up and our evening was winding down – champagne had flowed freely and words came easier than they should have. One woman explained her voting strategy this way, no nuance, an open and shut case: “I vote with my wallet.”

What she was saying, in essence, was that regardless of political leanings, she was going to vote for the person that kept her Gucci wallet fat. Fair enough. We can do the same.

Since the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in which the Supreme Court deems corporations are treated as “people” under the law, more and more information has become available about which large corporations are donating to what causes. And, as we well know, they’re not always honorable.

Citizens United holds that corporations have the right to spend money in candidate elections, and that some may, on religious grounds, refuse to comply with federal mandates. Not good. But a happy side effect of this is that now we know which corporations are supporting hateful causes: which are anti-women’s rights, which are anti-LBGTQ, which don’t support labor unions.

Corporations aren’t required to disclose who they donate money to, but some of the causes they support are more than willing to “out” them, so to speak.

That means that we can vote with our wallets, too. We can choose which corporations to support and which not to, based on the money they’ve spent to support political causes we don’t. Many of these corporations are restaurants.

So thousands of dollars in tax cuts aren’t on the table for us, and maybe we only spend $10-$30 per person at these places, but collectively we can make a big difference. Luckily, there are plenty of spots around Central Florida owned by women, minorities and others who support causes that engender love. Not hate. Not oppression. Not inequality.

One caveat, though. It’s almost impossible to extirpate every conservative corporation from daily life. For example, Publix often wins Best Places to Work awards, offers stock options and health care to even part-time employees, actively hires disabled and elderly members of the community and also participates a lot of charitable giving. However, it buys some of its products from unethical sources – eggs from factory farms, beef from feedlots, shrimp from South Pacific slave ships. But to expect one never to buy groceries from Publix again isn’t realistic. Pick and choose which causes mean the most to you, and spearhead those.


ANTI-LGBTQ: Chick-fil-A

One of the most well-publicized political fights of the last 10 years was between Chick-Fil-A and its conservative company president, Dan Cathy. In 2012, Cathy said that the company was “guilty as charged” for giving money to lobbyists against same-sex marriage.

After plenty of well-deserved backlash – this country’s attitudes toward same-sex marriage have turned around faster than almost any social issue in play – Cathy said they’d reel in spending on those lobbyists and would accept any outcome, as well as extending the hand to the LGBTQ community in hiring practices.

It hasn’t worked that way, according to documents obtained by ThinkProgress.

In 2014, the charitable giving arm of Chick-Fil-A, called the Chick-Fil-A Foundation, distributed $4.3 million in funds to nonprofit organizations. Of that, one-quarter was given to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). The FCA imparts a strongly anti-LGBT message, forcing staff and volunteers to adhere to strict “sexual purity” standards, including the prohibition of “homosexual acts,” even for lawfully married couples.

GOP Republicans just can’t get enough of those fried chicken sandwiches either. During the summer 2016 congressional session, House Republicans spent more than $30,000 on Chick-Fil-A. Speaker Paul Ryan’s tab for two months: $2,500.


Seemingly, we’ve all been foiled by the Sunday-less hours of operation Chick-Fil-A keeps. Luckily, we’re in a town where there’s plenty of fried chicken seven days a week.

The Strand – You’ll squawk in delight over the Alabama-style fried chicken sandwich that makes an appearance on this boite’s rotating menu. 807 N. Mills Ave., Orlando, 407-920-7744,

Yard House – The Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich at this Darden offshoot will leave you sweating — with pleasure. 8367 International Dr., Orlando, 407-351-8220,

Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen – The buttermilk-brined signature sandwich is drippy with hot sauce aioli and juices from bread and butter pickles. Dee-vine. 1602 E. Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista, 407-560-0100,

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café – “Soul Food Sundays” are unforgettable at this two-story jazz temple. Have some grits with your cheese and a side of red beans and rice with your biscuits and chorizo gravy. 5119 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, 813-234-1000,

Ricky P’s Creole Kitchen – You may be tempted to go for a more traditional N’awlins sandwich like the Oyster Po Boy or a Muffaletta (and you absolutely should), but make sure you take one of your trips to Ricky P’s (and you will take several) to order the buffalo style chicken sandwich. The kick in this chicken will have you saying laissez les bons temps rouler!, 11002 4th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-821-4061,

Stillwater Tavern – While they may not feature a fried chicken sandwich on the menu a la Chick-fil-A, what they do have is the most mouth-watering, wood-grilled chicken ‘wich topped with mustard q sauce, red cabbage slaw, house-made bacon, cheddar cheese curds and brioche. We wouldn’t expect anything less from WAVE Award winner Jeffrey Jew. 224 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg, 727-350-1019,


ANTI-ANIMALS: Jimmy John’s

In 2016, compromising and unsightly photos of Jimmy John Liautaud surfaced. He was shown posing with various dead “trophy” animals while on a big-game hunting safari in Africa. A leopard and elephant were among the casualties. The photos are no longer available on the Johan Calitz Safaris page on Facebook, the company Liautaud hunted with.

It was never confirmed whether the person in the photos was Jimmy John himself, but the magazine The Hunting Report, which has reported on such things for almost 40 years, recorded several outings where Liautaud hunted for animals like wolves, rhino, deer and lynx.

There are also reports of Liautaud hunting for elephant, buffalo and zebra in Botswana.

It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly in bad taste, especially since some of these animals are close to “threatened” status. Jimmy John, you ain’t Teddy Roosevelt and you ain’t Hemingway. Put down the gun, unless you plan to add lynx-meat sammies to the menu.


No one really needs one of those eight-inch slims anyway. Here are some local spots with serious sandwich street cred – collectively, they’ve all been around for over 50 years.

Gabriel’s Submarine Sandwiches – Freshly sliced salamis (plural!), provolone, ham and hot capicola on the Gourmet Italian signature sub are what keep this place on the map. 2942 Curry Ford Rd., Orlando, 407-894-6244,

Chico’s Sub Shop – Bring your bucks because this old-school spot only takes cash. Our fave: a turkey sub with plenty of banana peppers and tomatoes. 5 Fred L. Maxwell Blvd., Orlando, 407-425-5249

Kappy’s Subs – This Maitland mainstay only has outdoor seating because its tiny interior couldn’t contain the awesomeness of its cheesesteaks. 501 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, 407-647-9099,

Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria – A fusing of “East-meets-West” flavors, the sandwiches at Pom Pom’s will have calling them your favorites “freaky fast.” Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving sandwich will change the way you see the world. 2950 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, 727-873-6992,; 67 N Bumby Ave, Orlando, 407-894-0865,

Brocato’s Sandwich Shop – A Tampa must-visit since 1948, this family-owned spot is infamous for its deviled crab and pastrami sandwiches, piled high. Switch out chips on the side for yellow rice and beans. 5921 E. Columbus Dr., Tampa, 813-248-9977,

Aguila Sandwich Shop – This Hillborough Ave. sandwicheria is a neighborhood favorite. Come for the Cuban but stay for the roast pork on Cubano bread. 3200 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, 813-876-4022,



We all remember the ads featuring a barely-clad, hypersexualized Paris Hilton opening her mouth as wide as possible to take in a giant, pulsating Hardee’s cheeseburger. Andy Pudzer, CEO and chairman of Hardee’s and sister Left Coast chain Carl’s Jr. loved those ads. “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” he told Entrepreneur magazine.

Unsurprisingly, he’s friends with yet another misogynist who enjoys objectifying women — President Donald Trump. When Trump named Pudzer as his Labor Secretary pick, we all groaned. Because, of course.

Since then, Pudzer rescinded his nomination among allegations that he employed an undocumented immigrant housekeeper and was charged with domestic abuse by his ex-wife while he served as chair of the Missouri Task Force for Mothers and Unborn Children.

Oh, we didn’t mention yet the involvement in anti-abortion activism? Pudzer drafted legislation limiting access to abortion and declaring that life begins at conception. He has also represented, at no charge, anti-abortion activists who physically prevented women from entering a family-planning center. His political action committee still donates to numerous anti-choice candidates.

The hate extends past women’s rights, though. According to the ACLU, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s franchises have been repeatedly accused of discriminatory behavior by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and settled a lawsuit alleging that a black employee suffered retaliation for whistleblowing racist behavior by a supervisor.


It’s surprisingly difficult to get a quality patty between two buns, but these spots manage to do it while maintaining positive business presence.

Hamburger Mary’s – Whether the guac is squirting from your “BJ” burger or the Meaty Mushroom is on deck, your conscious coupling should be with Sunday’s gospel brunch. 180 N. Beach St., Daytona Beach, 386-256-2564; 110 W. Church St., Orlando, 321-319-0600; 1600 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, 813-241-6279; 28910 US Highway 19 N., Clearwater; 2901 Tyrone Blvd N, St. Petersburg, 727-851-9386;

Beth’s Burger Bar – Of course, the uber-weird Peanut Butter Burger is the thing you should have here. It’s a sweet-salty symphony of steak sauce, PB, cheddar and grilled onions. Multiple locations, Orlando and Edgewood,

Shake Shack – The Fair Shake, made with fair-trade coffee, is a shoo-in for something sweet to sip with your Shack Burger and crinkle-cut fries. Multiple locations,

Burger Theory – A hidden haunt in the Holiday Inn near Busch Gardens, it might seem like tourist fodder, but the eight signature burgers are all A+. 11310 N. 30th St., Tampa, 813-501-3426,

Burger Monger – Four Tampa-area locations keep their griddles hot for burger patties made with Akaushi beef. Build your own burger and pair it with a hard root beer float. Multiple locations,


ANTI-WORKER: Waffle House

Huge shocker that this Atlanta-based chain, which practically coined the term “greasy spoon,” is no friend to its hardest working employees. Its worker’s rights and anti-union record is scattered with controversy, covered with duplicity and topped with contempt.

The 60-year old breakfast chain charges employees for meals, whether they eat or not, pays below minimum wage and tightly controls tips to boot. In 2014, a server was given a $1,000 tip by a generous patron. The company seized it. After the story got national attention, the customer returned and handed the server a personal check.

The restaurant refuses to allow workers to organize as well, including in their employment packet a non-arbitration agreement. This contract disallows employees from taking legal action against the company in a class-action suit, traditionally the only way (other than unions) to hold companies accountable. No accountability at Waffle House.

When Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services — of all things — was in Congress, Waffle House gave him money to vote against an amendment to limit government contracts to companies that engage in wage theft. Sounds like human disservice.

LOCAL LOVE: Diners & Dive-Ins

These scramble slingers love their employees and have held on to many of them for more than 10 years. Toast or biscuit? Yes, please.

Christo’s – Arguably the best Greek omelet in town, and we love being surprised by the rotating specials every weekend. 1815 Edgewater Dr., Orlando, 407-425-8136

Daybreak Diner – Regulars flock to this strip-mall spot, where biscuits and gravy are the hottest item on the menu. Get there early to score some. 3335 Curry Ford Rd., Orlando, 407-898-8338,

Junior’s Diner – You’ll wait to sit in this tiny spot, but once you’ve ordered, it’s only mere minutes until your slab of Tennessee ham appears. 2920 Corrine Dr., Orlando, 407-894-8871,

Se7en Bites – From bakery source to breakfast needs to lunch, Se7en Bites serves up a variety of unexpected flavor combinations with sauces and sass that always surprise, equality included. 617 N. Primrose Drive, Orlando. 407-203-0727,

Nicko’s Fine Foods – Classic counter service with even more traditional diner fare like liver and onions, pork tenderloin and “smothered chicken.” Elvis has been known to make an appearance. 4603 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-234-9301,

Three Coins Diner – A 24-hour Seminole Heights sweetheart, the menu is five pages long and stacked with staples like chopped steak, open-faced grilled cheese and waffles. 7410 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, 813-774-5269,

Tap Room at the Hollander Hotel – There isn’t a thing at the Hollander that’s not warm, welcoming and wonderful. Just voted the best breakfast/brunch in Tampa Bay by our Watermark readers, the Tap Room has a full and inexpensive menu full of delightful dishes and comfort food favorites. Make sure you swing into Common Grounds for a Kahwa coffee and  delectable dessert for the road. 421 4th Ave. N., St Petersburg, 727-873-7900,

Punky’s Bar & Grill – From chicken to burgers to sandwiches to late-night dining, this sassy gal that is Punky’s fits into every category of local love. With daily specials and live entertainment, this place feels less like a diner and more like family. 3063 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-201-4712



Not near one of our local picks? We bet one of these chains, with excellent rights records, is right around the corner.

LGBTQ Equality: Wendy’s

Since the late 1990s, when Wendy’s pulled their ads from the TV show Ellen after she came out and a boycott ensued, Wendy’s has been a major player in the fight for marriage equality. In 2006, they extended and amended their employment discrimination policy to say that no worker could be fired on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Worker’s Rights: Sonic Drive-In

In the fall of 2016, Sonic announced that, regardless of the federal government’s decision, it would raise the minimum wage for its managers and hire more full-time workers (read: with benefits). Their reasoning: retaining good employees and boosting customer service. Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

Women’s Rights: Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

CEO of Popeye’s Cheryl Bachelder is passionate about fried chicken (she came to the company from rival KFC in 2007) and women in leadership. She’s the mother of three daughters and cites parenting as one of the most courageous undertakings. In an interview with Forbes, she encourages women to be their authentic selves and stop trying to fit in. What makes women different is what makes us great at our jobs.

Animals: Panera Bread

In 2015, Panera Bread made the commitment to use only cage-free eggs in its recipes. This ended up being a boon for the company, as sales increased through 2016. Late last year, it extended its commitment to animal welfare by announcing that by 2024, all its chicken would come from humane livestock operations only. Additionally, in 2016, all of its poultry, beef and pork products used in sandwiches and salads was either raised without antibiotics, gestation crates, grass-fed or free-range.

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