As much as I love my European friends, it gets a little tiresome to hear them talk about how bad the average American chain restaurant is. To quote rock legend Gene Simmons, "critics think things should be in good taste; most people just want things to taste good."

With that, I give you Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI). Yeah, yeah, I know. Olive Garden isn't "real" Italian food, and you can find better mom-and-pop seafood places than Red Lobster. But you know what? You don't do $5 billion-plus in annual revenue as a restaurant operator without having a fairly good idea of what people actually like to eat.

Darden's third quarter may not have been perfect, but I'd say it meets the "good enough" standard. Revenue climbed more than 7%, with comp-store sales up 5.7% at Olive Garden and 1.6% at Red Lobster. Granted, that's not a great number for the Lobster, but comparisons were hurt by this year's slightly later scheduling for the annual Lobsterfest promo.

Gross margins improved slightly (due mostly to lower food and beverage costs, it would seem) and per-share earnings climbed 12% when you adjust for some items. All in all? Not so bad.

That said, I'm not wild about buying the stock today. Sure, it's a well-run company, and well-run companies deserve premium valuations. But even with that in mind, I just don't think the price is compelling enough to outweigh the general risks of the company and its industry (including overall economic conditions), or more specific risks, like the ultimate success of the Smokey Bones chain.

There seem to be few bargains in the restaurant world these days. I liked Jack in the Box (NYSE:JBX), but its price has sprung up. The same is true for other restaurants I've fancied, including Sonic (NASDAQ:SONC). Then you have more troublesome stories like CEC (NYSE:CEC), where I'm not quite sure it's time to jump in.

For Fools today, it may be wisest to do a little more digging, in the hopes of turning up some real values in the restaurant space.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).