Why do things that taste so good usually mean they are incredibly bad for us? Even we can’t resist the siren call of a Big Mac with fries every now and then. However, depending on where you are from, you might have a favorite fast food place beyond the typical McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell - arguably the three kingpins of fast food. Not all fast food joints are spread throughout the states. In fact, it is rare to see an In-N-Out beyond the West coast, and Bojangles is unheard of except by those who live in the South. And it seems that there are some turf wars when it comes to fast food.
We’ve seen (and been in) some intense arguments about which place has better burgers, Cookout or Shake Shack? Who has better fried chicken, Zaxby’s or Cane’s Raising Chicken? And which has better breakfast, Waffle House or Huddle House? Some people are die-hard fans of the particular chain in the area and are absolutely appalled when people from out of state don’t know what they’re talking about. We’re talking about Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle level of dedication. So we got curious about what other kinds of fast food places there are outside of the big names, so here we are. Here are 5 US regions and 20 fast food joints.
20 From the Southeast - Chick-fil-A
All southerners know the pain of craving a Chick-fil-A Breakfast Mini on a Sunday morning, only to be denied because that is the only day they are closed. When Chick-fil-A suddenly opened one of its stores in New York, we were all shocked. This southern brand has been a staple in the south since 1940, but it's in the past decade (or so) that it really exploded in popularity. The majority of its stores are in the South, but it has grown so much in demand that it isn’t surprising to see one outside of the South. Those spicy fried chicken filet sandwiches... we’re drooling.
19 From the Southeast - Waffle House
The best time to eat at Waffle House is at 2 AM; everybody knows this. You haven’t truly lived until you and your friends stumble into a Waffle House after a hard night out. Aside from the perfectly cooked, buttery, sweet, and always-hot waffles, the hash browns are the next (if not THE) best thing on the menu. Perfectly crispy, you can customize them however you want, capped (with mushrooms), smothered (with onions), covered (with cheese), or the other 5 toppings you want to add. We pity the northerners who don’t know what a Waffle House is.
18 From the Southeast - Bojangle’s Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits
You’re in the South, of course we have fast food chains that are only focused on fried chicken. We will gladly fight anyone who tries to claim that they have better fried chicken than Bojangle's. Alongside a cup of icy sweet tea and some Cajun seasoned fries, this is our favorite go-to meal. The chicken is always crispy, and the seasoning has just the right amount of kick to delight our senses. We haven’t even mentioned their amazing BoBerry Biscuit! Warm fluffy buttermilk biscuits with sweet blueberries and a sugary icing, oh god we need one right now.
17 From the Southeast - Cook Out
This is one of the best fast food chains you can find in the South. Not only is there fantastic BBQ, but there is literally everything else you could possibly crave. There are burgers, hot dogs, quesadillas, chicken strips, fries, hush puppies, corn dogs, and have we even mentioned over 40 different milkshake combinations? FORTY. You can get a Cookout Tray – one main item (burger, BBQ, hot dogs, etc.) two side items (fries, onion rings, corndog, quesadilla, etc.) and a drink. If you’re feeling really indulgent, you can choose a Cheerwine float as your drink of choice! All for just five dollars. FIVE!! Try convincing us you have a better place... just try.
16 From the Southwest - Wingstop
Who doesn’t love wings? Monsters, that’s who. Anyways, this popular Southwest chain started in Texas back in 1994 and has expanded into over 1,000 franchises since. They have a simple menu of wings, boneless wings, chicken strips, and fries. Their hot wings are the classic favorite, but they also have a decent list of other savory sauces that will please everybody. They keep their menu simple so that they can perfect what they do have. A tray of wings, a side of fries, and a cold drink. What else could you want?
15 From the Southwest - Whataburger
What do you want? Whataburger! That’s not actually the slogan of this chain, but we like to think we’re pretty witty. This San-Antonio based franchise is primarily in the Southwest, but a handful of them have found their way into Florida, but everyone knows Florida is different, so whatever. Lovers of this chain claim that the burgers here are the best with all their zesty and spicy sauces, we’ll have to take their word for it because we’ve never seen this place before. We have to admit, though. The famous honey butter chicken biscuit does sound like it could rival Chick-fil-A’s chicken minis.
14 From the Southwest - El Taco Tote
This Mexican fast food restaurant likes to claim that it serves real Mexican cuisine. Well, its first store was in Ciudad, Chihuahua, so they might actually have a legitimate claim there. Anyways, there are only about 20 stores of this chain, and they are primarily in Arizona, New Mexico, Ciudad Juarez and Texas. The menu is focused on tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. The chain recently went through a rebranding back in 2017 and is hoping to gain a larger following. Still, the small chain already has a small, and loyal following who would always choose El Taco Tote over Taco Bell.
13 From the Southwest - Texadelphia
We will give you one chance to guess where this chain is located. Lovers of this chain will gladly step up to bat and argue that their Philly cheesesteaks are the best. The founder of this chain was initially from Pennsylvania, and when he came to Texas, he brought the cheesesteak with him. Each sandwich is made to order, fresh sliced beef or chicken, grilled onions, and hot melted cheese, on an 8-inch roll. The Texas twist in these cheesesteaks is that every order comes with a side of fresh, crispy tortilla chips and salsa. They’ve even got some different sandwiches such as Buffalo Cheesesteak, and the Cubano Cheesesteak. As they like to say, “Inspired by Philly... Perfected in Texas"!
12 From the West - Jack in the Box
Did you know that Jack in the Box was the first chain to integrate intercom ordering? They certainly set an example for all other drive-through restaurants, since that’s what they all use now. We can’t really pinpoint what style of food Jack in the Box is focused on since they’ve got everything from tacos to eggrolls. They even have a rotating menu, so seasonal items such as Philly cheesesteaks, pumpkin pie shakes, and pannidos come around every now and then. If you can’t decide what you want to eat, hit up a Jack in the Box, chances are you’ll find something you want there!
11 From the West - In-N-Out Burger
The famous In-N-Out; even though we’ve never seen one in our cozy southern home, we’ve certainly heard a lot about this place. Primarily from out of towners who sneer at our collection of Cookouts and Five Guys and claim that In-N-Out is the top burger chain in the whole entire universe. The chain only has three burgers to choose from, the hamburger, cheeseburger, and double cheeseburger, and apparently, they are the holy grail of fast food burgers. To be honest, at this point, even if we try and love a burger from this place, we’d still stand by our Cookout, Whataburger, and Krystals. That’s what loyalty is.
10 From the West - Taco Time
Let's be real, it's always taco time. A flour tortilla stuffed with chicken, beef, or beans, and then deep fried; we can definitely see the appeal of this particular chain. Served with a side of Mexi-fries (tater tots) and ranch sauce, we're already in the car and heading to the West coast. It’ll just take us about 5 days to get there. This chain is extremely proud and focused on getting all their ingredients as locally as they can. The majority of the ingredients that this chain uses is from Washington State, where the chain first started. Any place that has a deep-fried burrito is a win in our eyes, when are they coming to the South coast?
9 From the West - Burgerville
This chain can only be found in Oregon and Washington and is 100% powered by wind power. Probably one of the reasons why we don’t see any on the south coast. This chain is very focused on environmental issues. They send their trans-fat free canola oil to be transformed into biodiesel every month, use only range fed beef, and composite their food scraps. They even allow bicyclists to order through their drive through. This chain won the award for “Better Burger” back in 2007, and we’re pretty impressed with it. Aside from burgers, they have seasonal milkshakes using local ingredients, sweet potato fries, and even tempura asparagus. We are definitely intrigued.
8 From the Midwest - Big John’s Steak & Onion
Here is another place outside of Philadelphia that is claiming that their cheesesteaks are better than any others. Although they don’t officially call it a cheesesteak, instead it is a steak & onion sandwich. You’ll only find this chain in Michigan, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere else for the moment. Even though the name says, Big John’s Steak & Onion, this chain serves a lot more than just cheesesteaks. They have a couple of cold cut subs and a Philly chicken sub. Their other claim to fame is the signature red sauce that people love so much. They now sell it in bottles.
7 From the Midwest - Happy Joe’s
Wait, what? Taco pizzas? How did we not know that this was a thing? We love pizzas, and we love tacos, this is a match made in heaven. This chain’s original pizza, the Taco Joe, has refried beans, sausage, taco-seasoned beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and taco chips crushed on top. You can even go one step forward and get the Taco Supreme, which adds sour cream, black olives, and onions. Our stomachs are ready, give it to us. We’ll definitely be happy if someone brings us one of these. Just make sure you keep the pie warm as you bring it all the way to the south coast.
6 From the Midwest - Harold’s Chicken Shack
It will take a lot to convince us that any other place in the US can make better fried chicken than what we can find in the South. But, Harold’s Chicken Shack is certainly trying to make an effort. This chain has wings, tenders, and even livers and gizzards, on top of the fried chicken. That is pretty impressive. The chicken dinner includes fries topped with fried chicken and then drenched in a tangy BBQ sauce/hot sauce combination. Aside from fried chicken, this chain also fries fish and shrimp, and salads and wraps. We don’t know how we feel about that, it seems like they might be doing too much...
5 From the Midwest - Skyline Chili
We are going to have to take people’s word when they say that Cincinnati-styled chili is delicious. In case you didn’t know, Cincinnati chili is a plate of spaghetti covered in chili. However, unlike regular chili, Cincinnati chili is flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves alongside other standard chili spices. The most famous and most popular chain that serves this dish is Skyline Chili. Here you can get a plate of pasta and chili, topped with cheese, beans, and onions. That sounds like a lot, but people from Ohio swear by it! Oh, those Ohioans.
4 From the Northeast - Friendly’s
What a nice sounding place, seems like it will be very... friendly. Yeah, we went there. This restaurant chain is like the classic wholesome American diner with burgers and fries. Started in Massachusetts, this diner has spread throughout the Northeast, and also scattered a few of their stores down the east coast. Aside from classic diner foods such as burgers and fries, turkey melts, chicken tenders, and a variety of other foods, this chain is also famous for its ice cream and sundaes. The Friendly’s Crowd Pleaser Sundae combination of six scoops of ice cream with the works looks like it's straight out of a movie from the 1930s.
3 From the Northeast - Xi’an Famous Foods
We’re used to seeing fast food places do burgers, fries, fried chicken, tacos and other classic fast food items. However, Xi’an Famous Foods is the first Chinese food chain (aside from Panda Express) that we’ve seen and we are so jealous! With only 12 locations and all of them in New York, this is one that we’re putting on our 'To Eat List'. This chain isn't your typical Chinese takeout either. They have a spicy cold noodle dish, cumin lamb burgers, lamb soups, hand ripped noodles, lamb dumplings, and over 30 drool-worthy dishes. Can they please send a shop down to the South!? We’re dying to have some decent Asian food!
2 From the Northeast - The Kati Roll Company
Not only does the Northeast have an incredible Western Chinese fast food chain, but they’ve also got an Indian one! There aren’t that many of this chain as it is relatively new, but their popularity is definitely growing! Now, what exactly is a Kati roll? It is a mix of spiced meat and vegetables all rolled into a portable Indian flat-bread. So basically an Indian burrito! We love traditional Mexican burritos, so it must mean that we would love a Kati roll. This chain boasts that their meat is seasoned in over 30 spices, we don’t even have that many spices in our spice drawer!
1 From the Northeast - Wawa
Alright, this one is a little weird. Technically, this isn’t a fast food chain. However, since people are obsessed with this convenience store and its ‘fast food’ we’re going to include it. There is literally a cult following for this convenience store/gas station (usually people stay away from gas station food!). The highest density of Wawa is in Philadelphia and the upper northeast coast. However, a few have started to trickle their way into the middle of the east coast with some in Florida. The menu at Wawa is surprisingly decent, with hoagies, sandwiches, soups, salads, and a breakfast menu; we can see why so many people are obsessed with it.