It’s no secret that fast food can be disgusting.
Typically just a means to an end, most people are forced to eat at a major fast food chain because they’re pressed for time or nothing else is open.
Wherever you rank McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Hardees, Taco Bell, KFC or Arby’s, one is only marginally better than the other.
McDonald’s french fries are the best, if you like them really salty.
Wendy’s claims their beef is never frozen.
Arby’s has good curly fries—if that’s your thing.
But not one fast food chain is leaps and bounds better than another, because the bar is already set so low.
Also, what else would you expect for a $5 meal? For that price, you shouldn’t be surprised it’s barely edible and barely made with real food.
So next time you’re forced into a fast food situation, try these six regional fast food chains instead!
6) In-N-Out Burger (West Coast)
In-N-Out Burger is that California chain infamously featured in the cult-classic, The Big Lebowski.
If you ever make your way to the west coast, Californian’s will always ask if you’ve been to one yet.
That’s how popular they are out there. They’re always packed. It doesn’t matter what time you go, expect a long line (especially in Los Angeles).
But it’s worth it, and the ingredients are high quality.
However, two tricks you should know before you go:
- Always ask for hot french fries. It’s legitimately a real problem at every In-N-Out chain. They will give you cold fries every time unless you say otherwise.
- Always order your entire meal “Animal Style.” Any of their burgers ordered Animal Style will come with extra Thousand Island spread, extra pickles, and your beef patties grilled with mustard. And Animal Style fries come topped with cheese, Thousand Island spread, and grilled onions. It’s on their secret menu, so just ask for it all Animal Style and they’ll know exactly what you mean. Everybody does it.
5) Cook Out (North Carolina and Virginia)
Cook Out really is underrated as a chain, even though it’s on this list.
It’s kind of a throwback to the 1950s drive-thru or the park-and-eat. It’s basically Sonic but so much better.
They have authentic North Carolina-style pork barbecue and it’s delicious.
But they also have all the standards like burgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken, which you can wash down with a “huge” sweet tea, Cheerwine, or Coke float.
But the best thing to end your meal with is their “Fancy” milkshakes, which you can get in basically any flavor you can imagine.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you check out a Cook Out.
4) Steak ‘n Shake (Midwest/South/Texas)
Steak ‘n Shake is a real treat.
Perhaps one of the best things about this little gem of a burger joint is that they use sirloin beef instead of regular old chuck. It has more flavor and better quality.
The most popular menu item is their Frisco Melt—buttery seared sourdough bread, their special French dressing sauce, cheese, and sirloin beef patties.
Also, just like Cook Out, their milkshakes are incredible.
It’s a toss-up as to which has better shakes, but Steak ‘n Shake just may take the win by a small margin.
In addition, most locations are open 24 hours, and all their menu items are pretty inexpensive.
So if you’re ever driving through the Midwest or Texas, make sure you stop for Steak ‘n Shake.
3) Bojangles’ (North Carolina/Virginia)
For all intents and purposes, Bojangles’ is basically Popeyes, but a thousand times better.
And at least a million times better than Kentucky Fried Chicken, for sure. Sorry, Colonel Sanders.
Bojangles’ is known for their chicken and biscuits. Those warm and fluffy, buttery, salty biscuits. They are a must. Especially drizzled with honey. Then they are undeniable.
Bojangles’ even has fried chicken biscuits, which is possibly their most popular menu item. Not hard to imagine why.
Their spicy fried chicken is exceptional, but if that’s not your thing, they also offer mild, extra crispy, grilled, boneless, and even skinless options.
Also don’t forget to order their coleslaw, Cajun pinto beans, and mac ‘n cheese.
2) Portillo’s (Mostly Illinois, few locations in Florida and California)
Portillo’s is nothing short of fantastic.
It’s genuinely surprising they’re even considered fast food, because this might be one of the few fast food joints where everything is good.
They have bratwursts with sauerkraut, Italian sandwiches with sausage and peppers, and Chicago-style hot dogs with pickles, onions, and hot peppers.
But one thing Portillo’s offers that’s even more incredibly rare (for a fast food restaurant) is their Italian dishes. You can get double-stuffed cheese ravioli, spaghetti, lasagna, and chicken parmigiana. All will hit the spot.
Portillo’s really does have everything one might be in the mood for, making it incredibly convenient when everyone in the car wants something different!
1) Whataburger (South/Midwest)
This might be the king of fast food.
That is, if you love burgers and chicken sandwiches.
Their Chop House Cheddar Burger, Whataburger Patty Melt, the Sweet & Spicy Bacon Burger, and Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich are all mouthwatering.
But their most popular sandwich is their A1 Thick-And-Hearty Burger.
Whataburger also offers shakes and malts. But while they’re better than McDonald’s, they’re nowhere near as good as Steak ‘n Shake or Cook Out.
Oh! But, their onion rings are to die for!
Depending on what part of the country you’re driving through or visiting, these places are as good as it gets in terms of fast food.
All those national chains are so boring and tasteless anyways, one should only eat at them when it’s an absolute emergency.
But now you know you can chow down at one of these six regional chains next time you’re on the road!