In-N-Out Burger Double Double

Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

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The Fast-Food Landscape in the U.S.

The convenience that fast food provides on a daily basis in this country is unparalleled. Almost no dining experience is as controlled and readily available as a quick trip through a drive-thru. Popular fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are so big in this country that they may even be considered synonymous with dining in America.

With more options than anybody can keep up with, which fast-food restaurants in the U.S. are worth your time? Which ones have dominated the country, and which are regional? Here are our picks for the best fast food near you.

McDonalds Store Number 1Photo credit: Kirkikis/istockphoto

How We Determined the Best Fast Food in Every State

Believe it or not, I have not eaten at every fast-food restaurant in the entire country. In order to determine the most popular in each, I turned to a reliable (albeit occasionally flawed) system: Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor reviews.

Searching “best fast food” for each state in the country, I spent days sorting through the most reviewed, highest-rated restaurants on each platform. And because nobody wants to read a list that says “Chick-fil-A” 50 times in a row, I opened this up to hyper-local fast-food joints as well, even if there’s only one location. Fast food is fast food.

Upset that your favorite regionally-specific spot didn’t make the list? Take it up with the Yelpverse. I’m just the messenger.

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John's Roast Pork, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaPhoto credit: Jacqueline T./Yelp

The Best Fast Food in the Northeast

When you think about fast food in the Northeast, you might immediately arrive at pizza. The New York slice is justifiably iconic, but as you look across the fried clam shacks of New England, the roast beef sandwiches of Boston, or the hot dogs of New Jersey, it’s clear that the Northeast has a unique culinary identity completely independent of cheesy dough. 

As for the major chains, you’ll find the obvious players like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, but it's the smaller options that shine. Whether you’re hitting one of the 900+ A&Ws in New York for the best fast-food root beer float you’ll ever have, grabbing a roast pork sandwich (which is just as much a part of Philly’s heart as its cheesesteak) from the infamous John's Roast Pork, or lining up for New Hampshire’s famous Gyro Spot, fast food in the Northeast is easy, quick, and full of flavor.

Connecticut: Duchess

Delaware: Mission BBQ

Maine: Roy’s All Steak Hamburgers

Maryland: Chaps Pit Beef

Massachusetts: Kelly’s Roast Beef

New Hampshire:The Gyro Spot

New Jersey: The Hot Grill

New York: A&W
Pennsylvania: John's Roast Pork 

Rhode Island: Olneyville NY System

Vermont: Buddy’s Famous Burgers

Washington D.C.:Roaming Rooster

Related:I Ate My Way Through 5 Fast-Food Breakfast Burritos. Here Are the Best

Mama's Fried ChickenPhoto credit: Mama's Fried Chicken

The Best Fast Food in the South

Fried chicken very much rules the South, but you already knew that. Places like Bojangles, Zaxby’s, and Biscuitville are always frying up chicken, but burgers have a serious presence as well. 

Cook Out, a restaurant with 40+ milkshake flavors and an incredibly wacky “tray” system, thrives all over North Carolina, while the burgers at P. Terry’s exist mostly in Austin. Ever heard of the Oklahoma onion burger? There are plenty of spots for that, too. Eat some chicken fingers, grab a burger, wash it down with some sweet tea, and y’all will be just fine down there.

Alabama: Super Chix

Arkansas: David’s Burgers

Florida: BurgerFi

Georgia: Grindhouse Killer Burgers

Kentucky: Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Louisiana: Mama’s Fried Chicken

Mississippi: Frisco Deli

North Carolina: Cook Out

Oklahoma: Tucker’s Onion Burgers

South Carolina: Rush’s

Tennessee: Hugh-Baby’s

Texas: P. Terry’s

Virginia: Spelunker’s

West Virginia: Frostop Drive-In

Related: These 8 Fast Food Chains Are the Biggest Ripoffs, According to Reddit

runzaPhoto credit: Gerald H. / Yelp

The Best Fast Food in the Midwest

Are there cheese curds speckled all over the Midwest? Yes, absolutely. Is that where the region's fast food specialties stop? Not at all. Milwaukee is often thought of as the “frozen custard capital” of the country, and at this point, you probably know about Chicago’s ketchup-less hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. And let’s be honest, if you’ve got any friends from Cincinnati, they’ve told you to put cinnamon in your chili. 

You’ll find grilled subs in the fast-food Mount Rushmore of the Dakotas, and in Nebraska you can’t escape runza, a beautiful hot-pocket-pierogi hybrid that Food & Wine once called "as Nebraska as Cornhusker football.” 

But let’s be clear: Don’t sleep on the cheese curds, either.

Illinois: Portillo’s

Indiana: Jaggers

Iowa: B-Bop’s

Kansas: Spangles

Michigan: Taystee’s Burgers

Minnesota: My Burger

Missouri: Chuck-A-Burger Drive-In

Nebraska: Runza

North Dakota: Grand Junction Grilled Subs

Ohio: Skyline Chili

South Dakota: Zesto

Wisconsin: Kopp’s Frozen Custard

In-N-Out Burger Double DoublePhoto credit: Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

The Best Fast Food in the West

There might not be a better place to eat regional fast food than on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. A bean burrito in your hands while the waves crash in front of you? Magic. Taco Bell might be the first Mexican chain you think of, but the West Coast is full of beautiful gems like Del Taco, Taco Time, and Baja Fresh. 

Yet amongst these mega-chains, you’ll find an abundance of even faster, cheaper neighborhood staples. From the toasted subs of Colorado’s Cheba Hut to the spam musubi of Hawaii’s Musubi Cafe Iyasume, there’s a lot more flavor to the West than just burgers and tacos

That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of sensational tacos and burgers, either. Wondering why In-N-Out finds itself on this list amidst a sea of hyper-regional chains? Because nothing else compares, that’s why. And beyond my own heavy personal bias, the Google, Yelp, and Tripadvisor reviews speak for themselves. 

Alaska:International House of Hot Dogs and Goodies

Arizona: Paradise Valley Burger Company

California: In-N-Out Burger

Colorado: Cheba Hut Toasted Subs

Hawaii: Musubi Cafe Iyasume

Idaho: Burger Belly

Montana: Five on Black

Nevada: Earl of Sandwich

New Mexico: Dog House Drive-In

Oregon: Burgerville

Utah: Crown Burgers

Washington:Dick’s Drive-In

Wyoming: 2 Doors Down

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