Best Under-the-Radar Fast Foods
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20 Underrated Menu Items You Should be Ordering at National Chains

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Best Under-the-Radar Fast Foods
wundervisuals/istockphoto

WAKE UP YOUR TASTE BUDS

We mean no disrespect to the Big Macs of the world, but sometimes the most famous items on chain restaurants' menus are also the most yawn-inducing. Whether other choices just aren't what you expect from your favorite fast-food joint or suffer from a consistent lack of promotion, it's time to step out of the box and try something new. And unlike cult favorites that have been yanked from the menu, these 20 overlooked gems are available now, so get them while that's still the case.

Greek Yogurt Parfait, Chick-fil-A
Courtesy of chick-fil-a.com

CHICK-FIL-A: GREEK YOGURT PARFAIT

No doubt some Chick-fil-A devotees would consider it sacrilege to order anything other than a chicken sandwich and waffle fries. That's cool: more yogurt parfaits for us. Topped with berries and either granola or cookie crumbs, they're satisfying for anyone with a sweet tooth, but pack in 12 grams of protein, and half the calories of a large order of waffle fries.

Mozzarella Sticks, Arby's
Courtesy of arbysrva.com

ARBY'S: MOZZARELLA STICKS

Sure, you don't come to roast-beef and curly-fry mecca Arby's for mozzarella sticks. But this fried, cheesy goodness has been a bit of a sleeper hit on Arby's menu for a while now, and let's just say the chain has done a better job with its mozzarella sticks than a certain burger giant down the street. You'll also pay a lot less for them than you would at Applebee's.

Vanilla Cone, Mcdonald's
A. H./yelp.com

MCDONALD'S: VANILLA CONE

We know, we know: Half the time the ice cream machine is down. But when it's not, it's hard to beat one of those twisty soft-serve cones when you want to cool off. We don't know if we'd go as far as saying its "ice cream in its most perfect form," but for $1 you can't miss. They're also just 170 calories, so you could almost argue that this sweet treat qualifies as health food ... by McDonald's standards, anyway.

Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes, Domino's
Amy S./yelp.com

DOMINO'S: CHOCOLATE LAVA CRUNCH CAKES

Who knew Domino's could make a decent dessert? Thrillist, for one, which puts the Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes at the top of its list of the pizza chain's best non-pizza items. Brand Eating agrees, saying "They taste like a freshly baked Oreo cookie but with warm, thick, sweet chocolatey syrup in the center instead of vanilla cream." They've also been on the menu since 2009, which is pretty good staying power for something that isn't doused in cheese or tomato sauce.

Cheesy Roll-Up, Taco Bell
tacobell/facebook.com

TACO BELL: CHEESY ROLL-UP

"I never hear anyone talk about this thing nor do I know anyone that has ever ordered it, yet it has remained steady in its little spot on the dollar menu for years," notes one Redditor. "It seems so criminally simple, just a tortilla with melted cheese in it." Indeed, and that's the beauty of Taco Bell's cheesy roll-up. On a menu filled with crazy, gimmicky items (think the ever-popular Doritos Locos Taco or Naked Chicken Chalupa) sometimes you — or your picky kid — just want a tortilla with some cheese melted inside.

Pike Place Roast, Starbucks
Courtesy of starbucks.com

STARBUCKS: PIKE PLACE ROAST

How is it that Starbucks' signature item — its "everyday" medium-roast coffee — could possibly be underrated? Because after an avalanche of press about the ridiculous Unicorn Frappuccino, seasonal squealing over Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and introduction of fussy new cold brews, a simple cup of joe seems like the most rebellious thing anyone can order at Starbucks. So give us our coffee without any foam, whipped cream, or sparkly pink dust, and get off our lawn.

Rodeo Burger, Burger King
Courtesy of bk.com

BURGER KING: RODEO BURGER

You'll find the often-overlooked Rodeo Burger on Burger King's Value Menu, where it holds its own against staples like chicken nuggets and cheesy tots. It features onion rings and barbecue sauce in place of cheese, and Serious Eats declares it an "unexpected jewel in Burger King's crown" — especially for the $1 price. Don't confuse the Rodeo Burger with its big sibling, the Rodeo King, which is a half-pound, 1,250-calorie monstrosity that throws bacon and mayo into the mix.

Apple Pie, Popeye's
PopeyesLouisianaKitchen/facebook.com
Grilled Cheese, Five Guys
Lissa E./yelp.com

FIVE GUYS: GRILLED CHEESE

Devotees may argue that nothing can be underrated on a menu as limited as Five Guys', but the grilled cheese comes close — and it may even qualify as eating "light" here. For just a few bucks, you can sink your teeth into a gooey sandwich made with toasted, inside-out burger buns that offer a "maximum white, spongy surface to get griddled," Serious Eats raves. Best of all, toppings like tomatoes, grilled onions, jalapenos, and hot sauce are free, so you can customize all you want.

Chicken Tortellini Alfredo, Panera
Courtesy of panerabread.com

PANERA: CHICKEN TORTELLINI ALFREDO

Panera has experimented with pasta dishes, but they always play second fiddle to its much-loved sandwiches and salads, to say nothing of bagels and other baked goods. The only pasta besides mac 'n' cheese that has endured as a permanent menu item: Chicken tortellini alfredo. It has 39 grams of fat and a cringe-worthy 1,680 milligrams of sodium, so we won't pretend it's healthy. But the creamy three-cheese blend and smoked chicken are just as comforting as any of Panera's soups on a cold day.

Flamethrower Burger, Dairy Queen
Kevin W./yelp.com

DAIRY QUEEN: FLAMETHROWER BURGER

If you're only heading to Dairy Queen for Blizzards, you're missing out. Its food menu is surprisingly decent, and the FlameThrower burger is its king. Available as either a quarter-pounder or half-pounder, it's topped with jalapeno bacon, pepperjack, and a mysteriously spicy FlameThrower sauce that has developed somewhat of a cult following online judging by requests for copycat recipes. But don't take our word for it: Watch this prolific YouTube fast-food reviewer "mmmm" his way through a burger.

Egg White Wake-Up Wraps, Dunkin' Donuts
Courtesy of dunkindonuts.com

DUNKIN' DONUTS: EGG WHITE WAKE-UP WRAPS

If you're a Dunkin' Donuts coffee lover who wants something a little less nutritionally objectionable than a donut with your morning pick-me-up, try the egg white wake-up wraps (then thank us later). A veggie egg white wrap is just 160 calories and has 8 grams of protein, though other varieties are available if you don't care about keeping things light. Because it's compact and easy to eat with one hand, it's also the perfect quick breakfast for your morning commute.

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad, Outback
Caitlin T./yelp.com

OUTBACK: BLUE CHEESE WEDGE SALAD

If you're at Outback for the iconic Bloomin' Onion and a juicy sirloin, we can't blame you. But don't miss out on the unsuspecting wonder that is Outback's Blue Cheese Wedge Salad. Doused in blue cheese dressing and balsamic glaze, then topped off with chopped bacon, it's not exactly healthy. But it's so crave-worthy that even the Food Network has published a copycat recipe.

Queso, Chipotle
chipotle/facebook.com

CHIPOTLE: QUESO

Yeah, we said it. After taking a beating (even from us) as one of the worst menu items around, the chain listened to criticism from diners and started tweaking its recipe, hoping to prove to devotees that there is life beyond guacamole. The new, creamier queso is actually a pretty good complement to Chipotle's lime-dusted tortilla chips, and it even beats out Taco Bell's old-school nacho cheese sauce in a Business Insider taste test.

Pot Pie, KFC
Courtesy of kfc.com
Breadsticks, Pizza Hut
pizzahutus/facebook.com

PIZZA HUT: BREADSTICKS

If you called up Pizza Hut and ordered only breadsticks, we wouldn't judge you — the pizza just isn't that good. Neither would the internet, which has busily churned out copycat breadstick recipes like this one. What puts them over the top? That dusting of parmesan and garlic on top — and the cup of warm marinara ready for dunking.

Swedish Crepes, IHOP
Courtesy of ihop.com

IHOP: SWEDISH CREPES

Much as we wanted to throw "IHOb" a bone after its zany name-change stunt, most reviewers agree that the burgers aren't worth all the marketing buzz. So stick to breakfast here – it's what IHOP does best, after all – but try out the crepes for a lighter pancake alternative. Our fave? The delicate Swedish Crepes, which are topped with lingonberries and even lingonberry butter, then dusted with powdered sugar.

Shrimp Scampi, Olive Garden
OliveGarden/facebook.com

OLIVE GARDEN: SHRIMP SCAMPI

We're not sure Olive Garden's shrimp scampi qualifies as underrated since it's now one of the chain's best-sellers. But at just 510 calories, this lightly sauced angel-hair pasta dish doesn't represent the gluttony the chain is known for (think never-ending breadsticks and gut-busting bowls of chicken alfredo or lasagna). "I honestly would not have known this was a low-calorie dish if the menu hadn't told me," raves a reviewer from "Today."

Savory Grilled Chicken Slider, White Castle
WhiteCastle/facebook.com

WHITE CASTLE: SAVORY GRILLED CHICKEN SLIDER

Chances are you don't think of grilled chicken when you picture White Castle's iconic sliders, but give this often-ignored variety a shot. According to Franchise Chatter, they're moist, nicely seasoned, and much tastier than the traditional steamed-grilled beef. They also have twice the protein as an Original Slider, so you won't need an entire crave case to fill you up. Feeling indulgent? A bacon and cheddar grilled chicken slider is on the menu, too.

French Fries, Wendy's
Courtesy of wikimedia.org

WENDY'S: FRENCH FRIES

Can a French fry be underrated? We think so. Poor Wendy's has always played second fiddle to McDonald's, and while its "fresh, never frozen" burgers have earned some begrudging respect, some people still flock to the Golden Arches solely because of the French fries. But ever since changing its recipe in 2010, Wendy's has been churning out some darn good natural-cut fries that actually taste like potatoes — in a good way. First We Feast agrees, even ranking Wendy's fries above McDonald's in its definitive fast-food fry ranking.