12 Under-the-Radar Fast Food Chains You've Probably Never Heard Of

Regional Fast Food

Cheapism / Karyzma P./Alina A./Santino C./Yelp

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Regional Fast Food
Cheapism / Karyzma P./Alina A./Santino C./Yelp

Secret Sauce

We all stop at McDonald's or Taco Bell from time to time, but wouldn't you rather hit the drive-thru somewhere a little more unique? There's small fast food chains all over the U.S., and they're much more interesting and beloved than the big guys. Here are some of the under-the-radar chains serving up burgers, sandwiches, biscuits, and regional favorites that you should absolutely try if you ever come across them. 

Portillo's italian beef sandwich
Santino C. / Yelp

1. Portillo's

Portillo's has been expanding at a fast pace to states like Arizona and Florida, but it's a Chicago chain through-and-through. Italian beef sandwiches, dripping with rich jus and covered in hot pickled giardiniera, are the main draw, but don't sleep on the Chicago hot dog or mustardy chopped salad. If you somehow have room for dessert, the chain is known as much for its chocolate cake (and cake shake, with a slice blended right into the shake) as it is its beef.

Tudor's Biscuit World sandwich
Lacey Muszynski / Cheapism

2. Tudor's Biscuit World

Ask anyone from Appalachia what their favorite Tudor's biscuit sandwich is, and they'll all have an enthusiastic answer. There are only a handful of locations outside of West Virginia, but they're all over that state. The biscuit sandwiches all have names like the Politician (full of bologna) and the Dottie (hash brown, egg, and cheese) and they're all the size of your hand. Don't forget the stellar sweet tea or the blackberry biscuit.

Related: 8 Mouthwatering Fast-Food Biscuits

Dave's Cosmic Subs sandwich
Alina A. / Yelp

3. Dave's Cosmic Subs

There's only a few Dave's Cosmic Subs locations outside of Ohio (let alone Cleveland), and it's a shame that it's not on more people's radars. The groovy rock and roll-themed sandwich shop serves up some seriously stuffed and amazing hot and cold subs. There's plenty of Italian options filled with pepperoni and prosciutto, hot meatballs bombers, plus clubs, roast beef, and even a chili dog sub. The cheese here is shredded, which is fantastic for hot subs, and the tangy signature Dave's Cosmic Sauce belongs on everything.

Related: America's Best Subs, Grinders, and Hoagies

Pal's Sudden Service
Aleksandar G. / Yelp

4. Pal's Sudden Service

Who wouldn't stop at a chain called Pal's, especially when its bright blue buildings festooned with giant fiberglass hot dogs and fries are so dang adorable? You'll only find them in eastern Tennessee and Virginia, and don't look for the door because most are drive-thru only. As the name suggests, the service is fast, so you'll be munching on your Big Pal burger, country ham biscuit, or your "frenchie" fries in no time.

Iceberg drive inn yelp photo
Andrew M. / Yelp

5. Iceberg Drive In

The Iceberg Drive Inn opened in 1960 in Salt Lake City and has since become a Utah staple, with a smattering of locations in California and Arizona. Its main draw (besides the nostalgic drive-in atmosphere) is its shakes that are so thick they stand tall above the cup. You can get almost anything mixed into them, from pistachios to bubblegum, and you'll absolutely need a spoon to eat them. Pair them with the extra thick cut and hand breaded onion rings dipped in fry sauce, a Utah staple.

Biscuitville sandwich from yelp
Hannah M. / Yelp

6. Biscuitville

If Biscuitville's "biscuit window," where you can watch employees mix and cut out biscuits every 15 minutes, doesn't make your mouth water, there's something wrong with you. You know the fluffy biscuits will be fresh and taste like homemade, whether you slather them with honey, bury them in creamy sausage gravy, or stuff them with honey-glazed spicy fried chicken, a fan favorite. Unfortunately, if you live outside the Carolinas or Virginia, you're not getting any of it.

Related: 12 Fast-Food Breakfast Deals That Make It Easier To Wake Up

Gerald H. / Yelp

7. Runza

A runza is a Nebraskan food that's like an Eastern European Hot Pocket. Lots of places sell them in the state, including Runza, a fast-food chain with dozens of locations. There, the bread pockets are filled with ground beef, onions, and cabbage for stick-to-your ribs comfort food. Sure, you can get burgers, chicken sandwiches, and even the unusual cinnamon roll and chili combo, but why deviate from the namesake? 

Related: The Best Signature $10 Dish in Every State

Skyline chili yelp photo
TY Y. / Yelp

8. Skyline Chili

Cincinnati-style chili is a dish that many either love or hate, and lots of Cinci locals adore Skyline. A Greek immigrant opened it in 1949 and used flavors and spices from home to make a unique dish. You can get it ladled on a bed of spaghetti noodles, covered in a huge pile of shredded cheese, and topped with onions or beans (for everything on yours, order it "5-way" and add hot sauce and oyster crackers). For a messy chili cheese dog, order a cheese Coney with mustard and onions. 

Eegee's sandwich and drink yelp
Brian M. / Yelp

9. Eegee's

You'll only find Eegee's in Tucson and Phoenix, and you'll need its namesake slushy frozen drinks to deal with the Arizona sun. They're only available in a handful of flavors, including one rotating monthly flavor, but who really needs more than a lemon tea or pina colada slush anyway? As for solid food, there's subs, chicken tenders, fries, and the most important thing: three kinds of ranch with its own devoted fanbase.

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Milo's burger and fries yelp
Karyzma P. / Yelp

10. Milo's Hamburgers

Milo's was founded in 1946 as a quintessential American hamburger stand in Birmingham, and the chain still only has about two dozen locations, all in Alabama. It serves legendary burgers complete with a famous secret sauce that's a cross between barbecue and steak sauce. The sweet tea is so good that it became a spinoff brand and you can still find it in supermarkets well beyond Alabama. Always save room for the homemade fried lemon or peach pies.

Related: Local Burger Chains the Rest of the Country Needs

Zippy's plate lunches yelp
Mark D. / Yelp

11. Zippy's

If you're hitting the beach in Hawaii, then you've got to hit up Zippy's to fuel a full day of surfing with a Surf Pac or Zip Pac combo meal. Its chili is beloved by locals, but it serves up all kinds of Hawaiian favorites plate style with scoops of rice and mayo-heavy macaroni salad. Many locations open early and close really late — or are open 24 hours — so you can get breakfast bento, burgers, saimin, and loco moco almost anytime you want them. The chain's first location outside of Hawaii recently opened in Las Vegas, giving mainlanders a taste of the islands.

Swenson's galley boy burgers drive in yelp
Jennifer C. / Yelp

12. Swenson's

If you're a die hard LeBron James fan, you may have heard of Swenson's, his favorite local fast food joint, already. It's got a throw-back 1950s feel (even though that's a couple decades after it first opened), and to let the carhop know you're ready to order, you turn your car's headlights on and they'll come sprinting out. The main draw, the Galley Boy burger, feels like a blast-from-the-past too, with two small patties, barbecue-like red sauce, tangy tartar sauce, and a green olive on a toothpick sticking out of the wrapper. There's also egg salad and sloppy joes among the more typical onion rings, fries, and shakes. 

Related: Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now