Fast Food
Ziga Plahutar / istockphoto

Best Regional Fast Food Chains the Rest of the Country Needs

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Fast Food
Ziga Plahutar / istockphoto

A Chain Too Far

In the vast culinary landscape that is our country, flavors change as often as accents, spread out in every direction you look. The bummer? That means certain fast food chains can elude us, depending on where we live. Do you long for fresh biscuits? Do you refuse to put ketchup on a hot dog? There are corners of the country where only the best fast food is found. Here are the top fast food chains that every state needs.


Related: Fast-Food Menu Items You'll Only Find Abroad

Fatburger: Hang-in-There Burger
Rj Q./Yelp

Fatburger

Initially founded by Lovie Yancey in 1952, Fatburger began in Los Angeles and has grown to 182 locations speckled across the country, though many states are sadly Fatburger-less. The burgers are and have always been terrific, and it remains one of my all-time favorite regional fast food joints. Relish comes standard, which is a grand slam as far as I’m concerned.


Related: New Fast-Food Items You Can Try This Month

Al's #1 Italian Beef
Michael B. / Yelp

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Chicago is famous for quite a few culinary innovations, but the most underrated might be the Italian beef sandwich. In a town that sparks constant debate about pizza and hot dogs, there’s one food that everyone seems to get behind. Al’s #1 Italian Beef might not be the best in the city (I am partial to Portillo’s) but it’s almost certainly the most famous. You can now get your dripping, hot, masterpieces at four different locations in Chicago; just try not to think about “The Bear” while you do it.


Related: A Sandwich Lover's Ultimate Bucket List

Taco Time Mexi Fries
Taco Time

Taco Time

You’ll find the regional chain Taco Time scattered across the northwestern United States. It isn't vastly different from your average Taco Bell or Del Taco-type place, save for one thing: Mexi-Fries, aka tater tots with fry seasoning. Fries, they are not. Delicious, they are.


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Pret a Manger
Pret a Manger by Zhangyang (CC BY-SA)

Pret a Manger

New York and London are abundant with Pret a Manger locations. I cannot tell you how jealous I am of this. I love that dang convenience store-type cafe, where sandwiches, salads, soups, and other goodies are made daily alongside a full roster of beverages. With different half and whole sizes of nearly everything, it’s easy to mix and match a delicious lunch, or just grab something for your commute. There are so many of these places in London that when I’m there I like to play a little game: Grab a treat from Pret and see if I can finish it by the time I come across another Pret.

A Wawa convenience store front
helen89/istockphoto

Wawa

Pennsylvanians go absolutely nuts for Wawa. From my understanding, it’s like a gas station combined with a 7-Eleven. They also have hoagies. Sounds like my kind of place.

Zankou Chicken Restaurant
GDMatt66/istockphoto

Zankou

Zankou Chicken is one of my favorite places on the planet (and has a completely bonkers past). I was raised in many locations of this shawarma temple, leaving the restaurant only to begin counting the seconds until one of my parents would take me back. Go for the chicken tarna, stay for the pickles, return for the everything else.

Biscuitville
Prima V./Yelp

Biscuitville

I like the cut of Biscuitville’s jib. Located only in North Carolina and Virginia, the place specializes in scratch-baked breakfast and lunch biscuits and closes its doors by 2 p.m. Famously loved by employees for the appealing hours, Biscuitville is very tasty. Unfortunately for me, nearly every single time I have a Biscuitville craving, it’s after 2 p.m.

Kelly's Roast Beef
Lisa D./Yelp

Kelly's Roast Beef

It’s not just Arby’s-like roast beef sandwiches that keeps Massachusetts obsessed with Kelly’s; seafood is another huge part of its popularity. Lobster rolls, fried scallops, clams, and more are available at Kelly’s, though I can’t in good conscience recommend eating lobster produced at a fast food scale. Then again, I’ve never been to Kelly’s. I’ll have to ship off to Boston and let you know.

Tucker's Onion Burgers
Tucker's Onion Burgers

Tucker's Onion Burgers

Onion burgers, made famous today by real-life burger scholar George Motz, began back in the 1920s. They’re known for fried onions, crispy smashed beef patties, and a mountain of paper-thin raw onions. Tucker’s is popping up across Oklahoma, honoring the state’s legacy burger. I’m looking forward to trying it. 

P. Terry's burger
P. Terry's

P. Terry's

If you’ve spent even 10 seconds in Austin, Texas, you’ve seen a P. Terry’s. With almost 30 locations in the city, the fast food restaurant is wildly popular. The burgers are served with lettuce, tomato, and special sauce, and breakfast sandwiches are available, too.

Day 254/365: The Nando's Lunch.
Day 254/365: The Nando's Lunch. by Li Tsin Soon (CC BY-NC-ND)

Nando's

Maybe Nando’s isn’t exactly fast food, but it’s fast-casual. What are you, the rules police? Humble peri-peri chicken franchise Nando’s started internationally and has slowly begun creeping its way across the Eastern U.S. If you’ve been blessed with Nando’s proximity, you know just how incredible that kingdom of chicken can be. From the olive bar and South African-Portuguese sides to perfectly cooked chicken and a slew of house-made sauces, Nando’s is an experience everybody deserves to have at least once.


In-N-Out Burger Double Double
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

In-N-Out

So, I must confess, I do not wish to see In-N-Out any farther east than it’s already gone. There’s something so distinctly beachy, so distinctly California, that makes the burger chain what it is. A bite of a Double Double is about watching the planes take off above you outside of LAX, or the sounds of the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf, or palm trees lit up in neon along Hollywood Blvd. While that experience can’t exist anywhere else, it would be a shame for other states to miss out on the magic that is In-N-Out.