The Best Regional Fast Food Chains Across America Will Make You Hungry

No matter where you live, you probably have your favorite fast food chains. Each region of the United States has its own standard, and some of the competition can also get pretty intense. If you really love a regional chain, check out this list to see if we do, too. You might even want to hop in the car for this last one (Page 16).

1. Bojangles


The ideal fried chicken and biscuits. | Bojangles’ via Facebook

  • Region: American South
  • Must order: fried chicken and biscuits

Southerners already know all about this North Carolina-based chain. When you visit, you have to get fried chicken and biscuits. Also grab a side of a Southern staple like dirty rice and grits, mashed potatoes, or mac and cheese to really round it out. Now you really have yourself a meal.

Next: Burn out your taste buds with the following treat at one of the best wing-based fast food chains.

2. Quaker Steak & Lube

  • Region: Midwest
  • Must order: chicken wings

A bucket of chicken wings from Quaker Steak & Lube turns any get-together into a party. The chain has pretty much any sauce you can think of, but the real pros order Triple Atomic. That taste bud-burner weighs in at an insane 500,000 Scoville units, so have a glass of milk at the ready. You can also grab a steakburger, if wings don’t do it for you.

Next: This regional fast food chains’ answer to White Castle also serves an iconic favorite.

3. Krystal

Krystal sliders

Prep for the competition. | Krystal via Facebook

  • Region: American South
  • Must order: sliders

Not only does Krystal serve some seriously solid sliders, it also appears in an annual eating championship. The Krystal Square Off World Hamburger-Eating Championship pits some of the best burger-eaters out there against each other. We’d love to get in on that action. You can practice as well, with sliders dressed with diced onion, mustard, and dill pickles on a square bun.

Next: If you like cheese, you will love the following regional fast food chains’ style.

4. Culver’s

culver's burger and cheese curds

The restaurant is not for the lactose intolerant. | Culver’s via Facebook

  • Region: Midwest
  • Must order: Butterburger

This Midwestern chain has earned a name for itself for its cheery staff and artery-clogging Butterburger. Yes, that burger comes on a buttered bun. As a side, don’t sleep on the crinkle cut fries with cheese sauce and a frozen custard. Go ahead, live a little.

Next: End the night at the following Southern favorite.

5. Cook Out

Cook out restaurant

For the milkshake enthusiast. | Cook Out via Facebook

  • Region: American South
  • Must order: hush puppies and a “huge” drink

In the South, every great night out ends with Cook Out. But if you have a hard time making decisions, plan ahead: It has over 40 milkshakes alone. They cook their burgers on a real grill, and you have to order the hush puppies on the side. Thirsty? Get a “huge” drink. And yes, it lives up to its name.

Next: This offbeat chain will also challenge your palate.

6. Jollibee

Aloha burger Jollibee USA

They have an odd combination of menu items. | Jollibee USA via Facebook

  • Region: Hawaii and California
  • Must order: Aloha burger

In the Philippines, people love Jollibee as much as we love McDonald’s in the United States. The chain’s slightly odd menu features Chickenjoy fried chicken and spaghetti, but it also has more pedestrian choices. You want to order the Aloha Burger, which comes topped with pineapple, bacon, and a special sauce. For dessert, the mango peach pie might even outrank McDonald’s apple.

Next: Fried chicken fans, put this next one on the ol’ bucket list.

7. Raising Cane’s

  • Region: American South
  • Must order: Fried chicken tenders

Come on, what grown-up kid doesn’t love chicken tenders? If your kid at heart likes her carbs with a side of carbs, Raising Cane’s has you covered. Get some crispy chicken fingers with a side of secret sauce and grilled Texas toast. Then put yourself down for a nap. You’re gonna need it.

Next: Grab a few napkins when you visit the following chain.

8. Maid-Rite

Maid Rite

Give the Iowa-based chain a chance. | Maid-Rite via Facebook

  • Region: Midwest
  • Must order: A loose meat sandwich

The Iowa-founded Maid-Rite specializes in the loose meat sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like. They fill a bun with unseasoned ground beef and sautéed onions, which you can then top with blue cheese, cheddar, and jalapeños. Pair that with a malt or a shake to wash it down, like the regulars do.

Next: Speaking of ground meat, you can’t miss this next Texas standby.

9. Whataburger


Customize your burger to exactly what you want. | Whataburger via Facebook

  • Region: Southwest
  • Must order: Customizable burger

This burger joint boasts a huge, orange “W” instead of golden arches, and the San Antonio-based chain has spread across Texas and the Southwest. Burgers at Whataburger weigh in significantly larger than its competition, and you can top them with pretty much anything. The ability to choose your number of patties also gives us way too much power. We abuse it. You should too.

Next: Go for the standard at the following Midwest favorite.

10. Runza


The sandwich is in its own category. | Runza Restaurants via Facebook

  • Region: Midwest
  • Must order: A Runza sandwich

Nebraska’s most iconic sandwich should definitely come as part of your order at this Midwest chain. They also serve burgers, chicken sandwiches, and even “chili salad” on the menu, but you have to try the classic Runza. It features a crusty roll with beef, cabbage, and sauteed onions for flare. Order it with “frings,” or French fries and onion rings, with French onion dip on the side.

Next: This Mexican-inspired chain also has your taco craving covered.

11. Pancheros Mexican Grill

Pancheros Mexican Grill

Change up your burrito bowl. | Pancheros Mexican Grill via Facebook

  • Region: Northeast and Midwest
  • Must order: a burrito with homemade queso

Chipotle fans, have we got an alternative for you. Panchero’s will see your burrito bowl and then raise you fresh tortillas and burritos that will never come undone. They also serve tacos, quesadillas, and salads, but you definitely want queso with that. Their homemade cheese sauce tastes so much better than any other chain.

Next: When the moon hits your eye, head to this following spot.

12. Hungry Howie’s

Hungry Howie's

The crust has its own flavor. | Hungry Howie’s Pizza via Facebook

  • Region: Midwest and Southeast
  • Must order: Pizza with flavored crust

If you’ve become a regular at Dominos and Pizza Hut, allow us to introduce you to this Michigan-based favorite. Their pies comes with flavored crust — butter cheese, Cajun, garlic herb, ranch and more — that will change your pizza life. Their calzone-sandwich subs offer something a little different. Oh yeah, and they also serve salads.

Next: This taco chain also kicks things up a notch.

13. Del Taco

Del Taco

Get slightly more upscale tacos. | Del Taco via Facebook

  • Region: Midwest, South
  • Must order: Bean and cheese burritos

Taco Bell who? At Del Taco, you can order upscale fast food favorites like beer-battered fish tacos and carne asada fries, as well as bean and cheese dip that will make you cry with joy. Don’t forget red or green sauce to spice it up. Non-Mexican fans can also order burgers and fries for a pretty tasty alternative.

Next: We might start a coast war with the following regional fast food chains.

14. In-n-Out

In-n-Out Burger

Get it Animal Style. | In-N-Out via Facebook

  • Region: West Coast
  • Must order: An animal-style burger

Two words: Secret Menu. At In-N-Out, many of the secret burger variations that the Internet loves to whisper about have subsequently become standards. Go for a Double Meat with two patties, or level up with the 3×3 or 4×4, with all the fixings. You can also go Protein Style, with no bun. But let’s get real: The no-holds-barred Animal Style really takes the cake.

Next: We can’t even mention In-n-Out without the following addition.

15. Shake Shack


There’s a reason the line is always so long. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

  • Region: Northeast
  • Must order: A Shackburger

What In-n-Out does for the West Coast, Shake Shack does for the East. Yes, you have to order a shake here. But you can also get some pretty solid burgers, starting with the classic Shackburger. Get a Smokestack to add smoky bacon, and don’t forget a side of crinkle fries. And if you like booze with your burger, their signature brew goes also down easy.

Next: If you need a place to fuel up your belly and your car, look no further than the following.

16. WaWa

Wawa hoagie

Customize your hoagie to fit your taste. | Wawa via Facebook

  • Region: East Coast
  • Must order: Customized hoagies

East Coasters know this convenience store chain has far more than just gas and road snacks. At WaWa, you can even use a computerized system to order pretty much any hot food you can eat on the dashboard. Hoagies, quesadillas, mac and cheese and more all come super customizable. Best of all, you can also stock up on snacks and fill the tank at the same time.

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