When you're traveling across the country, it's too easy to stop for fast food at a place you're familiar with (we're talking to you, McDonald's). But you'll find that if you step out of your comfort zone, there are many delicious smaller restaurant franchises just waiting to be discovered.
Locals have a lot of loyalty to these regional establishments. Many have been around for generations, and they serve food that is both delicious and nostalgic. While they may be under the radar, these regional favorites are anything but under par. So, the next time you're on a road trip, consider one of these tasty hot spots.
Whataburger Is A Texas Gem
The Texas-based Whataburger features an all-beef patty on a five-inch hamburger bun. The chain has been around since 1950 after an entrepreneur had a vision of customers saying, "What a burger!" For many Texans, the restaurant reminds them of home, particularly when they order a Whataburger all the way, including jalapeno peppers.
It's a place where families have gone for generations. There's just something satisfying to parents about watching their kids enjoy the same food they ate growing up.
Taco Time's Mexi-Fries And Crispy Burritos Are Must-Eats
Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, you may not be familiar with Taco Time. One of the restaurant's best dishes is its crispy burritos, something the more well-known Taco Bell does not provide. They're also known as flautas. Taco Time was founded in 1962, and its burritos are rolled flour tortillas with chicken, beef, or bean. Then they're deep-fried until they're deliciously crisp.
Taco Time aficionados suggest eating the burrito with the company's "ranch" dressing. They also recommend the "Mexi-fries," which are basically tater tots.
Skyline Chili Is Known For Its Chili-Splattered Spaghetti
If you're from Ohio, then you definitely know about Skyline Chili. And while Cincinnati may not be known for its chili, Skyline's offerings are actually pretty good. That's because its chili features just a bit of cinnamon, which sets it apart from some of its rivals. There's also a lot of cheese, which certainly makes everything taste better.
You can opt for the chili-splattered spaghetti, which is surprisingly tasty, and you can add up to five toppings to the meal. People have a love/hate relationship with this dish, but it's iconic and worth trying at least once in your life.
Biscuitville Has Darn Good Biscuits
North Carolina and Virginia have Biscuitville, which is all about classic southern breakfast. If you're craving food at 1:30 in the morning, Biscuitville is open. It features chicken biscuits, grits, country, ham, hash browns, and anything else you'd want, including pork chops and chicken-friend steak.
You can watch the employees hand creating fresh biscuits every 20 minutes. And if you insist on having lunch, you can opt for the catfish sandwich or pulled pork. It also features a local soda called Cheerwine.
Waffle House Serves Breakfast 24 Hours a Day
Waffle House is a southern staple. The great thing about the breakfast-focused greasy spoon is that it's open 24 hours, and you always know what you're going to get. The food and hours always stay the same. It's comforting knowing that no matter what time it is, if you're hungry, Waffle House will provide.
In addition to its signature waffles, Waffle House also has tasty hash browns, BLT sandwiches, and other options. While it's not exactly the healthiest food, it's tasty and there when you need it.
Friendly's Features Huge Reese's Pieces Sundaes
Friendly's restaurants, endemic to the northeast, are slowly disappearing. If you have an opportunity to eat there, don't pass it up. The diner-like place focuses largely on ice cream. It also provides standard diner fare, such as hamburgers and chicken dishes, and there's a takeout window for cones and other ice cream treats.
It's largely known for its huge sundaes, including the Reese's Pieces sundae with hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, and marshmallow sauce. Unless you have a really big appetite, it's the perfect dessert for two.
The Habit's Burgers Are Fresh And Tasty
America is known for hamburgers, and for good reason. There are so many places to get a tasty one, including The Habit, located in California. It's a complement to In-N-Out because instead of a simple griddled burger, you get a flame-griddled one. Plus, its french fries are considerably better and some of the best in the nation.
Its burgers come standard with cheese, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, pickles, and mayo. There's also a toppings bar where you can add jalapenos and other goodies. The Habit also offers some odd flavor combos to generate interest, including avocado and pineapple.
Indulge In Cheese Curds, Frozen Custard, And More At Culver's
Culver's is a Midwestern staple, and if you've never experienced its offerings, you're missing out. The restaurant has been around since the mid-eighties when it launched in Wisconsin. There are now more than 500 locations in the Midwest and Northern Rockies. What's on the menu? Hamburgers, cheese curds, fried fish, and frozen custard, among other things.
Signature items include its root beer and root beer floats. People also love the burgers, which are served on toasted and buttery buns. Chicken fingers with gravy are also popular.
Many Pennsylvanians Have A Strong Allegiance To Gas Station/Sandwich Shop Sheetz
It may seem strange to the uninitiated, but Sheetz is a combo gas station with a made-to-order sandwich shop. The place has a bit of a cult following among those from Western Pennsylvania. The menu is also rather impressive. You can get the following items exactly as you like: hot and cold subz, saladz, burgerz, hot dogz, sliderz, and much, much more.
People love to feast on the food provided at Sheetz. In addition to Pennsylvania, there are also stores in West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Enjoy Jamaican Cuisine At Golden Krust
Golden Krust is a Caribbean restaurant, and if you love jerk chicken you can't pass this place up. There are over 100 restaurants scattered throughout the United States in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Texas.
One popular dish is the chee-zee beef patty, which is sweet on the outside and filled with salty beef on the inside. If you need a Jamaican fix and some tasty baked goods, go to Golden Krust.
Pal's Sudden Service Serves Food Super Fast
You have to visit Tennessee or Virginia if you want to eat at a Pal's Sudden Service. There are 28 locations in Tennessee, and its blue-green restaurants are often decorated with huge fiberglass hamburgers and hot dogs. Some of its staples include the chipped-ham sandwich and Sauceburger.
The franchise is known for its speedy service because employees are specially trained to quickly serve cheeseburgers and chili dogs. The company has been around for 60 years, and it only takes a minute for you to get your food.
Xi'an Famous Foods Is Affordable and Tasty
If you want to sample Xi'an Famous Foods, you have to visit New York City. It's a little different than most fast-food restaurants because it's not mass-produced. It features stores in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. While you can order takeout, it's not recommended because the noodles may get too mushy on the ride home.
Like many Chinese restaurants, you order by the letter/number combination, such as B1, which is a stewed pork burger. However, each location has a slightly different menu. Still, you can find something you like among its dumplings, beef, or pork dishes. And the best part? Each dish costs between $3 and $10.
The Varsity Is One Of The Largest Drive-In Fast-Food Restaurants on Earth
A man named Frank Gordy opened the first Varsity in 1928 in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. When you visit the restaurant, you're greeted by employees, who shout: "What'll ya have… What’ll ya have?" The restaurant is still family-owned and operated, and it's of the largest drive-in fast-food restaurants in the world. There are currently six restaurants in the metro area.
You can indulge in hot dogs, burgers, chili dogs, and more at the iconic Atlanta establishment. On an average day, the restaurant serves two miles of hot dogs, a ton of potatoes, a ton of onions, and 300 gallons of chili.
Iceberg Drive Inn Is Known For Its Shakes And Tangy Fry Sauce
If you're traveling west, you may want to stop at Iceberg Drive Inn. The fast-food chain got its start in Millcreek, Utah, in 1960. It's stayed rather small, and currently there are only about nine locations in the state as well as a few in California and Arizona. So if you see one, you should stop and sample the burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
The shakes are giant and come in several flavors, such as chocolate, banana, and peanut butter. The griddled burgers are also yummy, and there's an option to add fried pastrami on top. Don't forget to add the fry sauce, which is a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise with some secret spices.
Bojangles Is Known For Its Crunchy And Delicious Fried Chicken And Biscuits
If you grew up in the mid-Atlantic in states like North Carolina, then fast-food joints such as Bojangles are in your blood. Officially dubbed Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits, it doesn't have a huge menu, but what it offers is darn good. Its fried chicken with "cajun" flavoring is crunchy and delicious.
Of course, there are also the biscuits, which are flaky and tasty and the perfect complement to its chicken breasts as well as egg, sausage, and ham. They're buttery good and worth indulging in at least once in your life.
Runza Has German Roots And Heavenly Dough Bread Pockets
Runza is another Midwestern fast-food chain. The name refers to a yeast dough bread pocket that's filled with beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings. Runzas are German and are also called bierock. The ones served at the restaurant are rectangle, but they can also be shaped as half-moons and triangles.
The franchise got its start in 1949 in Lincoln, Nebraska. There are over 80 restaurants in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Iowa. They're always present at Nebraska football games.
Danny & Clyde's Is A Gas Station Staple With Po-Boys And Sandwiches On Leidenheimer Bread
Louisiana is home to Danny and Clyde's. And really, there's only one thing on the menu you absolutely have to order: the Po-boys. While its other offerings are pretty good, including the shrimp, roast beef, and fried oyster on a Leidenheimer loaf, you can't leave the grounds without having the Po-boys.
We forgot to mention that the restaurants are always connected to a gas station. This is very convenient for hunters or fishermen who need a bite to eat before they start the day. They can also grab a six-pack or anything else required for a long day of work.
When Ordering At Harold's Chicken Shack, Be Sure To Go Full 'Chicago Style'
The first Harold's Chicken Shack opened in 1950 in Chicago. So, if you visit the upper Midwest or Great Lakes region, be sure to check it out. Harold's is a rare case of a soul food restaurant going beyond just one location. The franchise initially focused on chicken feet and dumplings, but it now includes fried chicken and catfish as well as chicken gizzards and livers.
Foodies love the crispy and juicy fried chicken served Chicago style with french fries and a slice of white bread. Regulars are known to "drown it" by mixing spicy and mild hot sauce together and pouring it over the meal.
Burgerville In The Pacific Northwest Is A Great Alternative To In-N-Out
Burgerville is located in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and Washington. It's not a particularly large fast-food chain, but it's a good alternative to In-N-Out, which is quite a distance away from the area. Its seasonal shakes are some of its most popular offerings, and you can get flavors such as pumpkin and hazelnut.
The hamburgers are also topped with Tillamook cheese, which is a local favorite. Customers appreciate the company's use of wind power and natural ingredients. Plus, you can ride your bike through the drive-thru.
Winstead's Features Yummy Steakburgers And 'Skyscraper' Shakes
Winstead's is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has been around since 1940. Its signature item is the steakburger, but if you want one, you only have eight restaurants to choose from. You can get either a single, double, or triple steakburger on a toasted bun. Regulars insist that you have eat it with grilled onions for the full effect.
The chain is also well known for the Streamline Moderne style of the original location as well as its "Skyscraper" sodas and milkshakes, which are designed to serve four people.