If you love to eat and you’ll be traveling around the country, it’s very likely that you’ll do your research to sample the unique cuisines of the regions you’ll be visiting. You’ll most likely try out the most famous specialties in the area and maybe even add the most popular diners in your itineraries.
With so many new things to try you might feel like you should skip the fast food altogether since you can always have some back home. While partly true, it’s best if you reconsider.
Why? There are lots of regional fast food chains that you should get to know. You’d be surprised at how varied these eateries can be, even if most of them offer similar fare: burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
Which fast food chains should you keep your eyes peeled for? Here are some that you shouldn’t miss:
Waffle House is pretty much a household name in the southeastern part of the US since it has a lot of stores in the region. Its prevalence isn’t the only reason it’s popular, though, because their low-priced breakfast meals can really help most folks start the day right or cap off their nights on the right note.
Must-haves: All-Star Breakfast, Hash Browns Covered and Topped, T-Bone Steak and Eggs
Like the Waffle House, Cracker Barrel is also a famous breakfast spot in the South. However, it’s actually a lot more than just a restaurant chain as it’s literally packed with regional history. With their decor composed of locally sourced vintage and antique items, they also offer a kitschy glimpse to the past.
Must-haves: Macaroni ‘n Cheese, Loaded Hash Brown Casserole, Campfire S’more, Country Fried Steak
Another Southern favorite is Cook Out which is beloved by the communities they’re in because of their high-quality food for great prices. They’re best known for having a large selection of milkshake flavors, so if you love this sweet, cold drink, you might never run out of options to try.
Must-haves: Milkshakes, BBQ Plate, Cook Out Tray, Cheddar-Style Burger
If you’re in the Midwest, you cannot stop for a bite at a Culver’s. Their food is so great they were able to win hearts and tummies in the South. Everyone’s raving about their offerings that you’ll find some internet forum threads recommending everything on the menu to first-timers. Some of their items will feel a bit foreign for non-Midwesterners, so it’s best to do your own research before ordering anything.
Must-haves: Butterburger, Frozen Custard Concrete Mixer, Fries with Cheese Sauce, Cheese Curds
Many fast food chains have cult-like followings but Krystal has it different. It’s more of an identity thing than a cult, really, as Southerners are really loyal and attached to the chain. While most folks will agree that White Castle, the Northern counterpart of Krystal, is also good, they will still choose Krystal in a heartbeat because they’re from the South. So if you want to get a good idea of what the South likes in a fast food chain, make sure to grab a bite here.
Must-haves: Krystals with cheese, Krystal Chik, Corn Pups, Chili-cheese Fries
The South’s love for biscuits knows no bounds which is why it’s not surprising that they have a popular fast food chain that specialize in it. Biscuitville doesn’t have a lot of locations but lots of people are waxing poetics about it because it was able to capture the very essence of biscuits.
Must-haves: Biscuits, grits, Cheerwine
With how famous In-N-Out is despite only having locations in the West Coast, it’s hard to imagine anyone from other parts of the country not wanting to stop by at one of their locations if they’re ever near one. From foodies to influencers and even renowned chefs love the food here, so why not give it a shot?
Must-haves: Animal-style burger, Well-done fries, Cheese fries, Grilled cheese
Pal’s Sudden Service
To be very honest, there are so many southern fast food chains that need to be everywhere already. Pal’s is one of them because experts consider it to be one of the best burger chains in the country. Once you’ve seen their restaurants and tried their food, you’ll understand the clamor.
Must-haves: Frenchie Fries, Dr. Enuf, Big Pal burger, cheddar rounds
Similar to Pal’s, the Varsity has also cornered a small market but this time in Georgia. It’s an inarguable Atlanta icon, so you cannot not stop by if you’re in the area. Best known for having the world’s largest drive-in, the food is also worth the long lines that you’ll likely go through on your visit.
Must-haves: Frosted Orange, chili dogs