From coast to coast: The best regional fast-food chains to try
From coast to coast: The best regional fast-food chains to try
Beloved fast-food chains are scattered across the country, even stretching past international borders. McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's are three of the most common burger chains across the country, along with other treasured chains like Subway, KFC, and Starbucks.
The love for quick-service food certainly has expanded. According to an IBISWorld tally, there are 197,163 fast-food restaurants in the United States, and a survey run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 36% of U.S. adults eat at those fast-food restaurants daily.
However, while numerous fast-food chains have an extensive reach around the country, there are also an impressive number of regional chains that customers love to frequent. Between using local ingredients and cuisines, customers who love supporting local businesses while snatching a delicious, quick meal cherish these fast-food chains.
Whether you frequent these chains or are on the hunt for some delicious places to stop on your next road trip, Stacker compiled this list of 20 fast-food chains that are only in certain states, making them must-tries for those traveling around the United States.
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Northeast: D'Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
- Year founded: 1967
- Original location: Dedham, Massachusetts
- Number of locations: 85
- Current states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island
D'Angelo has been a New England sandwich staple for decades, serving up grilled hot and deli sandwiches, salads, grain and rice bowls, lobster rolls, wraps, hot soups, and more. But the name took some time—founders Brian J. McLaughlin and Jay Howland opened Ma Riva's Sub Shop before changing it to Angelo Sub Shop, which sounded a bit too close to a chain of supermarkets in the area.
The owners added the "D" in D'Angelo in 1978 to stand for "delicious," which is an understatement when biting into one of their famous Steak and Cheese sandwiches. In their prime, D'Angelo would process over 50,000 pounds of steak weekly to keep up with the demand.
- Year founded: 1956
- Original location: Fairfield, Connecticut
- Number of locations: 12
- Current states: Connecticut
At Duchess, a quick-service restaurant chain located throughout Connecticut, it's all about food quality. Brothers-in-law Jack and Harold Berkowitz named the chain after Dutchess County in New York but decided to drop the "t" in the name.
Each restaurant serves fresh food without pre-cooked or frozen ingredients, giving their customers a delicious cooked meal at a speedy rate. Duchess serves meal combos with breakfast sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, wraps, deli sandwiches, salads, and more.
- Year founded: 1935
- Original location: Springfield, Massachusetts
- Number of locations: 121
- Current states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina
Your favorite ice cream brand comes from a chain of East Coast restaurants founded by Prestley and Curtis Blake during the Great Depression. Although the shop initially opened to serve their ice cream creations at just 5 cents a pop, the chain soon expanded into a restaurant serving classic diner favorites—burgers, fries, and of course, massive ice cream sundaes.
- Year founded: 1964
- Original location: Folsom, Pennsylvania
- Number of locations: 965
- Current states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
Wawa is more than just a convenience store at a gas station—it's a lifestyle. Sure, the chain looks like a typical gas station on the outside, but inside is a wonderland of food that makes it a go-to for customers hungry for hoagies (a sandwich staple in the Pennsylvania region), breakfast, lunch bowls, and the biggest cups of coffee you can find.
Customers can grab Built-to-Order food where they customize what they want to eat through a touch screen ordering system and watch as the food is assembled fresh right in front of them.
Northeast: Xi'an Famous Foods
- Year founded: 2005
- Original location: New York City
- Number of locations: 12
- Current states: New York
The chain may be small, spanning within New York City lines, but the food makes it mighty. Xi'an Famous Foods is best known for serving comforting dumplings and hand-ripped noodle bowls, authentic to the historic city of Xi'an where founder Jason Wang came from, located in the northwest region of China.
The chain infuses culinary culture from both China and Middle Eastern flavors with dishes like the spicy cumin lamb burger stuffed into a crispy flatbread-like bun.
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Midwest: Cousins Subs
- Year founded: 1972
- Original location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Number of locations: 96
- Current states: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin
Cousins Bill Specht and Jim Sheppard set out to bring their favorite style of sandwich—the "sub," which originates from New England—to their hometown. It seems customers also enjoyed their sub sandwiches as Cousins Subs quickly expanded, serving a variety of subs, including a selection of cheese steaks and melty sandwiches, with fries and classic milkshakes.
- Year founded: 1926
- Original location: Muscatine, Iowa
- Number of locations: 31
- Current states: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio
Back in 1926 when Fred Angell served one of his new sandwich creations to his deliveryman, he responded with, "this sandwich is made right." So Maid-Rite was born, serving ground beef sandwiches on a fresh steamed white or wheat bun with ketchup, mustard, onion, and pickles. The beef comes from the Midwest, where the chain started, and is seasoned to perfection.
Midwest: Schoop's Hamburgers
- Year founded: 1948
- Original location: Hammond, Indiana
- Number of locations: 14
- Current states: Illinois and Indiana
Never frozen, always fresh, Schoop's Hamburgers is best known for its classic burgers, fries, and creamy milkshakes. This retro diner also serves a variety of chilis, soups, and salads. It even offers a side of onion rings for customers who want something other than the usual burger-and-fry combo. Most of Schoop's locations are in Northern Indiana and Southern Chicagoland areas.
- Year founded: 1949
- Original location: Lincoln, Nebraska
- Number of locations: 80
- Current states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska
A classic Runza sandwich includes ground beef, onion, spices, and cabbage stuffed inside a small loaf of fresh-baked bread. Customers can order a Runza with various flavors, including BBQ Bacon, Spicy Jack, Swiss Mushroom, and Italian sausage. Runza also sells its signature double-dipped onion rings as a side, as well as crispy crinkle fries. Diners can also get a combination of both with a bag of "Frings!"
Midwest: White Castle
- Year founded: 1921
- Original location: Wichita, Kansas
- Number of locations: 342
- Current states: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin
It all started with a mere $700 and a genius idea—sell small, square-sized burgers for just 5 cents a pop. Soon these quintessential sliders became a cultural phenomenon, served by the stack made with 100% USDA beef patties, onions, and pickles.
With over 100 years of rich history after being founded by Walter A. Anderson in 1921, this burger chain served a selection of burgers, beefy sliders, breakfast sandwiches, and "nibblers" stuffed with fish or even mac and cheese.
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- Year founded: 1966
- Original location: Burlington, North Carolina
- Number of locations: 65
- Current states: North Carolina and Virginia
Serving authentic Southern-style breakfast since 1966, Biscuitville started with a bet by Maurice Jennings, who took a chance on his famous biscuit recipe instead of choosing the family farm—and the rest is history.
Biscuitville serves a variety of biscuit sandwiches and classic breakfast dishes—like Sausage Gravy Biscuits and Fried Chicken Biscuits. Breakfast platters with biscuits are also available, as well as a classic stack of pancakes, and customers can enjoy a variety of tasty sweets like Cheesecake Stuffed Waffles and Cinnamon Swirl buns.
- Year founded: 1977
- Original location: Charlotte, North Carolina
- Number of locations: 789
- Current states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia
This fried chicken chain has been a beloved one in the South for decades, with hundreds of locations in 14 states to order the fried chicken combos of your dreams. Founded by Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas, Bojangles is an authentically Southern chain serving all quintessential foods like classic fried chicken sandwiches or biscuits, and a family meal with crispy chicken and plenty of "fixins" for a crowd.
South: Cook Out
- Year founded: 1989
- Original location: Greensboro, North Carolina
- Number of locations: 313
- Current states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia
A trip to the Cook Out is all you need if you love a classic cookout and are craving essential barbecue foods—like burgers, hot dogs, and chargrilled chicken. Orders start with a tray where you choose whichever meat or sandwich you desire, two sides of your choice—including chicken nuggets, corn dogs, hush puppies, fries, and more—and a beverage of your choosing.
At Cook Out, you can never go wrong with a creamy Fancy Milkshake, which comes in over 30 different flavors, including Peanut Butter Fudge, Choc Chip Cherry, and Banana Pudding. Morris Reaves, who currently serves as CEO and co-owns Cook Out with his son Jeremy, founded the chain.
South: Pollo Tropical
- Year founded: 1988
- Original location: Miami, Florida
- Number of locations: 155
- Current states: Florida and Puerto Rico
Little did Larry Harris know that his simple studies to find the best chicken marinade would become a restaurant sensation. Serving up citrus-marinated chicken with his brother Stuart since 1988, this Miami-based chain is known for serving up the juiciest Caribbean-style meats—from grilled chicken to slow-roasted mojo pork and more.
- Year founded: 1950
- Original location: Corpus Christi, Texas
- Number of locations: 931
- Current states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas
Harmon Dobson had one goal when opening up his burger stand in Texas: make a burger big enough that you'll need to hold it with two hands. The burger was so big (and delicious) that customers couldn't help but exclaim, "what a burger!" These tasty burgers served on an enormous 5-inch toasted bun are now a staple across 14 states.
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- Year founded: 1961
- Original location: Vancouver, Washington
- Number of locations: 40
- Current states: Oregon and Washington
What if a burger joint was also a friend of the environment? This was George Propstra's primary goal when opening up Burgerville, a 100% wind-powered chain of restaurants that focuses on serving local fresh food from farmers and businesses across the Pacific Northwest. It also has a seasonal menu that constantly changes to keep up with the growing crops around the region. The tasty burger chain uses range-fed beef and even composts regularly.
West: Dick's Drive-In
- Year founded: 1954
- Original location: Seattle, Washington
- Number of locations: 8
- Current states: Washington
To keep up with a country constantly on the move, founders Dick Spady, H. Warren Ghormley, and Dr. B.O.A. Thomas decided to open a drive-in restaurant serving a simple yet tasty menu that customers could quickly grab and enjoy on the go. Even years after its original opening, Dick's strives to keep its menu simple with just six burger options, a side of fries, and three options for a milkshake—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
West: Farmer Boys
- Year founded: 1981
- Original location: Perris, California
- Number of locations: 101
- Current states: Arizona, California, and Nevada
The Farmer Boys' name matches the restaurant's intent to serve food locally sourced from local farmers and purveyors. This fast-casual restaurant, founded by the Havadjias family, who immigrated from Cyprus, serves a variety of farm-fresh foods, like burgers and sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, fries, milkshakes, and more.
The Scarecrow is the Farmer Boys' mascot whose mission is to protect and serve farm-fresh food from regions including the Columbia River Basin and Southern California.
- Year founded: 1948
- Original location: Baldwin Park, California
- Number of locations: 384
- Current states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah
The menu at In-N-Out may look simple, but true fans of this quintessential fast-food chain know it's all about the secret menu items—like Animal Fries, a basket of crispy fries served with sweet onions, melted cheese, and a signature zesty sauce.
Esther and Harry Snyder founded this beloved West Coast chain, which became California's first drive-thru hamburger stand. The popularity of this chain soon took off, with hungry customers traveling from far and wide simply to order a Double-Double cheeseburger.
West: Taco Time
- Year founded: 1960
- Original location: Eugene, Oregon
- Number of locations: Nearly 300
- Current states: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming
With a craving for Mexican-American fare, Ron Fraedrick opened Taco Time close to his alma mater, the University of Oregon. Taco Time is determined to serve the freshest food using whole ingredients, including its world-famous hand-rolled Crisp Burritos to its Mexi-Fries, bite-sized potatoes seasoned with a special spice blend.
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