Two decades ago, ranking the "best" fast food restaurants was like picking the "best" doctors to graduate from Caribbean medical schools. Things have changed, though, and fast food is no longer synonymous with mediocre and unhealthy. These ten fast food restaurants are widely regarded as darn good eatin'.
It's always tempting to put a movie other than Citizen Kane at the top of the Best Movies Ever list or to rank Magic Johnson or LeBron James ahead of Michael Jordan when debating the best of all time. The same temptation exists here, but let's face the facts. Chick-fil-A's round-the-block queues (which move at a remarkably efficient clip) are warranted. We could point to the variety of relatively healthy fare, like grilled nuggets and salads, but that would be disingenuous. The fried chicken sandwiches, nuggets, waffle fries, and shakes are why the world loves Chick-fil-A. The "A" in Chick-fil-A may as well stand for "All other fast food chains are undeniably inferior."
2. In-N-Out Burger
Founded back in 1948 in Baldwin Park, CA (Los Angeles County), In-N-Out Burger and its Animal Style Fries have received more hype than Star Wars: Episode I. But, unlike Star Wars: Episode I, most first-time In-N-Out devourers agree that the burgers and fries live up to the drumroll. If you're planning a trip to In-N-Out, check out the Not So Secret Menu and do with it what you will.
Who cares that you won't find spinach on Popeye's menu? You'll find some of the most tender, expertly spiced fried chicken known to man. Whether you go with the tenders, bone-in, or sandwich, you'll get finger-lickin' chicken when you brave the fifteen-car line at Popeye's. Don't forget your red beans and rice, either, which belongs in the conversation of top-five fast food sides.
When an employee touts the quality of a fast-food restaurant, pay attention. One former rollerblading burger peddler who worked for several fast-food chains says Sonic is "leagues ahead" of the competition. Specifically, freshly-cut onion rings, the use of real cream in shakes, and a conscious dedication to cleanliness left a positive impression on the worker. Who else is bringing you your burger and fries on rollerblades? You can't put a price on that sleek 360-degree turn the servers sometimes do when delivering your food.
5. Raising Cane's
At Raising Cane's, it's all about the sauce and the Texas Toast. Without the Cane's sauce, this chain doesn't come close to the top-ten fast-food chains list. Here's the thing, though. The Cane's sauce exists, it's patented, and it's never quite the same when you try to recreate your own.
While McDonald's makes about four times the sales of Wendy's in a given year, that's simply an ode to the hypnotic branding of the golden arches. No objective taste-tester bites into a Big Mac then does the same to a Dave's Double and claims that the Big Mac tastes fresher, more accurate, or tastier. A former Wendy's employee recalled, "All of the ground beef was delivered 3-4 times a week and never frozen." By fast food standards, that's Gordan Ramsay-level commitment to quality.
7. Cook Out
A staple of the fast-food landscape in the Southern United States, Cook Out is not the chain for those who can never decide what they want for dinner. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, and barbecue all on one menu? What is this place? It's not Heaven for fans of rapidly-prepared food. It's Cook Out. Founded in North Carolina in 1989, Cook Out did not open its first out-of-state location until 2010. Cook Out's growth has exploded since then, and the fact you can smell a Cook Out's aroma three blocks away can't be hurting the chain's marketing efforts.
Chicago-based Portillo's can, at first glance, feel like a cult. The way Chicagoans talk about the Chocolate Cake Shake makes you say, "Pump the brakes, Augustus Gloop." However, you quickly realize that the Church of Portillo's is preaching a worthy message once you get a load of the menu and realize that this can't be a fast-casual restaurant...can it? From the Italian Beef (with giardiniera, of course) to the char-broiled burgers, pasta, and shakes, Portillo's is in the upper echelon of fast-casual fare.
The Wisconsin-based fast-casual burger joint Culver's has continued its diaspora outside the Midwest, and that's great news for the cheese-curd nerds out there. Originally called Culver's Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers, Culver's is now just...Culver's. And by Culver's, we mean never-frozen beef, cheese curds imported from a Wisconsin farm, buttered and toasted buns, and an impressive menu of custards, shakes, malts, flavored ices, and floats. The only complaint about Culver's is that it didn't expand beyond Wisconsin soon enough.
10. Taco Bell
Fast foodies volunteered Taco Bell too many times to ignore. These here lists are democracies, not dictatorships, so Taco Bell makes the cut. Nobody claimed that the Bell is fine dining or that the ground beef is even necessarily ground beef. Taco Bell fans only posit that Taco Bell is undeniably good. Sober, intoxicated, or otherwise, a Chalupa Supreme, Doritos Locos Taco, Cheesy Gordita Crunch, or other Americanized Mexican Frankenfood of your choosing will massage your guilty pleasure in ways your masseuse never could.
10 Popular Foods That Men Voted They Can't Bring Themselves To Eat
A recent online discussion among men involved foods they can't bring themselves to eat. From beef tongues to Haggis, these are popular foods men say they can handle, despite others despising them. Get the list here.
10 Foods Americans Eat That Are Banned in Other Countries
Did you know that several foods popular in America are banned in some other countries? Usually, this is because of chemicals or food production standards that aren’t considered acceptable in those countries. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of those foods and what they’re banned. Some might surprise you! Get the full list here.
10 Popular Foods Meant To Be Served Hot That People Prefer Cold. Do You?
Some people swear coffee can only be prepared with one method, or it’s improper. Others will take it cold, hot, on ice, or any other way. Are there certain foods that are supposed to be served fresh and hot that you prefer cold? This list came about because of an internet discussion where people argued whether foods like pizza or fried chicken could be eaten cold. Get the list here.