While there are a few roadside fast food chains you’ll find in every state, we prefer to go the homegrown route when we’re on the road and check out each state’s pride and joy.
We’ve compiled a list of the best fast food and restaurant chains in each state, and are definitely adding each of these to our to-visit list.
The first Checkers opened in Mobile in 1986 so this is the go-to for quick service food that is family friendly.
Alaska: The Great Alaskan Pizza Company
The Great Alaskan Pizza Company has the hold on pizza outside of the Lower 48. Bonus points to the brand for making a bear an integral part of their logo.
Arizona: Cold Stone Creamery
It would make sense that steamy Arizona loves itself some ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery has roots in both Tempe and Scottsdale, and is beloved here.
Arkansas: Slim Chickens
Slim Chickens was founded in 2003 in Fayetteville. With 10 locations statewide, their roots run deep in the Delta. Even the brand name is a nod to Southern culture through the musicians, the storytellers, the food, and the soul.
With Fatburger and Carl’s Jr, the West Coast fast food scene is fierce competition, but the one chain that locals and tourists visit no matter what is In-N-Out, making it the best of the West.
Denver-founded Chipotle was a local favorite before it took the country by storm. All over the state, hungry people munch on burritos larger than the family dog.
Connecticut: Duchess Restaurants
Duchess Restaurants, exclusively in Connecticut, offers a handmade spin on fast food. Think hand-cut chicken, fresh buns baked their own bakeries, and a daily rotation of soothing homemade soups.
Delaware: Wings To Go
When Wings To Go started on the Dover Air Force base, they were really catering to of homesick Buffalonians craving wings. There are over 40 locations nationwide, but the handful in Delaware are the OGs serving six degrees of wings from mild to “homicide”.
Hooters takes the crown here in Florida. The chain originated in Clearwater in the early ‘80s and has a strong presence among the many sports and university communities.
Georgia: Waffle House
Waffle House claims to hold the title as the world’s leading server of waffles, omelets, T-bone steaks and more. Each restaurant is open 24 hours a day for each of the 365 days in a year, including the few dozen found in Georgia.
Hawaii: L&L Hawaiian BBQ
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is famous for their Plate Lunch, also affectionately known as “the state food of Hawaii.” L&L nods to tradition with contemporary fast service that everyone loves, whether they’re a local or a tourist.
Idaho: Moxie Java
Moxie Java was born in Idaho in 1988, well before “The Green Mermaid” came to town, as their website proudly states. They’re Idaho’s largest You can find almost 30 locations in six states, including one in South Carolina!
Illinois: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
The Potbelly Sandwich Shop started as an antique shop serving its eclectic clientele a creative lunch. Now, it is a sandwich destination across half the country and a favorite for weekday office lunch runs.
Indiana: Steak ‘n Shake
Steak ‘n Shake has been serving up fries, burgers and shakes for over 80 years. While they originated in Illinois, they are now headquartered officially in Indiana.
Maid-Rite is famous for their classic Iowa dish, the loose meat sandwich. The chain started in 1926 and has been serving up the Sloppy Joe-style sammie ever since.
Kansas: White Castle
Harold and Kumar went looking for the famous White Castle slider in the silliest stoner movie ever. The chain began in 1921 in Wichita, making it the first American fast-food burger chain in history.
KFC is the obvious choice here. It is the world’s most popular chicken chain restaurant and it all started here in the Smoky Mountains with an old family recipe.
Popeye’s originated here, so it’s no surprise that locals line up for boxes of fried “Cajun sparkle” seasoned chicken and homestyle sides.
Family-owned and operated Gifford’s ice cream isn’t the biggest chain in the East Coast, but ask a native Mainer and they will tell you it’s the best. Ice cream is made the old-fashioned way here and comes from the Gifford’s owned creamery in Skowhegan. Stands pop up here and there around town so someone can always get their fix.
Maryland: Jerry’s Subs & Pizza
Jerry’s Subs & Pizza has been serving their famous cheese steaks since 1954. It consistently wins awards for best pizza from industry mags and locals flock for updated menu items like the “Wall”, a cheesesteak made with onion rings.
Wahlberg family favorites like Mom’s Sloppy Joes and Mac ‘n Cheese with Smoked Bacon make Wahlburgers a Massachusetts staple. Honestly, surprise visits from Donnie and Mark don’t hurt the chain’s popularity, either.
Domino’s Pizza started in Ypsilanti, Michigan and now, its headquarters are in Ann Arbor. Domino’s is the second largest franchise pizza chain in the world.
Minnesota: Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen is not just an ice cream destination in Minnesota. It’s a landmark. Literally. The oldest standing Dairy Queen has been placed by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota on its “2010 Most Endangered List.” Locals visit the spot to get a blast from the past as it looks exactly as it did in the 1940s.
Mississippi: Bumpers Drive-In
Bumpers Drive-In is a family favorite for quick service food in Mississippi. Founded in 1983, there are now 26 locations — all in Mississippi.
Missouri: Panera Bread
The now famous Panera Bread started out as The St. Louis Bread Company. Panera Bread still operates under its original name in the area, however, and has over 101 locations.
It’s all about meat in Montana. The state is the namesake of Arby’s Big Montana sandwich.
Nebraska: Godfather’s Pizza
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Godfather’s Pizza was founded, is still based, and is unbelievably popular in in Omaha. The chain has 571 locations in 36 U.S. states and also operates some Pizza Bar stores.
Nevada: Don Tortaco
You can get pretty much anything in Nevada (thanks to you, Vegas!) from In-n- Out to Shake Shack, they’ve got all the big boys covered.
What you can’t get outside of Nevada, however, is a Don Tortaco taco. The state’s own 13-location Mexican taqueria features a taco bar and home-style options like rolled tacos and enchiladas.
New Hampshire: Moe’s Italian Sandwiches
The menu at Moe’s Italian Sandwiches’ is pretty big now, but when it started in 1959, there was just one thing on it: a salami sub. The recipe was a family one and locals loved it. So much so there are now 13 Moe’s all serving it .
New Jersey: Cluck-U Chicken
Cluck-U has been serving up wings to Jersey residents since 1985. The brainchild of an ambitious frat boy, Cluck-U was created so that campus kids could eat more than just pizza and burgers. The goal was to create “The Best Buffalo Winger” in the world and they did it.
New Mexico: Blake’s Lotaburger
The green chile cheeseburgers at Blake’s Lotaburger are a must if you have never been inside a Blake’s. The chain started and remains headquartered in Albuquerque.
New York: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Restaurants
Lots of fast food has come out of New York: Shake Shack and Sbarro are a couple of notable noshes. But it’s the humble hot dog that really made it’s name in the Big Apple. Nathan’s, which originated as a Brooklyn boardwalk snack, is quite possibly the world’s most famous frankfurter.
North Carolina: Bojangles
Bojangles started as a fast fix chicken ‘n biscuits place in 1977 based in Charlotte. Within a year, the first franchise location opened and the rest is chicken history.
North Dakota: Burger Time
Fargo is home to the first Burger Time. Opened in 1987, they have since grown and spread throughout the Midwest, but keep serving their original, backyard style burger.
Former KFC franchise owner Dave Thomas knew the world wanted more than just chicken. In particular, they wanted square-shaped burgers. So, he opened the first Wendy’s in 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. Only one year later, Wendy’s had a sister location, this time with a drive-thru.
Oklahoma: Sonic Drive-In
Before they sold burgers and shakes on roller skates, Oklahoma’s Sonic specialized in root beer and steak. They still have their roots in OKC, though.
Oregon: Papa Murphy’s
The famed Papa Murphy’s (the fifth largest pizza chain in the U.S.) wouldn’t exist without Oregon’s original Papa Aldo’s, which originated in 1981. In 2003, Papa Murphy’s was voted “Best Pizza Chain in America.”
Pennsylvania: Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Food courts everywhere can look to Pennsylvania for their pretzel passion. Auntie Anne’s originated at a farmer’s market stand in Downington, Pennsylvania, and is based in Lancaster today.
Rhode Island: Del’s Frozen Lemonade
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Ice cream doesn’t make kids here scream – frozen lemonade does. In particular, they’re screaming for Del’s Frozen Lemonade, now available in 36 states.
South Carolina: Denny’s
Denny’s wasn’t started in South Carolina, but its home base is in Spartanburg now, so residents are pretty serious about their Grand Slam breakfasts.
South Dakota: Sturgis Coffee Company
Opening in 2000 as the Pony Express-O in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, the brand has grown in its sixteen years of business, moving to roast their own coffee and supplying their own beans to small businesses around their shops.
Tennessee: Krystal Hamburgers
Krystal burgers used to reward their loyal clientele with contests to feature their face on the fast food chain’s paper bags. That beats any offer for free fries, ever.
There are lots of fast food options in Texas, but none of them beat Whataburger mainly because they are the only ones who thought to serve a burger so big that it took two hands to hold. Hey, everything is bigger in Texas.
Utah: Arctic Circle
Originators of the fry sauce, Salt Lake City’s fast food OG Arctic Circle is known for their brand of Black Angus burgers, milkshakes, chocolate-dipped dessert cones, and fries served with, you guessed it, that special sauce.
Vermont: Ben and Jerry’s
The world’s most beloved hippies, Ben & Jerry’s introduced the state to ice cream flavors like Chunky Monkey and Half Baked. Their headquarters feature guided tours through their factory including a look at their Flavor Graveyard and a visit to a scoop shop with local-only flavors like the Vermonster.
Virginia: Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Five Guys went from being a local chain to one of the big boys when it comes to burger slinging. Bonus points for offering unlimited free peanuts while you wait, no doubt a nod to their Virginia roots.
We can’t decide if grunge music or Starbucks put Seattle on the map, but we know for sure they’re serious about coffee here. The world’s most famous coffee chain opened in 1971 in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
Since then, caffeine addicts and pumpkin lovers alike have been rejoicing with lots of latte love.
West Virginia: Gino’s Pizza & Spaghetti
West Virginia is home to over 40 Gino’s Pizza & Spaghetti locations. Pizza and bread dough is made fresh daily and guests love getting delicious plates of pasta like spaghetti and meatballs, and baked Alfredo with chicken chunks.
Culver’s claim to fame is their Butterburger – afresh, never frozen, Midwest-raised beef burger, grill-seared and topped with Wisconsin cheese. Served on a lightly buttered, toasted bun, there are topping options, but most go pure with the original version.
Wyoming: Taco John’s
There are more than 400 Taco John’s locations in the US, and it all started in Cheyenne in 1969. Serving their own brand of Mexican food, the chain refers to its cuisine as “West Mex,” which is kind of like Tex-Mex, but with a focus on meat, fried potatoes, and tacos. Lots of tacos.
Did we miss an important restaurant from your home state? Let us know on our social channels why we should have included it instead!