If you're from North Carolina, you already know that Cook Out restaurants are hidden gems among all the burger joints out there. The debate over which fast food restaurant is the best might get hotter than an open flame grill, especially when it comes to regional chains, but if you haven't heard of Cook Out yet, it's one you should definitely add to your burger bucket list.
Cook Out was founded in 1989, and its first location was in Greensboro, North Carolina. The American fast-food chain has since expanded throughout the southeastern United States with over 200 stores now in 10 states, including a large number of locations in Virginia.
Known for their mostly drive-thrus, inexpensive prices, and late hours (open until 3 a.m. Sunday- Thursday, 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday), Cook Out is a regional fast food restaurant phenomenon that is starting to expand its reach.
We'll get back to the biographical information, but first and most importantly: Y'all, they have hushpuppies. And over 40 kinds of milkshakes, with all the ice cream-add in combos you could want. But mostly, hushpuppies. Keep your "all the way" and "double-double"--I'll take a side of deep-fried cornmeal with my Cheddar-Style burger, please.
One thing that sets Cook Out apart from other burger chains like Burger King, In-N-Out Burger and McDonald's is that all their offerings come plain. Part of their customer service is the belief that each customer knows best what they want, so when you order, be prepared to tell them what you want on your burger, chicken sandwich, or hot dog. They do have "styles" with pre-set toppings if you need some help deciding.
A Delicious Menu
The food is cooked "outdoor style"--thus the name--and they pride themselves on using fresh, not frozen, beef. The rest of the menu pretty much sticks to the backyard grill genre: grilled chicken, hot dogs, and in a nod to their North Carolina roots, a pork BBQ sandwich. You can also get fries and onion rings alongside a burger, should hushpuppies not be your thing.
They also have chicken strips and nuggets, corn dogs, and quesadillas. Cook Out does not offer a kids menu, but what kid wouldn't be happy with one of those items? You can see their whole menu at cookout.com.
Most Cook Out locations have double drive thrus and outdoor seating, with the ability to walk up and order as well. The focus is quick service, designed so that you can grab something good and fast on your way home. Or on your way out--the restaurant's late hours makes it perfect for swing shift workers and college students alike.
Another difference between Cook Out and other burger chains is the cost of eating there. A Cook Out Tray, which comes with an entree and two sides, will run you around $5. (If you don't want to pick two sides, you can always double up on one.) A regular hamburger will set you back less than $2.
We Can't Forget the Cheerwine
One of those shakes is $2.99 and you can have chocolate chip mint or banana pudding or peanut butter fudge. In the summer, they offer fresh watermelon and in December, it's eggnog. And the shakes are so thick, you're probably going to need a spoon (and we say that in the best way possible).
When it comes to ordering your accompanying beverage, of course, they have sweet tea. But another Southern specialty offered by this fast-food chain is Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soft drink. And Cook Out has Cheerwine floats, so you can have your drink and dessert all in one.
Cheerwine + Cook Out ice = perfection.
— Cook Out (@CookOut) February 1, 2018
The chain is still privately-held, something of a rarity in a quick service restaurant chain these days. They're starting to expand, including building more locations with sit-down areas instead of just drive-thrus and outdoor seating.
If you're looking for great food at a solid value (and hushpuppies), Cook Out is the place you want to try.
This post was originally published on May 31, 2019.