As a part of its 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards, USAToday announced the Top 10 Best Regional Fast Food brands. From a small biscuit chain in North Carolina to a beloved burger brand in California, here were the winners.
Methodology for USAToday’s 10Best Readers' Choice Awards: USAToday’s travel experts select the top 20 nominees in contests covering food, lodging, destinations, travel gear, and things to do before opening up the voting to its readers. After a certain voting period, USAToday announces the top 10 picks in each category.
1. Habit Burger
Established in Santa Barbara in 1969, Habit Burger continues to make churn out smoky charburgers. The chain, which now has 268 locations across 11 states, continues to use California-sourced produce and seafood to top its burgers, create salads, and use in other beach-inspired dishes, like the grilled ahi sandwich.
“At The Habit, we strive to deliver high quality taste in each bite of every menu item every day, and our fans have shown their appreciation with this award,” said Russ Bendel, chief executive officer at The Habit. “Being voted as the 2019 USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice winner is a humbling honor for our company.”
2. Pal’s Sudden Service
Since the 1950’s Pal’s Sudden Service has been serving up burgers, hot dogs, and fries to Eastern Tennesseans. The colorful, drive-thru restaurants, which are adorned with a giant fiberglass hamburger, hot dog and fries, are known for its quick service and hospitality. Over the past 70 years, the chain has multiplied and its 29 locations are sprinkled across the border of Eastern Tennessee and Virginia.
"We love our customers, and it is an honor to see that so many of them took time from their busy day to vote for us in the poll,” said Pal’s Chief Executive Officer Thom Crosby. “Their support by visiting one of our 29 restaurants on a regular basis is truly appreciated.”
Although the classic Texan chain has been around since the 1950s, Whataburger has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past decade. Diners flock to Whataburger for burgers, chicken sandwiches, and breakfast sandwiches throughout the day. Whataburger now has more than 800 locations.
This gas station, made-to-order sandwich shop combo is a beloved spot for locals in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina. With a customizable menu that is available 24/7, guests can create subs, sandwiches, wraps, coffee drinks, etc., with any ingredient they prefer.
5. In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger’s history dates back to the 1940s. The fast-food chain is a cult favorite among West Coast diners who order Double-Double cheeseburgers and fries with an “Animal Style” twist off of the Not-So-Secret Menu. Today there are 342 locations across California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas.
6. Quaker Steak & Lube
With more than 26 different wing sauce flavors, it’s no wonder one of the most popular menu items at Quaker Steak & Lube are wings. Across its 50 locations, the full-service chain serves 30 million wings annually. Guests can also order sandwiches, steaks, burgers, and other favorites at the restaurant.
7. Cook Out
Known for its customizable milkshakes—guests can choose from 40-plus flavors—and trays, Cook Out is a Southern favorite. The North Carolina-based chain now has locations across Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Maryland.
Best known for its tiny slider-like hamburgers, Krystal is a favorite across the South. Since opening 85 years ago in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the chain has grown to 346 locations across 11 states.
“Being selected to USA Today’s Top-10 Best Regional Fast Food List is huge for us,” said Paul Macaluso, Krystal president and CEO. “We want to thank our customers in the market where it all began with 50-cent burgers on Customer Appreciation Day in Chattanooga.”