As Jim Gaffigan once riffed, “no one admits to going to McDonald’s. They sell six-billion hamburgers a day. There are only 300-million people in this country.” The math doesn’t lie, people. We eat a lot of fast food.
The quick in-and-out service, cheap sustenance, and pop cultural significance of our nation’s fast food chains is just massive. And while many of us find it easy to joke about the policies, flavor profiles, and sheer caloric load of national chains, we’re often still ride or die for our local fast food haunts. Big shops like McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A are never going to have the nostalgia-laced, homespun pull of the small chains we grew up with. Those local fast food spots are special because, in a way, they truly feel like they belonged to us.
To celebrate the greatness of local fast food restaurants, we thought we’d offer up a definitive ranking for you to vehemently disagree with. A couple of rules first, though. One, these have to be truly regional: No permanent international locations and no coast-to-coast locations, no matter how small. Two, let’s stick to chains that have under 1,000 stores. Those rules seem chill, right? But these relatively loose parameters actually drop a lot of contenders from the running (sorry El Pollo Loco and Jersey Mike’s Subs), thus leaving space for some lesser-known gems.
10. Taco John’s — Wyoming, 425 Locations in 27 States
If you’ve ever been road-tripping through the Rocky Mountains or Great Plains, you know the wonders of a roadside Taco John’s. This place lives by what they call “West-Mex” American-Mexican food. Grilled Meat and Potato Burritos and Crispy Tacos tend to be the go-to at Taco John’s.
The real treat at Taco John’s is the Potato Olés. Those are the small hash-brown-by-way-of-tater-tot disks of crunchy potato with a slight chili-lime dusting. If you’re really ready to grub, order these inside a steak burrito.