America loves its food, especially its fast food. One of the most interesting and telling things about our country is that if we looked at a map, like this one Thrillist made, almost every one of the 50 states could lay claim to a noteworthy fast food or casual dining location. Does your favorite fast food joint make the map?
The very first Checkers took root in Mobile, Alabama back in 1986. Today, the chain has over 800 locations open in the United States, but is Alabama’s most noteworthy fast food restaurant. Serving up classic burgers, fries and hot dogs, Checkers has remained as popular as ever, regardless of a dramatic Undercover Boss episode.
Alaska: Great Alaska Pizza Company
It’s probably not a surprise, but this fast food chain is located exclusively in Alaska, with 15 locations spread throughout the state. The Great Alaska Pizza Company is still relatively new, compared to giants like Mickey D’s, and was founded back in 2003. With a motto like “Great pizza… great ingredients” it might even be worth a trip up to Alaska for a taste.
Arizona: Coldstone Creamery
In 1988, Coldstone Creamery was born in Tempe, Arizona and the world rejoiced. At any of the nearly 1,000 Coldstone locations throughout the U.S, you can choose from almost 40 different ice cream flavors and 30 different mix-ins. It’s no wonder the chain is so popular in Arizona, where it’s ice cream weather all the time.
Arkansas: Slim Chickens
True to its name, Slim Chickens is known for its fresh chicken tenders, Buffalo wings, and handmade dipping sauces. This Southern-based fast food chain was founded in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. If you don’t live close enough to visit one of Slim Chickens’ 30 locations, make your own chicken at home. Southern hospitality, optional.
California: In-N-Out Burger
In 1948, the first store opened in Baldwin Park. This Instagram-worthy food joint now has over 300 locations — all on the West Coast. East Coasters despair at missing out on not only In-N-Out’s basic menu, but the not-so-secret Secret Menu. Despite its small range, it’s widely popular and may be regarded as the best burgers on the West Coast.
In case you were wondering, we have Colorado to thank for our Chipotle addiction. Chipotle was founded in July of 1993, with the idea that “food served fast didn’t have to be a “fast food” experience.” These days, the chain is popular not only in Colorado, but all throughout the United States. There are over 2,000 stores, but the line will still be to the door regardless of which one you frequent.
In 1965, a seventeen-year-old looking for a way to pay for medical school opened the first Subway location in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Within 10 years, only 16 of the fast food chain stores existed, but today there are more than 44,000 locations worldwide. Subway is best known for it’s “Eat Fresh” motto and the customization of it’s sandwiches. Plus, compared to other fast food places, it’s relatively healthy.
Delaware: Wings to Go
Although maybe less known than Buffalo Wild Wings, Wings to Go has 80 locations throughout the United States. The first Wings to Go was a beach side location back in the summer of 1985. Serving up five degrees of wings, they’re best known for their HOMICIDE® wings, which as the name suggests, are the spiciest of the spicy.
Florida: Burger King
Florida- the sunshine state… and burger state? The very first Burger King was indeed founded in Jacksonville in 1954. Burger King was actually first under the management of the very same brothers who founded McDonalds, until it was bought out and rechristened in 1961. The Whopper sprung to life, and has since gone through many different marketing changes and promotional flavors.
In the early 1960s, Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy founded Chick-Fil-A Inc. and helped to bring about the establishment of fast food within malls. In 2015, the company made over $6 billion in sales, which is probably an impressive amount of chicken. Unfortunately, because the chain is still privately-held and family-owned, it’s closed on Sundays due to religious and practical reasons. But no reason to fear if you’re craving chicken sandwiches on a Sunday because you can make your own version at home here.
Unless you’re from or have frequented Hawaii recently, you probably haven’t heard of this location. The first Zippy’s opened in 1966 and although there are 24 locations throughout the islands, there’s none on the mainland. Serving up traditional Hawaiian food, it remains extremely popular among both natives and tourists.
Idaho: Moxie Java
Step aside Starbucks, Moxie Java has been dear to Idaho’s heart since it was first opened back in Boise in 1988. Since then, the company has expanded to 26 locations over six states. It may not be as big as other coffee chains, but it delivers quality coffee and customer service and has a quaint, neighborhood feel.
Technically, the McDonald brothers opened up a small burger chain in California first, but it was Ray Kroc who made the fast food chain we all know today. He founded McDonald’s System Inc. in 1955 in Illinois. Just three years later, the company had sold over one million hamburgers. Today, McDonald’s is still one of America’s leading fast food chains, and they serve breakfast all day long.
Indiana: Steak ‘n Shake
Ah, Steak ‘n Shake, where there are many shakes, but probably not much steak. Steak ‘n Shake was actually founded in neighboring Illinois, but today’s headquarters are located in Indianapolis. For 80 years, this fast food chain has been serving up over 30 milkshake flavors and food like burgers, chicken and fries all at reasonable prices.
One tradition dear to Iowan hearts is Taylor’s Maid-Rite. This sandwich shop began in 1926 in Muscatine, Iowa. Today, there are more than 70 locations spread throughout six American states. Special to Maid-Rite is their “loose meat sandwiches made of finely chopped hamburger.”
Kansas: White Castle
Ironically, although the first White Castle location was located in Wichita, Kansas, today there are no locations still in state. There are over 500 locations in 11 other states throughout the United States. This fast food chain is probably best known for its burgers, which are even available in the frozen food department of supermarkets. If you don’t live in one of these 11 states, try one of these burgers instead.
In 1930, Colonel Harland Sanders opened the first KFC in the front room of a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. Fried chicken wasn’t served in buckets until 1957. And in the mid-2000s, they went one step further and invented the ingenious Double Down sandwich: chicken on chicken on chicken. It might not be the healthiest fast food choice, but it is finger-licking good.
Popeyes was first opened as “Chicken on the Run” in 1972, but the chain didn’t do too well. Months later, it was re-opened as “Popeyes” and the rest is history. We have Louisiana to thank for our love of fried chicken and biscuits. With over 2,000 locations throughout the United States, and a land and sea menu, Popeyes remains popular.
Gifford’s has roots all the way back in the 1800s, when this family-run business first began. In 1973, the Giffords purchased the location where their Famous Ice Cream Plant remains today. Today, they sell over 1.7 million gallons of fresh milk and cream ice cream each year with about 100 unique flavors. Not only can you purchase this delicious ice cream at any of the five stands, but also at your local grocery store.
Maryland: Jerry’s Subs and Pizza
Ranked one of the largest locally-owned restaurant chains by Washington Business Journal, Jerry’s first opened in 1954 outside Washington, D.C. The 100-plus locations are best known for their New York style pizza and cheesesteak subs. You get the best of both worlds here.
Massachusetts: Dunkin’ Donuts
America runs on Dunkin’… although this is still highly debated, at least at SpoonU. (Take this article, and this one for example). The first coffee chain store was opened in 1950 in Quincy, MA. Now they serve almost 3 million customers a day at over 8,000 American locations. Dunkin’ Donuts has even expanded worldwide, bringing the total number of locations to over 11,000.
Michigan: Domino’s Pizza
This college student’s go-to was first founded in 1960, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The business first spread in the same year when the company headquarters set on fire. Today, despite a fiery beginning, there are over 12,000 Domino’s locations throughout the world. It may not be gourmet, but it’s quick and easy and pretty dang tasty.
Minnesota: Dairy Queen
More than 70 years ago, the first Dairy Queen product was sold in 1938. After World War II, the Dairy Queen franchise grew exponentially- expanding to 2,600 stores by 1955. Today, there are 6,000 DQ locations (Chill and Grill and ice cream stands) worldwide. Although the ice cream chain began in Illinois, today it’s headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although the types of ice cream have varied throughout the years, the Blizzard has remained on the menu for the past 30 years.
Missouri: Panera Bread
Bet you didn’t know that Panera was first named St. Louis Bread Company. After Au Bon Pain Co. bought the small chain of 20 something restaurants, the name remained until 1999. When all of the company’s other holdings were sold, Au Bon Pain Co. decided to focus on just Panera. And it was a decision that paid off for the corporation. Today there are over 2,000 of the bakery chains located in the US and Canada. The Panera addiction is real.
Montana: Ted’s Montana Grill
The first Ted’s Montana Grill opened in Columbus, Ohio in just 2002. Ted’s boasts the biggest bison menu in the world and, no, not the Bucknell dining hall Bison. Ted’s Montana Grill doesn’t actually have many direct ties to the food chain, and it’s not headquartered there, but the name does bring about associations of the Big Sky Country, so close enough.
Nebraska: Godfather’s Pizza
In 1973, Godfather’s Pizza was founded in Omaha, Nebraska following — yep, you guessed it — the release of The Godfather. Over 640 locations throughout the United States serve up Classic Combos and pizza pies, so good that you won’t have any leftovers.
Nevada: PT’s Pub
All around the Vegas area, you can find a good time at PT’s Pubs. Drink and gamble the night away at any of the almost 25 locations. It may not be your traditional fast food chain, but it’s just as noteworthy as any of the other 49 chains mentioned. The same company who owns the pubs also manages a ranch, brewing company, and pub and grill.
New Hampshire: Moe’s Italian Sandwiches
Although all Moe’s locations are located in New Hampshire, natives of the Granite State would be quick to defend their favorite sub shop. The company began in 1959 in Portsmouth. Moe’s Italian Sandwiches relies on “simplicity, taste, quality and value.” Today, they menu has expanded but the unique flavor of the sandwich remains the same as the very first one.
New Jersey: Blimpie
More than 50 years ago, the very first Blimpie was opened in 1954 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Better than both a sub or a hoagie, a blimpie is a bigger and better version of the old. There are currently over 1,500 restaurants anywhere in the United States- East Coast, West Coast, Midwestern. Take your friends and go on a Blimpie’s country wide road trip.
New Mexico: Blake’s Lotaburger
Lotaburger is home to the world’s first Green Chile Cheeseburger, named by National Geographic “The World’s Best Green Chile Cheeseburger.” This fast food chain was born in July of 1952 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although you can make some pretty good burgers at home, you can’t beat the made to order, unique Lotaburger.
New York: Sbarro
New York is known for its pizza, so it should be no surprise that New York’s most noteworthy fast food chain is Sbarro. Opened by the Sbarro family back in 1956, this Brooklyn pizza shop has remained popular to this day. Today, there are over 1,000 locations throughout more than 30 countries. Serving up Italian cooking, it’s almost like being in grandma’s kitchen.
North Carolina: Bojangles
A Southern staple, Bojangles first opened in Charlotte in 1977. While North Carolinians have a special bond with this fast food chain, there are locations in 11 other states in the US. Bojangles is primary east coast based though, so the other 38 states can only watch and admire from afar.
North Dakota: Space Aliens Grill & Bar
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this one. It opened in 1997 and today has only four locations- two in North Dakota, two in Minnesota. Early in the history of Space Aliens, their BBQ ribs won a Rib and Chicken cook-off. So if you’re brave enough to venture into the Twilight Zone, try these out of the world drinks and food.
The first Wendy’s opened up in Columbus, Ohio in 1969. Owner Dave Thomas named the fast food chain after his daughter, Wendy. Within ten years, 1,000 locations had opened. Today, there are over 6,000 throughout the country. Wendy’s serves up the classic burgers and Frosty’s they had when they opened, but the menu has grown and expanded with the chain.
Oklahoma: Sonic Drive-In
It’s Happy Hour somewhere, and that means half priced shakes or other specialty drinks. This fast food chain is famous for not only having a drive through, but a unique drive in element. The first Sonic Drive-In opened in 1953. Back then, it was first known as Top Hat but after some conisderation of the new technological elements and speed of service, the chain gained the name we all know, Sonic.
Oregon: Papa Murphy’s
First, Papa Aldo’s was opened in Hillsboro, Oregon. Then three years later in 1984, Papa Murphy’s opened in California. Eventually, the two brands merged by 1995 and Papa Murphy’s as we know it was born. As of 2015, there are over 1,500 stores. The pizza chain has racked up a number of accolades over the years, including “Best Pizza Chain in America” by Restaurants and Institutions Magazine.
Pennsylvania: Auntie Anne’s
Anne Beiler bought a stand in a Pennsylvania farmers market in 1988, where she sold the first version of the famous pretzel. The first store opened about a year later in Middletown and the rest is history, as they say. There are over 1,00 locations in America, mostly found in malls and airports. No need to worry if you’re stuck at home though, you can make your own copycat pretzels.
Rhode Island: Del’s Frozen Lemonade
How about a lemonade to wash those pretzels down? Del’s Frozen Lemonade actually first began in Naples, Italy. But Grandfather DeLucia brought the idea over to America and his son built the machine and marketing technique. By 1948, it was being sold in Cranstone, Rhode Island. Today, there are over 30 locations, selling fresh lemonade, much better than Minute Maid.
South Carolina: Denny’s
You know Denny’s as America’s diner, but did you know it started out as a donut stand in 1953. Danny’s became Denny’s and the chain grew, today with over 1,700 locations throughout the United States. Not only do they serve up great breakfast all day and night long (never wake up early again), their social media team, Twitter and Tumblr, are on fleek.
South Dakota: The Millstone
The Millstone isn’t necessarily a fast food chain, but it is noteworthy in South Dakota. This family restaurant was opened in 1981 and continues to be locally owned. There are three locations in South Dakota, which makes it a rare gem.
Over 80 years ago in 1932, the first Kyrstal opened its doors in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was during the Great Depression, so a great focus was put on low prices. Krystal serves an innovative and constantly evolving menu, from classic hamburgers to Southern classics like grits. There are about 350 fast food locations today, all located in the South.
Whataburger was founded in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1950. Since then, the company has remained family owned, every Whataburger is made to order and the chain is open 24/7. They even have a secret menu you can order from. There are almost 800 locations throughout the United States.
Utah: Arctic Circle
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Stop by Utah and visit any of the 39 Arctic Circle locations, or the other 28 locations in other American states. This ice cream and fast food chain was first started back in 1924. They’ve invented several new foods and toppings, making this a notable spot in America’s food journey.
Vermont: Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s- probably one of the most popular ice cream brands in America- was indeed founded by Ben and Jerry in 1978. Free Cone Day launched the next year. Today, there are over 600 locations throughout the United States and the headquarters remains in Burlington, Vermont.
Virginia: Five Guys
Peanuts? Five Guys has been around since 1986 when they opened in Washington D.C. After 20 years, Five Guys has grown more popular and there are now over 1,000 locations throughout the U.S. This fast food chain uses only fresh ground beef and peanut oil to fry their fresh cut fries. Plus, they now serve milkshakes, which makes Five Guys the perfect one stop shop.
Starbucks first opened in 1971 and now pretty much everyone and their mother goes there. Growing out of one single store in Seattle, Washington, there are now at least 12,500 stores throughout America. Their commitment to coffee and customer service is what keeps this company going, plus tasty coffee and frappuchinos.
West Virginia: Gino’s Pizza and Spaghetti
Gino’s Pizza and Spaghetti is mostly located only in West Virginia. It was founded in 1961, and there are now about 40 locations. The pizza chain serves up traditional Italian faire- delighting the people of West Virginia for the past 50 years.
It should be no surprise that the most noteworthy chain in Wisconsin is best known for its frozen custard and “butterburgers.” The very first Culver’s sprung to life in 1981 in Sauk City, Wisconsin. The combination of the sweet and savory is what allowed Culver’s to grow to 26 states throughout the United States.
Wyoming: Taco John’s
Make every day Taco Tuesday at Taco John’s. This Mexican fast food chain started in 1968. Serving up authentic Mexican eats for reasonable prices, it’s no surprise that this was an instant hit. Taco John’s has since expanded, including drive thrus, interior seating and new menu items. Today there are over 400 locations in 27 states throughout the U.S.