- Growing up in Connecticut, access to fast food was usually limited to chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s.
- When I moved down south to North Carolina for college, I loved discovering the numerous regional restaurant chains and fast-food establishments – and how delicious they all were.
- Cook Out gives you incredible value for money, while you can get your breakfast fix any hour of the day at Waffle House.
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If there’s one thing, above all else, that I miss about living south of the Mason-Dixon line, it’s the glorious Southern fast-food and chain restaurants.
After leaving my small town in northeast Connecticut to attend Elon University in North Carolina, I was instantly struck by how many fast-food establishments and chain restaurants were located within a five-mile radius of the school’s campus. There was never a shortage of options when it came to a quick, cheap, and delicious meal.
Here are the best Southern fast-food and restaurant chains you won’t find everywhere else, according to a current Northerner and former North Carolinian.
Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits offers classic Southern food like mac and cheese and biscuits.
When it comes to Southern fast-food chains, no establishment is as undeniably Southern as Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits. While the name itself may tell you everything you need to know about this Southern establishment, you’ll really have to experience it for yourself to know what the hullabaloo is really about.
For a classic Bojangles’ experience, you have to order the chicken fingers, a country ham biscuit, or a piece or two of their crunchy, salty fried chicken.
Cook Out is a great value for the money — and has some of the best fast-food burgers you’ll find in the country.
I’ve written previously about my love and devotion for Cook Out – and I still have yet to find a fast-food chain with the same amazing quality and low prices. For around $US5, you can get a tray with a choice of a burger, chicken tenders, pulled pork sandwich, and more, plus a drink and your choice of side.
At Cook Out, the more you order, the better the deal. Burgers go up to a “huge” size and come in a variety of signature styles ranging from barbecue to burgers topped with homemade chilli and slaw.
Sides also aren’t limited to your standard fries or salad. At Cook Out, sides include chicken nuggets, wraps, onion rings, quesadillas, and even a corn dog. Not to mention, the fast-food chain also serves up more than 40 flavours of milkshakes that are so thick and creamy, you’ll probably need a spoon to eat them.
Chick-fil-A is now found in almost every state, but we wish it would come to all 50.
While Chick-fil-A is steadily expanding to new locations across the country and can now be found in 47 states as well as Washington, DC, it will perhaps always be regarded as a distinctly “Southern” chain. The fast-food favourite, which is headquartered in Atlanta, serves its signature chicken sandwiches, nuggets, and more Monday through Saturday.
Although the restaurant is closed for one whole day every week, it’s been named America’s most beloved fast-food chain.
Biscuitville is one of our favourite Southern breakfast spots.
Nothing says breakfast in the South like an old-fashioned biscuit breakfast sandwich. At Biscuitville, you’re not limited to the standard sausage or bacon, egg, and cheese.
With Southern specialties like spicy chicken and honey biscuits, fried pork chop biscuits, fried steak biscuits, grits, and – of course – biscuits and gravy, you’re never at a loss for the perfect Southern breakfast.
Mellow Mushroom has unique pizza flavours you won’t find at Dominos or other chains.
This groovy pizza chain is a Southern staple. The pizza is high-quality and incredibly delicious. A personal favourite at Mellow Mushroom is the buffalo chicken pizza topped with a creamy blue cheese swirl or the holy shiitake pie.
While the ’70s-themed pizza chain does have a handful of restaurants across the country in New Jersey, Arizona, and throughout the Midwest, a majority of Mellow Mushroom locations are concentrated in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Waffle House is famous for being open 24 hours per day and is a Southern staple.
Waffle House is known for its 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year hours, and for being an unofficial measure for just how bad a tropical storm or hurricane really is, as most locations will remain open even in inclement weather.
This Southern diner may be most well-known for its breakfast, but the joint also serves up sandwiches, burgers, melts, and even sirloin steaks.
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers gives other chicken chains a run for their money.
When it comes to delicious Southern fast food, sometimes it’s OK to keep things inside the box – the “box combo,” that is. As a Southern-born establishment dedicated to all things chicken fingers, Raising Cane’s was founded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and has since spread to locations in North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, and more, with just one Northern location in Boston, Massachusetts.
The chain’s chicken fingers also come with coleslaw, Texas toast, and crispy crinkle-cut fries.
Zaxby’s is one underrated Southern fast-food chain we wished we saw more of up north.
Zaxby’s was a go-to stop during my time in North Carolina for one of its most popular menu items – its wings. Not only does this Southern spot offer buffalo wings that will tickle your taste buds, but they also have a number of delicious sides, sandwiches, and chicken fingers that will have you coming back for more.
Oh, and did I mention that some of their sandwiches come on Texas toast?
Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q serves up classic North Carolina barbecue, fast-food style.
This North Carolina BBQ chain serves up classic Southern favourites like pulled-pork sandwiches, fried shrimp, barbecue chicken, and all the fixings.
At Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q, a chicken platter comes with your choice of either light or dark meat, coleslaw, potato salad, and hush puppies. Wash it all down with some sweet tea, and don’t forget a slice of pecan pie.
- Read more:
- ‘Ghost kitchens’ are taking over fast-food chains from Chick-fil-A to Wendy’s
- I compared Burger King’s cheapest burger with its most expensive, and found they both offer a poor value
- We asked more than 3,000 people about which fast-food chains have the best food, and Chick-fil-A dominated
- The 10 best fast-food chicken restaurants across the US
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