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The best fast food restaurants in America in 2024, ranked

You’ll flip for these burgers — and more.
A trusted travel guide brand has named the best fast food restaurants in America — and the list contains some delicious surprises.
Fodor’s writer Geena Truman compiled the list, reportedly based on a year of extensive travel.
7 The Chick-Fil-A brand may enjoy a great deal of popularity lately, but on the food front, there was some stiff competition. J.C. Rice
“Visions of golden-fried cheese curds, succulent smash burgers, and cheese-topped fries distracted me from the rolling scenery of America’s backroads,” confessed Truman, an unabashed fast food lover.
And while many of us might just pull into the nearest familiar-looking chain, the intrepid eater said she sought out regional and less obvious options, from New England to the Pacific Northwest.
Here are her picks — do you agree?
1. Culver’s
Calling the Wisconsin-based butter burger and frozen custard chain “the most delicious fast food pit stop in America,” the author couldn’t speak highly enough of the homespun Midwest favorite that’s now located in 26 states (and hopefully more to come). Truman gives a nod to the restaurant’s famed side of fried cheese curds, noting that Culver’s “gives the outer appearance of fast-food but outperforms all others in taste.”
2. Shake Shack
7 AP
Admitting that maybe she’s a little biased towards frozen custard purveyors — honestly, can we blame her — Truman talks up Danny Meyer’s still growing burger and sweet treat chain, which, incidentally, was modeled after the Midwestern stands of Meyer’s St. Louis childhood.
A whopping 25 states now have their own Shack, with more to come.
“The perfect meal? A coffee custard shake, a simple all-American Angus Beef hot dog with cheese dipping sauce, and a smash burger,” Truman writes, giving her appreciation to the “real food with real ingredients” that’s worth the extra money you pay.
3. In-N-Out
7 MediaNews Group via Getty Images
“If you want a *cheap* fast-food burger with fresh toppings, a classic Americana malted milkshake, and cheesy fries with just a dash of salt, this is the place for you,” Truman said.
She notes that the food feels fresher than at other fast food chains, saying that she “can eat a Double-Double Burger animal-style with a heaping pile of fresh onions, cheese fries, and a chocolate malt shake” and still walk out feeling good. Millions of West Coasters would agree.
The Southern California institution has been expanding in recent years, to Oregon, Colorado, Texas and soon, Tennessee and perhaps elsewhere in the Southeast.
4. Whataburger
What In-N-Out is to Calfifornia, the home of one of fast food’s biggest burgers (at least measured across) is to Texas. Truman calls out the chain’s “spicy ketchup, taquitos, honey-butter chicken biscuit, well-battered onion rings, Green Chile Burger, and oozing patty melt.”
However, she says that eating here is more about the size of the food than the quality, saying that it’s “not a mind-blowing eating event.”
The chain has expanded to states like Arizona and now, Nevada, where a sparkling, giant-sized branch that would make Texans jealous recently opened at the foot of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. (Talk about an interesting pairing.)
5. Raising Cane’s
Georgia has Chick-Fil-A. Louisiana has Raising Cane’s. Truman appears to prefer the latter, ranking them ahead of the Polynesian Sauce purveyor.
Here, however, the menu is even simpler — chicken fingers from fresh-never-frozen birds, served with crinkle-cut fries, creamy coleslaw, thick, buttery Texas Toast and sides of remoulade-style Cane’s sauce. “Raising Cane’s perfected the recipe,” Truman says of the chicken fingers.
The chain has spread across the country, even making inroads right at the heart of NYC, with locations in Times Square, Harlem and the East Village.
6. Five Guys
7 SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
“While the burgers are tasty and completely customizable…it’s really the fries that shine,” Truman opines of the popular and pricey chain that’s located all over the country and increasingly, the world. (Five Guys Barcelona, anyone?)
“Hefty bags of Idaho potatoes are literally stacked for all to see in the hallways of their restaurants. Freshly cut daily into “boardwalk-style” slivers and fried up in peanut oil (nut-allergists beware) Five Guys also offers them “Cajun-style” for travelers who want a little spice in their life,” Truman says.
7. Chick-Fil-A
7 The Chick-Fil-A brand may enjoy a great deal of popularity lately, but on the food front, there was some stiff competition. J.C. Rice
Appreciating their “juicy deluxe chicken sandwich and tasty breaded nuggets,” Truman has less to say about the wildly-popular (and fast-growing) chain, referencing the “hype” and the long lines at newly-opened franchises.
8. Dave’s Hot Chicken
This celeb-backed chain — he fastest-growing fast food concept in America, the author writes — takes a concept that’s still typically found at trendy one-off spots and markets it to the masses, quite successfully.
So maybe it’s not Nashville-level great, but Truman calls a Dave’s meal the “perfect road trip snack.”
Choose from the “chicken tender slider (topped with smoky cheese and very California kale slaw) or a couple of the extra large-sized chicken tenders,” Truman suggests — urging diners to pair whatever they order with the restaurant’s creamy mac and cheese.
9. Kelly’s Roast Beef
Noting that this Boston-area institution inspired Arby’s, Truman raves about the “their “25-day aged beef knuckle roast, cooked in-house to the perfect medium rare, sliced to order, and placed delicately on a bun with a rich BBQ sauce and melty white cheese.”
The pride of Revere Beach is harder to find than most of the brands on this list, but it’s growing — and it could definitely beat Arby’s if it grew enough.
10. White Castle
7 Christopher Sadowski
Reminding readers that the spiritual home of the slider predates McDonald’s — true fact — Truman says that she didn’t tap the classic chain because of 1920s nostalgia or the restaurant’s place in the American pantheon.
“It’s the sliders,” she says, noting that there are now 12 differnet kindsto choose from, including fish, chicken and waffles and plant-based meats.
11. Dick’s
Dick’s is easily the In-N-Out of the Puget Sound, and though we’d have chosen the quirky and delicious Taco Time NW to represent that region, a trip to this basic and delicious burger drive-in is something akin to a cultural experience, essential to any road trip that includes the Seattle area.
Touting their “delicious beef burgers, salty fries, and thick old-school shakes served from walk-up windows,” Truman also gives them cred for treating their employees well and their community spirit, too.
The Seattle native also shouts out another regional chain, Zips, for their “huge tubs of crinkle-cut fries, behemoth burgers with three sizzling meat patties and sliced ham, country-style chicken strips, and freshly fried and battered fish filets pad the monster-sized menu.”
12. Jollibee
7 Annie Wermiel/NY Post
The top fast food chain in The Philippines — with a cheerful bee as its mascot — is increasingly showing up all over America, and Truman is definitely into the idea, saying there’s “no other fast food chain quite like it in America.”
Go for “crispy fried chicken, beef patty steaks with gravy, spicy tuna pies, and their trademark sweet-sauce-topped spaghetti meals,” she says, calling the chicken — when executed correctly — “better than KFC.”



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