14 Best Southern American Fast-Food Chains

There are plenty of national fast-food chains that we are all fairly well acquainted with.

However, there are some fast-food chains that are located in specific parts of the country that have a lot to offer.

One of the best parts of the country for incredible fast-food options is the South.

14 Best Southern American Fast-Food Chains

There is an incredible variety of fast-food chains that offer a wide range of different foods, all of which have a beautiful and delicious southern twist.

Whether you live in the South or are simply visiting for a while, there are plenty of fast-food establishments that are worth a visit.

In this article, we have compiled a list of some of the best Southern American fast-food chains that you should check out next time you are in the beautiful South.

1. Jack’s

Jack’s is a popular burger chain that has locations in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.

One of the things that makes Jack’s such a popular fast-food establishment is the way that they stay true to the classics.

For example, the cheeseburger that they serve is made with pretty much the same recipe as it was made with, back when the first store opened way back in 1960.

Jacks has since expanded its menu from the humble cheeseburger but the passion and talent for making delicious food remains.

You can now treat yourself to fried chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and even a BLT.

However, no Southern fast-food restaurant is without the Southern staples that we know and love.

At Jack’s, you can pick up a classic buttered biscuit, creamy mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes with gravy.

If it is a sweet treat that you are looking for, Jack’s serves up a piping hot Southern apple pie.

Despite the fact that they are a fast-food restaurant, you will get a decent helping of authentic Southern hospitality and flavors.

2. Whataburger

Whataburger is a burger fast-food restaurant that has locations in Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

One of the best things about Whataburger, aside from the giant burgers that inspired the name, is the fact that it is open 24 hours a day.

That means that you can get your fix of Southern fast food whenever the feeling takes you.

The menu that is offered by Whataburger is fairly standard for a burger fast-food restaurant.

There is a range of hamburgers with varying numbers of patties and additions such as bacon and avocado.

There are also a few fried chicken sandwiches available too. One of the most Southern aspects of this restaurant can be found in the breakfast section of the menu.

No Southern fast-food establishment is complete without at least one biscuit option.

Thankfully, Whataburger (see also ‘17 Of The Best Menu Items To Order From Whataburger‘) has at least seven different biscuit options for you to choose from to get a real feel for the South.

From the standard biscuits and gravy to a filling egg and cheese biscuit sandwich, there is a biscuit dish for everyone.  

A menu item that is likely to be very popular among all of the Southern fast-food chains is apple pie being offered as a sweet treat or a dessert.

Although this is a common dessert item for many fast-food restaurants all over the country, it would be reasonable to expect that the apple pies from Southern chains will be the best in the country.

3. Taco Cabana

Taco Cabana is a Southern fast-food restaurant with multiple locations in Texas.

Although this fast-food chain is limited to only one state, it is a big state, and there are plenty of Taco Cabana locations for you to choose from.

Unlike the Southern fast-food restaurants mentioned above, the menu at Taco Cabana is focused more on South American food.

Rather than offering biscuits and gravy for breakfast, at Taco Cabana you get a choice of different tacos and burritos.

This is a great way to experience the other side of the Southern cuisine coin, the side that takes inspiration from across the border.

Unlike the other restaurants on this list, you won’t find a single burger on this menu. There are quesadillas, tacos, flautas, enchiladas, and nachos.

All of which are bursting with flavor and spice combinations from the most southern parts of the country.  

One of the most intriguing things about the menu at taco cabana is the range of desserts that are offered.

You won’t find an apple pie on the menu, but you will find bowls of steaming sopapillas served with honey or dulce de leche.

4. Bojangles’ Famous Chicken N’ Biscuits

Bojangles is probably one of the biggest chains mentioned on this list.

If you are looking for some authentic southern fried chicken, you need to look no further than Bojangles.

They have been producing quality, delicious fried chicken for decades, and they seem to have it down pat.

Every piece of chicken that you order from the fast-food chain has been marinated for a minimum of 12 hours.

They don’t skimp on the seasoning either, there is no risk of biting into a piece of chicken and thinking that it is bland.

The pepper in the batter helps add another layer of lip-tingling goodness.

Bojangles also knows its target audience is mostly large Southern families, therefore, you don’t have to worry about ordering enough food when there is a large group of you.

Out of all of the family orders, the biggest is the 20 piece chicken meal which features 20 pieces of chicken, 10 homemade biscuits, 4 fixin’s, and a gallon of sweet tea.

The range of fixin’s that you can choose from is extensive, and the fact that they are called fixin’s instead of sides lets you know that you are definitely in the South.

Aside from the biscuits, fried chicken, and the use of the word Fixin’s, it is the drinks menu that really sets Bojangles apart from the rest of the Southern fast-food restaurants.

Not only do they have some of the best sweet tea in the country, but they also serve an exclusive Mountain Dew Southern Shock beverage.

5. Cook Out

Cook Out is a slightly different type of fast-food chain compared to most of the others on this list and has locations spread out across the whole of the South.

It is sometimes unfairly compared to a mall food hall, but that really doesn’t do Cook Out the justice that it deserves.

If you have a large family or group of friends, or there are some picky eaters in your group, Cook Out is the fast-food restaurant for you.

Rather than offering a single specialty such as hamburgers or fried chicken and adding a few extras to round out the menu, Cook Out does it all.

What used to be an entirely drive-thru experience has now changed at some locations to feature more dine-in options where customer service and ambiance are a high priority.

They really do offer everything from hamburgers to hotdogs to quesadillas, and everything in between.

One of the menu items that they are best known for is their milkshakes which come in an extensive assortment of flavors.

Ever wanted to have a peach cobbler in a milkshake? Cook Out have you covered. How about a cheesecake milkshake? They have that too.

Because the menu at Cook Out is so extensive and covers such a wide variety of foods, it can be quite overwhelming to place an order, especially if you are only visiting the South and get one shot at nailing your choice.

That is where the Cook Out trays come into their own. The trays come in a standard or Jr. size and allow you to pick a main entree, two sides, and a drink.

6. Dat Dog

Dat Dog is a fast-food restaurant that only has establishments within the state of Louisiana, but it is still a very popular Southern fast-food chain.

As you can tell by the name, they specialize in hot dogs, and they do it very well.

Although hot dogs might not immediately spring to mind when you think of Southern cuisine, Dat Dog manages to put a very Southern twist on their dogs.

Ordering from the Dat Dog menu will make you feel like you are at home in the swamps of Louisiana, ordering the local’s catch of the day.

The alligator sausage is a must-try item that provides a mildly spicy and slightly smoky flavor.

It is commonly served with Cheese, Pico De Gallo, Guacamole, Barbecue Sauce, & Chipotle Mayo for the “Snappy Dog”.

Alligator sausage also comes with Grilled Onions, Creole Mustard, Tomatoes, Jalapenos, Barbecue Sauce, & Bacon for the Rougarou.

If alligator is a little bit out there for your tastes but you want to get into the creole and cajun vibe, Dat Dog’s array of crawfish options could be the way to go.

You can order a crawfish dog that comes with a plethora of toppings including crawfish etouffee.

You can also order tots that are topped with crawfish etouffee, which is a typical creole and cajun dish that resembles a stew.

Dat Dog also boasts a rather extensive veggie and vegan range of dogs to help suit every preference and requirement.

Although the sides are limited to either fries or tots, the variety of toppings that you can choose from is great and complement the dogs and their toppings very well.

7. Zaxby’s

Zaxby’s is by far one of the biggest chains on this list with over 600 locations spread across the South.

Their popularity is almost exclusively down to the food that they produce.

If you visit a Zaxby’s when you are in the South, you will have to make peace with the fact that you probably won’t find a chicken sandwich anywhere else in the country that is as crunchy and flavorful as Zaxby’s.

Similarly, their buffalo wings are a staple of their menu for a good reason.

The marinade that soaks through every bite of the wings is sweet and tangy with a hint of spice. 

Even the biggest portion of wings will leave you craving more once you have left.  There is just something so moreish about the flavors.  

One of the best things on Zaxby’s menu if you are just a tourist to the South, or even if you are a southerner that doesn’t get to indulge in cooking as much as you’d like, is the sandwich that comes in Texas toast rather than a bun.

If you are unfamiliar, Texas toast is basically toast made from bread that has been sliced at least double the thickness of regular store-bought bread.

It is a very indulgent way to make a sandwich.

If you want to try the Texas toast but don’t want to have to finish a whole sandwich, Zaby’s also offers a Texas toast platter that you can share among your table mates.

8. Krystal

Krystal is a Southern fast-food restaurant that has locations in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina.

Krystal is an establishment that is more like the chains that were mentioned at the beginning of this article, the food it serves is quite typical of a fast-food restaurant, but with classic Southern twists and additions.

The Southern influence is particularly apparent on the breakfast menu where there is a plethora of biscuit-based items including a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and a pimento cheese biscuit.

The most popular item on the breakfast menu, however, is the 3 egg breakfast plate.

This plate comes with three eggs, a freshly made biscuit, a choice of grits or tots, and bacon or sausage patties.

This is a hearty breakfast that will set up any Southerner to face the day. It is also the first time that grits have been featured on a menu in this list.

All of the sandwiches on the menu at Krystal’s are served in old-fashioned Southern yeast rolls.

Not only do these somewhat square rolls look unique when compared to other fast food sandwiches, but they also give the food a more homemade feel and add to the level of comfort they offer.

9. Milo’s Hamburgers

Milo’s Hamburgers is a chain fast food restaurant with locations spread throughout the state of Alabama.

As the name suggests, this establishment specializes mostly in hamburgers.

It might feel a bit like the market for burger joints is over-saturated, but each chain brings its own flair and additions that make them different enough to all have earned a place on this list.

That being said, Milo’s is one of the most classic fast food places on this list.

Providing little extras and additions that give their food a slight twist is what Milo’s Hamburgers really does best.

Everything that you order from the menu will have a little surprise hidden in it somewhere.

The crinkle cut fries, for example, are served dusted with a slightly orange spice mix that elevates them above regular fries and adds another layer of flavor to your meal.

Similarly, the tangy Milo’s sauce is a taste adventure, the recipe for which is closely guarded.

The sauce is great for dipping your spiced fries or for providing some extra moisture and flavor to the burgers and sandwiches.  

What Milo’s is most famous for, however, is its sweet tea.

Nothing beats enjoying a fresh, iced glass of Milo’s tea with one of their fresh burgers, spiced fries, and secret sauce.

10. Biscuitville

Biscuitville is another Southern fast-food chain where the name perfectly describes what they offer.

With locations in North Carolina and Virginia, this is a truly Southern chain restaurant.

It can be easy to assume that a restaurant that only serves biscuits might be a bit short on variety, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To accompany the biscuits, Biscuitville has created multiple fillings and toppings to create delicious meals for any time of the day.

From breakfast biscuits with eggs and sausage patties to friend catfish, and even crispy fried pork chops.  Of course, they also offer classic biscuits in gravy.

The sides that are offered by Biscuitville are bursting with Southern flavors and pride.

The star of the sides menu is the cheesy grits that feel like the most Southern option that we have ever heard of.

Despite the fact that grits have only appeared twice on menus on this list, they are one of the pinnacles of Southern cuisine and can remind any Southerner of home in an instant.

If you want an authentic Southern experience, grits are a must.

11. KFC

KFC is one of the most famous fast-food chains in the US and it is certainly the most popular chain on this list.

It is unlikely that you will have never been to a KFC location before which means that there isn’t all that much to tell you about it.

Except, the branches that are located in the South, such as the locations in Louisiana and Mississippi, do have some different menu items that are exclusive to the South.

The most notable items that are only found in the Southern branches of KFC are the flaky biscuits which can be served as a side or as a sandwich.

Another Southern-inspired item on the menu is the Southern rice which can be ordered as a side dish.

The rice is mildly spiced and features veggies to add a bit of color to your meal.

Finally, everyone knows how good KFC chicken is with the secret blend of spices that provides the perfect amount of flavor.

12. Popeye’s

Popeye’s (see also ‘The Best Gluten-Free Food To Order At Popeyes‘) is the Southern fast-food restaurant that you have either heard of or haven’t. However, it is one of the best Southern fast-food places on this list.

Not only is the food high-quality and freshly made, but it is authentically Southern, born out of Louisiana. 

The sides menu is where you can really tell how Southern Popeye’s really is.

The solitary biscuit, the mashed potatoes with gravy, the red beans and rice, and the homestyle mac and cheese all scream Southern cuisine.

They are hearty and rich while comforting and creamy, perfect for a good Southern feed after a long day.

The fact that most meals from Popeye’s are served with a biscuit tells you all you need to know about the popularity of the product.

13. Waffle House

Waffle House is another establishment that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Locals will often joke that you can judge how bad a storm or hurricane really is based on whether Waffle House closed or not.

However, Waffle House isn’t just a great example of Southern grit and tenacity, it also serves some amazing Southern food. 

While they are best known for their hearty and indulgent breakfast options, you can also get high-quality burgers, sandwiches, and melts.

If you are looking for a healthy dose of Southern hospitality, you don’t have to look any further than one of the many Waffle house locations.

14. Raising Cane’s

By now, we’ve established that a large percentage of Southern fast-food chains are fried chicken restaurants.

However, if you need proof that they are not all the same, look no further than Raising Cane’s (see also ‘The Best Items On The Raising Cane’s Menu!‘).

Their fried chicken fingers are some of the crispiest and most flavorful around. The minimalist menu has played a large part in the rapid growth of this chain.

Sticking to what you know really seems to pay off.

Best of all, at Raising Cane’s the Texas toast is freshly prepared to order, making it even more indulgent and enjoyable. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes A Fast-Food Chain Southern?

There are a couple of things that can lead to a fast-food chain being considered southern. The most obvious one is the location of the restaurant.

In the case of large chains that have spread across the country, it would be considered Southern if they originated in the South.

Similarly, if a fast-food chain served a majority of Southern foods such as grits, biscuits and gravy, or alligator meat, it may also be considered a Southern chain.

Final Thoughts

There are many incredible Southern fast-food chains in America, all of which serve high-quality and delicious foods.

This list has taken the best of the best in terms of selection and Southern hospitality.

14 Best Southern American Fast-Food Chains

14 Best Southern American Fast-Food Chains

Recipe by Jenna

There are currently at least 9,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States, so it can be hard to pick out which ones are the best. Here are 11 Southern chains that have been making foodies happy.

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