Cheese is an integral part of fast food, so we owe a lot to Wisconsin. That’s doubly true now that fried cheese curds are a nationwide hit, thanks in large part to ButterBurger/frozen custard chain Culver’s. But Wisconsin’s equally lovely for small chains like Flippy’s -- which does Italian beefs and other Chicago-inspired fare -- plus the seas of little custard and hot dog stands dotting the landscape, just begging to help pad you up for the winter.
Notable fact: In 2014, Wisconsin produced 2,842,456,000lbs of cheese.
Because not everyone wants to eat at the $10,000 caviar buffet when they visit Vegas (unless it's comped), Nevada has its fast-food bases covered, and not just in Sin City. With In-N-Out, Shake Shack, and Raising Cane's, they’ve got some mainstreamers to brag about, but they stand out (even more so than the ridiculous people in Vegas) because of their own 13-location Mexican taqueria (there’s a salsa bar!) Don Tortaco, along with three hotel-housed Original Chicken Tender joints and the Chinese fast-food rarity, China A GoGo.
Notable fact: When White Castle opened in Vegas, they were forced to close and restock. The people were that stoked.
We’ve gotta give Illinois props for being the place where Potbelly Sandwich Shop was dreamed up. What started as an antique shop serving its quirky customers lunch has now become a toasted-sammie institution that’s spread to almost half of the 50 states. Though research showed that IL definitely has more tasty one-offs than chains, they do have incredible Italian beef shops like both Al’s and Jay’s, potstickers & buns from Wow Bao, Greek chicken & BBQ rib tips from Nicky’s, and breakfast & burgers from Urban Counter, plus soup & chili from Capt’n Nemo’s and Chicago faithful Harold’s Chicken Shack. Even East Coast big dogs White Castle & Shake Shack are there for your consumption. Oh, and you didn’t think we forgot the phenomenon that is Portillo’s and their legendary Chi dogs, did you? Well, we didn’t!
Notable fact: Potbelly’s got a whole secret menu… which you can find right here.
Arizona's Mexican fast-food game is seriously strong, and, while the state can’t brag too much about their quick-service choices since they’re pretty limited, the ones they do have help make up for that. Sure, they’re fortunate enough to have access to regional big-timers like Whataburger, Raising Cane's, Culver’s, and In-N-Out (!!), but their Mexican selections are where they really shine. In addition to the myriad one-off taco shacks, they've got the whopping combo plates and tortas of regional chain Federico's, plus outposts of Cali favorite El Pollo Loco.
Notable fact: Alice Cooper -- who grew up in Phoenix -- was recently inducted into the White Castle Hall of Fame.
15. New York
For a major state that usually dominates when it comes to culinary prowess, NY is still strong, but not the best in terms of fast food (and no, we're not counting pizza slices or street meat). Thankfully, NYC is responsible for Shake Shack, whose fresh ShackBurgers and SmokeShacks are beloved by all, even famous chefs. New York also gets to claim Nathan’s, which has expanded globally but is still a Coney Island institution. There are healthy spots (Chickpea, Fresh & Co.) and the opposite (Ranch 1, Kennedy Fried Chicken), plus upstate joints like Ted’s Hot Dog’s (wieners covered in mac & cheese!) and the faux-Mexican Mighty Taco. It's a good scene, but you can't win 'em all New York (despite what the comments section tells you).
Notable fact: Shake Shack began as a mere hot dog cart in Madison Square Park.
14. North Carolina
What’s that? You spent your entire childhood wishing your Grandmother made fluffy, fresh buttermilk biscuits every morning? Biscuitville’s fried pork chop biscuit is a great way to work through those really weird, unresolved family issues. Soundly defeating its Southern counterpart, North Carolina is also the birthplace of Bojangles and Cook-Out, which manages to have Cheerwine at the drink fountain and a food selection that magically ranges from chopped BBQ plates to chili-topped burgers.
Notable fact: Fresh biscuits are made every 20 minutes at Biscuitville, which seems to be the perfect timing to finish one, eat a fresh one, and repeat forever.
In the 1950s, Jacksonville was home to Insta-Burger King, which sold $.18 hamburgers and milkshakes. Nowadays, the name is different, but their HQ is still in Miami. And lest you think it's all burgers and fries (and old people) in the Sunshine State, FL has also spawned the healthy Giardino Gourmet Salads, the chicken-forward joints PDQ and Pollo Tropical, the seafood-heavy Snappers, and the Tex-Mex-flavored Tijuana Flats. Florida is also home to some of the best fast-food from the South, like Bojangles, Whataburger, and Krystal.
Notable fact: Burger King has a restaurant in all 50 states (and over 70 other countries).