1. Jimmy John’s
Gourmet sandwich king Jimmy John’s has stores in 43 states, which is NOT ENOUGH. The signature “Gargantuan” is filled with genoa salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey and provolone with onions, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and homemade Italian dressing.
2. Rita’s Italian Ice
Rita’s Italian Ice (also known as Rita’s Water Ice) sells its delicious ices and custards up and down the East Coast and in a few other spots. They also have a tradition of giving away a free small ice on the first day of spring each year. Can we have global custard soon, please?
3. Steak ‘n’ Shake
THOSE SKINNY FRIES. While you might have assumed everyone got to hang out at the 24-hour burger-and-milkshake joint during high school, the Shake is only in 22 states. Pour out a little Side by Side shake for the have-nots.
4. Taco Cabana
A 24-hour taco place? OK. But as of now, you can only get your Taco Cabana on in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. :(
5. Portillo’s Hot Dogs
Chicago-based Portillo’s is famous for its Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, hamburgers, sandwiches, ribs, and salads, as well as the famous Chocolate Cake Shake, which is a piece of chocolate cake blended in a chocolate milkshake. YES, PLEASE.
6. Giordano’s Pizza
Giordano’s is the proud inventor of stuffed pizza, featuring a top and bottom crust with cheese and toppings stuffed in between and sauce on top of the pizza. If that’s not enough to convince you that the restaurant should expand beyond Chicago and Florida, keep staring at that photo some more.
7. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery
Perkins serves breakfast all day — and brings a glorious urn full of coffee to your table when you order it — and also boasts a bakery that serves pies, cookies, and of course, Mammoth Muffins. Oh, Perkins, please spread thy carb-y glory from sea to shining sea. Amen.
Currently found only in the South, Whataburger serves up the famous “Whataburger,” the “Whatacatch” (fish sandwich), the “Whatachick’n” (chicken), a honey butter chicken BISCUIT and the “Whatataco” (taco), which comes in three-packs. They also serve breakfast from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. Genius?
9. Bojangles’ Chicken ‘n Biscuits
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Bojangles’ makes spicy Cajun-style fried chicken and biscuits both savory and sweet. There are more than 500 locations, which is still not enough. Not enough!
If you’ve met someone from the East Coast, you’ve no doubt heard them talk about Wawa, the gas station chain dropped straight to the Atlantic seaboard from God’s omnipotent fingertips. Not only will Wawa pump you your unleaded, but they’ll serve you from a coffee bar, a hot breakfast menu, and a famous hoagie that you can order with a touchscreen. Go west, fair Wawa, and fulfill your manifest sandwich destiny. The people are waiting.
11. Kelly’s Roast Beef
Kelly’s offers legendary roast beef and seafood selections, including a famous lobster roll. It’s a wicked shame that you can only find them in Massachusetts.
Potbelly is headquartered in Chicago and serves its famous hot sandwiches in almost 300 locations, along with salads, soup, shakes, malts, smoothies, and cookies. What’s not to love about a place that has a “BIG” sandwich option? (It’ll get you a sub that’s 30% larger.)
13. White Castle
When you need a slider, you just…NEED A SLIDER. Or chicken rings. Or crinkle fries. Make White Castle a mandatory presence in every United State.
14. Waffle House
The South’s most popular cultural icon, Waffle House is proudly low-rent, even though its waffles and breakfast are high in awesomeness.
15. Abbott’s Frozen Custard
New York-based Abbott’s has also expanded to Massachusetts and Florida, but OTHER STATES NEED MONKEY BREAD AND CINNAMON CRUMB CAKE CUSTARD TOO.
16. Cook Out
Cook Out is a fast food chain located in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia that boasts the usual burger fare, in addition to serving Cheerwine soda on tap.
17. Del Taco
Del Taco serves both Mexican and American food and operates in 16 states, mostly on the West Coast. I mean, what more could a drunk person ask for than the choice between tacos AND burgers in one restaurant?
18. Stewart’s Shops
Found only in upstate New York and in Vermont, Stewart’s makes its own branded ice cream, potato chips, milk, coffee, and more. Most of them are connected to gas stations. So convenient!
Honorable Mention: Chick-fil-A (demoted to honorable mention for controversial business practices).
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