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2018 Power Rankings: Fast Food Chains

Yesterday we made the locals mad, now it’s everyone’s turn

Fast-Food Chicken Restaurant Chick-Fil-A Opens First Store In Manhattan Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

With the bye week rolling along, we continue to not think about the sad state of Georgia Tech Football by bringing you the second installment of POWER RANKINGS 2018.

Yesterday Josh claimed that nothing brings out heated arguments in our internal Slack channels like Atlanta Wings. He’s wrong. Nothing foments debate quite like two things: Fast food and Barbecue. Today we’ll dive into the former. I was tempted to rank the latter, but I have to admit that my Atlanta Barbecue experience is...lacking. Besides, my two favorite Q joints of all time aren’t even in Atlanta(Smoking Pig of Pendleton, SC and Hutchins BBQ of McKinney, TX). Fatt Matt’s is third but it isn’t really close.

Anyway, back on topic. Since moving to Dallas, almost every great fast food joint is at my fingertips. It’s been a fantastic and terrible experience, and it has inspired me to make this list. The only place I have yet to try is Culver’s, so if you’re mad it’s not on this list, I’m sorry.

I have to lay down some ground rules here. No, Waffle House does not count. It has wait service, and no restaurants with waiters are included. Same with the “Line” restaurants like Chipotle, Moe’s, Panda Express, etc. Including them made the list too crowded, and isn’t really comparing apples to apples(Burritos to burgers?). Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to it:

10. Krystal

I haven’t been to a Krystal in years. The one near Tech had some vastly superior fast food places move in next door, and I haven’t gone back. But I used to love it. I do miss that buttery, mustardy, oniony goodness.

9. Bojangles’

Yeah this is here mostly for the Boberry biscuits. If you aren’t eating a Boberry biscuit while sipping sweet tea, you’re going about contracting diabetes the wrong way. There’s better chicken out there, better sauce, better sides, but this is enough to at least land them on the list. For my fellow Carolinians who think I’ve forsaken the homeland, just keep reading.

8. McDonald’s

The original is often overlooked in the fast-food rich south, but it got to where it is today for a reason. The fries have always been good, and I sometimes have to stop myself from eating two quarter-pounders in one sitting. Miss me with those McNuggets though. Ice cream machine’s broke too.

7. Taco Bell

RIP. Those of you who possess weak intestinal fortitude may look at Taco Bell with disdain, but you are simply not worthy of its glory. Taco Bell has guided many a budget-strapped college student through to graduation, myself included. The Crunchwrap Supreme is still one of my favorite food items ever, and the Quesarito was the staple of my graduate school experience. The big problem? Pepsi. It’s revolting.

6. Raising Cane’s

There are quite a few chicken restaurants on this list, and Cane’s may have the best chicken tenders out of all of them. My personal experience with Cane’s is limited( too many locations of #s 2-4 near me), but it’s definitely delectable. But it just doesn’t stack up against:

5. Zaxby’s

The undisputed champion of Chicken Fingers. Cane’s may be good, but Zaxby’s does more things better. The Zalads and shakes are amazing, and the chicken finger plate is perfect, especially with no less than 4 containers of ZAX SAUCE. I don’t even care that they charge extra for it. The chain’s crusade to put a restaurant at every exit of every interstate in the great state of Georgia has been a blessing to all travelers.

Zaxby’s tried to venture into the DFW area with a sponsorship of the Heart of Dallas bowl. They have been largely stifled by Cane’s(Has one of its two HQs in Plano) so far. Begun, the Chicken Finger Wars have.

4. Whataburger

An official State Treasure of Texas, Whataburger is truly the embodiment of its home state. The burgers are massive and there is a huge variety of them. The fries are reminiscent of those at McDonald’s, but there’s Jalapeño ketchup, so that’s an instant upgrade. Between the huge burgers and 32oz “Medium” drink, everything really is bigger in Texas.

Get the Avocado Bacon burger or the original Whataburger. You won’t regret it.

DO NOT get a large shake. It’s 32 Ounces. I did. I thought I was going to die.

3. Chick-Fil-A

I don’t even need to explain this one.

2. In-n-Out

In-n-out is tricky and you have to really know what you’re doing to get the best culinary experience. There’s basically no menu except the secret menu, and it led to me feeling underwhelmed at first. Get the burger animal style, you won’t regret it.

The fries are often lambasted as lacking, but again, experience comes into play. You can get them animal style if you want, but it’s messy. The best solution? Dunk them in In-n-Out Spread. Delicious.

Everything at In-n-out is fresh, and that’s what lands it at #2 on this list. While Whataburger is fantastic, I often leave feeling like I have sludge for blood. That’s never the case at In-n-Out. The freshness makes it stand in a class of its own.

  1. Cookout

I’m here to analyze good football teams and proclaim the glories of Cookout (the greatest thing to ever come out of the Carolinas), and I’m all out of good football teams. I’ll get the obvious out of the way first. No, Cookout does not do any one thing better than the other chains near the top of this list, but they do everything.

See, Cookout is the spirit of American Freedom. There are infinite options, and the menu is no secret. Do you want to get a chicken strips tray with 2 sides of chicken nuggets? Guess what? You can! Do you want a BBQ sandwich at a fast food place? A strip of bacon in a tortilla? Do you want to dip your hush puppies in one of 40+ shake flavors? You can!

It’s one of the few places you can get Cheerwine, and has at least a decent mimicry of Zax Sauce. The “Special Sauce” works for pretty much everything. Corndog, Cookout Rounds, Chicken nuggets, Cajun Fries. It may not be Zax Sauce, but Zaxby’s doesn’t have this variety of stuff to dip.

I’ll defend Cookout against any fast food out there, so bring on the hot takes.

Note: No, we haven’t abandoned the Analysis articles, we’re just a little late on them. There was a lot to digest(heh). This is just a fun side project brought on by some debates we’ve been having internally to get us through the season. We hope this is the same fun distraction for you as it has been for us!