Just because you are in a hurry to get to your next destination doesn't mean that you can't have great food along the way.
Our list includes top fast food chains serving delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner, including fantastic pizza, sandwiches, salad bars, hot dogs, smoked meats, BBQ, fries, sausages and other mouthwatering dishes.
Next read: 25 Best Fast Food Burgers to Eat on Vacation and 10 Great Fast Food Desserts to Try on Vacation.
© McAlister's Deli
McAlister’s Deli sandwiches are the Cadillacs of sandwiches. Hot, toasted, pressed, loaded with toppings, fresh, and delicious, they are everything you need for a good lunch. Except you might also want a cup of their daily made soup and their Famous Sweet Tea.
If you are worried about calories, you can check their nutrition list before you start stacking all your favorite meats and cheeses. They have roast beef, ham, smoked meats, turkey, fish, and so much more. And then the cheeses – there are so many to choose from! There is a good reason their cold tea is so famous: it is made fresh three times a day and served with ice and refreshing lemon. That way you get some vitamins too.
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Dickey’s started selling their hickory-smoked meats in 1941, and they have not stopped since then. Now they have stores all over the country, but each store still smokes their meats on-site, in the restaurant, the same way they did it in 1941. You can get Dickey's famous beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey breast, ham, Polish sausage, and chicken.
You can have your meats by the pound, in a sandwich, or on a plate with sides. They have some great sides perfected through the decades, including jalapeño beans, macaroni and cheese, baked potatoes, and much more. It is Dickey’s tradition that kids eat free every Sunday.
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© Blaze Pizza
In order to exceed your expectations when it comes to fabulous pizza, Blaze Pizza hired the Pizza Whisperer, Executive Chef Bradford Kent. And he has a few rules: everything has to be fresh, the dough is made from scratch daily, ingredients are healthy and artisanal, and the oven is blazing hot.
The result is delicious pizza that is ready in 180 seconds, crisp on the outside, and loaded with your favorite things – you design your own pizza. Unless you are one of those people who like their pizza cold, this fabulous pie tastes even better warmed up as leftovers. Just do not use the microwave – the word of advice is that the only way to warm this perfect pizza is in your oven.
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We call Arby’s sandwiches delicious. They call it “meatcraft,” meaning they put a lot of effort into making sure their eight kinds of meat are just perfect for their delicious sandwiches. From Angus steak and smoked brisket to roasted chicken breast and wild caught Alaskan pollock, every piece is carefully chosen, sliced fresh, and piled up on the freshly baked bread together with your favorite salads and dressing.
Don’t miss their famous curly fries, and if you are having friends over, get a bunch of stuffed sliders. If you are wondering what on Earth a slider is, it is the same as a sandwich, but bite-sized. They come on small soft buns, and you can choose the filling, just like you do with your sandwiches.
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© Pie Five
Pie Five offers something special. You get your own individual pizza with whatever you want on it in five minutes or less. They call this concept “fine, casual, and fast.” They do not make large pizzas you slice and share. The restaurant gives each person complete and undivided attention with regards to their dining choice. Their 10-inch pizza can be crispy thin, Neapolitan whole grain, classic pan, or gluten-free, and all the options except gluten-free are baked in-house. Your choices of sauces are “Tuscan” marinara, barbecue, spicy sriracha, ranch, buffalo ranch, olive, or alfredo.
As for the cheeses, you get to choose between whole milk mozzarella, ricotta, and cheddar. They have seven kinds of meat — pepperoni, ham, grilled chicken, beef, bacon, Italian sausage and meatballs. Plus there are sixteen vegetables. Not easy to choose, right? And what makes it even more difficult is that for the same price you can choose as many toppings as you wish.
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© Panera Bread
Fresh, hot, hand-made bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Panera Bread has been making great breads for the last 30 years. There are no shortcuts, no preservatives, no trans-fats, no artificial preservatives, no MSG, and no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. Of course, they could not stay with just great breads and pastries.
They naturally extended their menu to include sandwiches and paninis and then soups and salads. There is no better place to order a sandwich than at the bakery – it will be incredibly fresh, and whatever you put in it tastes even better. And their soups and salads are made daily, from scratch, just the way your mom used to do.
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© Lenny's Subs
You better be hungry when you order Lenny’s Sub. The regular 7-inch sub comes with a half pound of meat and cheese, and the large 15-inch version comes with a pound of stuffing. And that does not count all the veggies and sauces that go with it. Each sub starts with freshly baked bread, white, whole wheat, or multigrain. You can also get a Kaiser bun.
Each sub is made fresh while you wait. And you will be happy to wait for delights such as Philly Cheesesteak or meatball sub. If you prefer your sub cold, there are so many choices, such as ham, bacon, prosciutto, turkey, capicola, roast beef, Genoa salami, tuna salad, chicken salad, and so much more. If you want a complete meal, pick a combo to get a soda, chips, and a delicious cookie.
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© Penn Station
It all started with a sandwich stuffed with grilled Philly-inspired cheesesteak, fresh-cut fries, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. By preparing sandwiches in front of each customer with the freshest available ingredients, Penn Station had created a concept that was an instant hit. Today you can find the famous Penn Station Philadelphia Cheesesteak sub in 290 restaurants in 15 states.
Your Philly Steak sandwich comes with sautéed onions, banana peppers, fresh mushrooms, spicy-brown mustard, pizza sauce, and mayo. You can also find chicken and Italian subs, Club and Reuben sandwiches, or you can make your own, with plenty to choose from: five meats, four cheeses, five veggies, and eight condiments.
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Mod’s pizzas are called “simple food for complex times.” The idea is to make good, cheap food, pay the workers well, and make everyone’s life a little better. Not a bad goal, and it worked. The way it goes is simple: first, there are no waiters: you go up to the station where “pizza builders” will pile up the toppings on the freshly made pie.
Then you pay, and at this time you can also buy drinks and shakes. After three minutes, your pizza is baked and ready for you to pick up. All pizzas cost the same regardless of the toppings, and there is a lot to choose from: five sauces, six cheeses, ten meats, and twenty-one veggies. Simple, right?
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10.Num Pang Sandwich Shop
© Num Pang Sandwich Shop
We know about West-East fusion cuisine, but West-East sandwiches? At Num Pang, that is what you get, and you will love every last bite of it. You can have them with toasted semolina bread freshly baked daily in New York City or in a rice bowl (the East part.) All sandwiches come with cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots, and the Num Pang signature chili mayo.
The fillings range from hoisin meatballs with stewed tomatoes and Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly with Pickled Asian Pear to Grilled Khmer Sausage with Asian Slaw and Holiday Turkey with Hoisin BBQ sauce and pickled cranberries. The result of this happy fusion is absolutely delicious, so be brave and try new things.
11.Lou Malnati's Pizza
© Lou Malnati's Pizza
Lou Malnati’s is the place you go when you have craving for a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. What makes Lou Malnati’s pizza so special starts with the dough. It is so flaky, crisp, and buttery, you can eat it alone and be perfectly happy. The recipe is a family secret that they have protected for the last 40 years.
Then there is their special tomato sauce. They pick each tomato by hand, ensuring it is perfectly ripe and sweet. They have their sausages made to exact specifications, and fresh mozzarella comes from the same small local dairy, which has also been a practice for the last 40 years. Every pizza is made from scratch with your favorite toppings while you wait. There is nothing like it.
© Sweet Green
Sweet Green is a salad bar – a fun, inventive, colorful, and super healthy salad bar. Their concept is to offer locally sourced, organic ingredients produced by local farmers that are fresh, perfectly ripe, and mixed in a totally new way. There are ingredients you have never heard of, from old-fashioned greens we do not see in our grocery stores to grains eaten by native peoples around the world for thousands of years.
They have fruits, salad greens, super foods, herbs and spices, nuts, even bacon, eggs, chicken, and shrimps. Knowledgeable staff members mix their signature and seasonal bowls to produce delicious, unexpected flavors. Of course, you can make your own mix, but trust the professionals – it is worth it. One of their best sellers is Rad Thai with organic arugula, organic mesclun, carrots, sprouts, shredded cabbage, cucumbers, spicy sunflower seeds, basil, and citrus shrimp, all drenched in spicy cashew dressing.
Do you know what Chicago-style food is? You will have to come to Portillo’s to find out. First, there are their famous Chicago-style hot dogs. They have been around since 1963, when Portillo’s was one small hot dog shack called the Dog House. They come on a delicious steamed poppy seed bun and are dressed with mustard, relish, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, kosher pickle, and peppers.
Then they added Italian roast beef smothered in gravy, a milk shake with bits of cake in it, and chocolate cake to the menu, and the rest is history. Of course, today the menu has hundreds of items, hot dogs come in all sizes, varieties, and dressings, and there are charcoaled burgers and all kinds of salads, but people are still coming to Portillo’s for their great Chicago hot dogs.
© Genghis Grill
Stir-fry is probably one of the healthiest ways of eating, unless you want to stick to salads. Everything is cooked fast at a high temperature to preserve all the nutrients. But, making a good stir-fry is not as easy as it looks. It takes professionals at Gengis Grill to show you how really good stir-fry actually tastes.
You decide on the flavor by choosing from more than 80 ingredients. You pick one of 14 kinds of meats, fish, or seafood, spice it up, and then add one or more fresh, crunchy veggies from dozens of choices. Once you choose from a huge list of their fun, imaginative sauces from all over Asia, all you need to do is pick your sides and you are ready to hand your selection to the stir-fry master. Watch the master work your food on the hot, sizzling grill just long enough and turn it into a delicious bowl of wonderful flavors. You might wonder if you should have chosen a medium or large bowl instead of a small one after you take the first bite.
© Lyfe Kitchen
Lyfe or Love Your Food Everyday is easy when you eat at one of Lyfe’s colorful restaurants that are quickly popping up all over the country. They manage to make the food with high quality ingredients that fresh, local, seasonal, and very healthy – every item has calories and sodium count, but most importantly, they are absolutely delicious.
People with dietary restrictions will find very a satisfying list of dishes that are vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free, which is not an easy thing in the fast food world. If you do not have any restrictions, go for the best – one of Lyfe’s best sellers, the Thai Red Curry Bowl with eggplant, broccoli, peppers, peas, Thai basil, and wheatberries, soaked in a coconut curry sauce. Who says that there is no such a thing as fast fine dining?
16.The Organic Coup
© The Organic Coup
Many people would gladly pay more for organic food to avoid consuming pesticides, to promote small farmers, and to help the environment. But, who has the time to go looking for organic ingredients and then cook them at home? And then there is a problem of trust – not all that is labeled “organic” is really organic.
The Organic Coup is America’s first USDA certified-organic fast-food chain. And they make their organic meals absolutely delicious. Healthy does not have to mean boring. Their signature dish is organic spicy breaded chicken fried in healthy organic coconut oil. The rest is simple: your chicken goes in an organic toasted artisanal bun, organic multigrain wrap, or a bowl with a mix of organic fresh shredded veggies. Organic enough for you?
© Happy's Pizza
It all started when Happy’s Pizza put barbecue ribs, crunchy fried chicken, and fresh seafood on their pies. People loved it, and Happy’s Pizza started opening their shops every six miles so that everyone would get their pie hot and fresh.
And, of course, it did not end there: ribs, fish and chicken are now available as a separate dish, and pizzas are available with many more toppings: pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage, onions, ground beef, red onions, mushrooms, black or green olives, green peppers, banana or jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, pineapple, spinach, anchovies, steak, chicken, feta cheese, and spicy sausages. Your pie can be regular or deep dish, and the crust can come with butter and Parmesan or Cajun flavor. You can even get your pizza double baked. What else can you ask to make your pizza really happy?
© Tony Packo
When a Hungarian restaurant has been operating since 1932, it must be doing something right. And nothing can be more right than Tony Packo’s signature Hungarian hot dogs. Hungarians say that there is no such thing as Hungarian hot dogs, but Americans are fine with the name as long as the hot dogs have that authentic kielbasa-flavor, and the bun is hot and full.
It started with hot dogs, but now going to Tony Packo’s gives you the opportunity to get familiar with great Hungarian cuisine – paprikash, goulash, pickles, staffed cabbage, dumplings, and their excellent chili (Hungarian, of course.)
Americans perfected fast food, but Brazilians seem to be pretty good at it, if it is to be judged by the very popular Giraffas. With stores all over Brazil, it was inevitable that the bold flavors of this South American country would find their way to Florida. At Giraffas, they do not serve your typical street food, wrapped and ready to go.
They have nice plates with Brazilian-spiced grilled meat, fish, or chicken, plantains, and black beans and rice – everything is very colorful and fresh and made to order. Besides Brazilian comfort food, they also have American comfort food – big juicy burgers served with fried eggs that are very popular both in Brazil and in the States. Definitely try fried yucca sticks and Pão de Queijo, which is Brazilian cheese bread.
© Mimi's Cafe
Mimi’s Café is your little corner of France in America. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can find favorites such as guacamole, juicy burgers, and sandwiches. So, what is it that makes it so recognizably French? They serve their burger on a brioche bun and their sandwiches on fresh croissants.
Salads often feature a touch of rosemary, and some sandwiches have Bordelaise. They will put blue cheese in the salad and Brie on your burger. The menu also boasts items that are just pure French: quiche Lorraine, baked and stuffed crepes, and Beef Bourguignon. Since the French have a glass of wine with every meal (except maybe breakfast), check their nice wine list and make your meal truly French.
© Gabby’s BBQ
Gabby’s is a real Texas BBQ joint that has been serving original slow-smoked Texas Barbecue since 1978. Their meats are smoked slowly until they are perfect, and it takes their brisket 15 hours to get there. They use the traditional wood burning Oyler Bar-B-Q Pits that was built by hand especially for them in Mesquite, TX.
Come for lunch or dinner with friends or family and enjoy large plates loaded with up to four meats and all kids of sides or baked potatoes. Pick a sandwich or salad or a popular Texas Barbecue Pie with chopped beef, sausage, fritos, beans, and cheese drenched in Gabby’s famous sauce. Check their calendar for the live country music evenings.
22.French Fry Heaven
© French Fry Heaven
You know the feeling when you go to a restaurant and all you want to order is some fries, but you are embarrassed? At French Fry Heaven, fries are the main part of the menu; everything else is there just because it goes with fries. The fries are Belgian-style, thick-cut, double-fried, deliciously crisp on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside.
They are gluten-free, have no trans fats, and have 250 calories in a small, 5.5-ounce cone and come in 50 flavors such as Cheezyburger and Cowboy. Choose your seasonings, salts, and dips or get your fries loaded with meats and veggies. You can also get sweet potato fries or tater tots.
23.Rosamunde Sausage Grill
© Rosamunde Sausage Grill
Sausages and craft beer – what a concept! Which beers and how many are offered depends on Rosamunde’s shop location– what you get in Brooklyn is not the same as what you get in San Francisco, naturally. Craft beers are local, but the sausages, all 19 kinds of them, are classic Rosamunde’s, French, Italian, and German, and they are grilled to perfection.
Sausages come on a fresh French roll with two toppings – you choose from sauerkraut, sweet peppers, grilled onions, hot peppers, and spicy beef chili. There are also vegan and gluten-free sausages, and you would never guess that there is no meat in them.
Rubio’s made fish tacos into a gourmet food. In fact, they raised the bar when it comes to many other typical Mexican dishes they specialize in. Their guacamole is made from handpicked Hass avocados brought regularly from Salinas Valley, salsas are made in-house daily, all seafood is sustainable, and their corn tortillas are stone-ground.
They do not use any artificial colors or sweeteners, MSG, or partially hydrogenated oil. It’s just honest-to-goodness fresh made food. Rubio’s menu has much more than tacos, but the tacos are spectacular, especially if made with grilled fish. Try a taco with Atlantic salmon, blackened or grilled, on an authentic tortilla with garlic marinade, corn roasted on the fire, chipotle sauce, onion, and cilantro mix and cabbage.
25 Best Fast Food Chains to Try on Vacation
- McAlister's Deli, Photo: McAlister's Deli
- Dickey's, Photo: Dickey's
- Blaze Pizza, Photo: Blaze Pizza
- Arby's, Photo: Arby's
- Pie Five, Photo: Pie Five
- Panera Bread, Photo: Panera Bread
- Lenny's Subs, Photo: Lenny's Subs
- Penn Station, Photo: Penn Station
- Mod, Photo: Mod
- Num Pang Sandwich Shop, Photo: Num Pang Sandwich Shop
- Lou Malnati's Pizza, Photo: Lou Malnati's Pizza
- Sweet Green, Photo: Sweet Green
- Portillos, Photo: Portillos
- Genghis Grill, Photo: Genghis Grill
- Lyfe Kitchen, Photo: Lyfe Kitchen
- The Organic Coup, Photo: The Organic Coup
- Happy's Pizza, Photo: Happy's Pizza
- Tony Packo, Photo: Tony Packo
- Giraffas, Photo: Giraffas
- Mimi's Cafe, Photo: Mimi's Cafe
- Gabby’s BBQ, Photo: Gabby’s BBQ
- French Fry Heaven, Photo: French Fry Heaven
- Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Photo: Rosamunde Sausage Grill
- Rubio's, Photo: Rubio's
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of grinchh - Fotolia.com