Regional Food Chains You Desperately Wish Would Go National
There are plenty of regional food chains that we wish would head down South. Those chains are certainly far too numerous to list here, but we’ve compiled a few of the favorites we’re constantly craving from afar, from Culver’s Concretes to Shake Shack burgers. There are also more than a few Southern chains that we wish would spread out across the South (We’re looking at you, Torchy’s Tacos.) We love our Southern food chains, and we wish they’d all go national so that everyone else can experience them too. In this list, we’ve included both Southern spots and restaurants headquartered elsewhere that we wish would open in the South. At these spots, you'll find tacos and gyros and chili and biscuits, just to name a few dishes. These chains run the culinary gamut, and we can't wait for our next visit. Part of the fun of travel is trying new foods, but when you get a taste of these regional chains, you might just dream about them for weeks afterward. They’re that good. Add these spots to your must-try list so that if you travel to these locations, you can eat like a local and then constantly crave their fare like the rest of us.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl has four locations, two in D.C. and two in Virginia, but its reputation has already spread across the U.S. This is no ordinary bowl of chili. The first Ben’s opened in 1958, and it has become a must-visit for anyone in and around D.C. We wish this spot would go national so we could get our Ben’s Chili fix more often.
This Southern spot has two locations in Nashville with one in Franklin coming soon. For melt-in-your-mouth biscuits, delicious breakfast, and craveable lunch, Biscuit Love is your destination. It was born in the South, but Biscuit Love belongs everywhere. (Get your bit of Biscuit Love in their online shop, complete with mugs, t-shirts, aprons, and brunch sets.)
Few things are more Southern than a biscuit, and Biscuitville currently provides buttery, flaky biscuits to grateful patrons in Virginia and North Carolina. Biscuitville is headquartered in Winston-Salem, and it’s a favorite spot for Southern food. Browse Biscuitville’s breakfast and lunch menus for an instant, mouthwatering craving. (Sweet Potato Casserole and Southern Fried Okra, anyone?) For now, though, you’ll have to travel to the East Coast for a taste.
Had any frozen custard lately? No? That’s why everyone needs access to a Culver’s. Their menu, which originated in Wisconsin, is filled with treats like frozen custard, Butterburgers, snacks, soups, and Concrete Mixers, which are similar to milkshakes, only thicker. Culver’s is growing, with locations coming soon in many midwestern states. However, the Northeast, Deep South, and West Coast are still waiting for a taste of Culver's.
This burger joint’s old-fashioned style has amassed fans from far and wide. The original In-N-Out is in California, and there are also locations in Texas, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Get the know the menu, because if you ever get to order at In-N-Out, you’ll want to be prepared. (And you’ll want to have their secret-ish menu at the ready.)
This spot serves kolaches, which are traditional, bite-size Czech staples. Never heard of them? They're doughy, fruit- or meat-filled, and oh-so delicious. They may be hard to pronounce if you've never heard of them, but they're certainly not hard to crave. Kolache Factory locations can be found in Texas and Oklahoma, but they do ship out of state, so you can get a taste no matter where you live.
Milo’s has been an Alabama mainstay since 1946. For burgers, chicken sandwiches, and crinkle-cut fries, you can’t beat Milo’s. Their much-loved sweet tea is billed as “the South in a glass.” If you can’t make it to a Milo’s shop, you may be able to get a taste of their tea, as it is sold in many grocery stores in the U.S. (Find the retailers that carry Milo's here.)
Shake Shack is on the move. This cult-favorite burger joint started out as an NYC-only spot, but it’s now treating burger lovers across the country—in Atlanta, Lexington, Houston, and Miami—to tasty burgers, perfectly crispy fries, and Shack Sauce galore. The more widespread Shake Shack becomes, the happier we all are.
Steel City Pops
The whole country needs to be exposed to the refreshing, simple charm that is a Steel City pop. This Alabama-based pop shop has locations in Texas, Kentucky, and throughout Alabama, so if you happen upon a Steel City Pops shop, don’t pass it up. Pops are a summertime staple, but thanks to Steel City Pops, we're craving them year-round. (We’d recommend the Buttermilk and Coffee pops, for starters.)
Billed as the original Mexican patio cafe, Taco Cabana has over 160 locations in Texas. Their inexpensive fare is great for catering and large orders, but it’s especially delicious in the A.M., with breakfast tacos, breakfast burritos, and breakfast burritos galore. (Order a few breakfast-taco boxes for your colleagues at the office, and you'll be the M.V.P. of the work week.)
For a Mediterranean-inspired meal, look no further than Taziki’s. It’s slowly but surely growing in scale, with locations across the Southern states providing us with a sprawling menu of fresh Mediterranean selections. But our friends in the Northeast, Midwest, and West deserve a taste of these gyros, dolmades, soups, and salads too.
Texas residents have Torchy’s Tacos cravings at least once a week. Former Texas residents have been known to spend their lunch hours browsing airfares to the Lone Star State, all while dreaming of Torchy's. The queso. The guacamole. The breakfast tacos. It’s all delicious. Headquartered in Texas, there are now over 30 Torchy’s storefronts with locations in Oklahoma and Colorado too.