6 Regional Chains That Serve Some Of America's Best Fast Food
Consumer Reports' latest ranking of the best-tasting fast food in America includes more than a half dozen regional chains with fewer than 350 locations nationwide.
These lesser-known chains, such as Burgerville and Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, handily beat McDonald's, Taco Bell and other fast food giants in terms of flavor, according to the survey.
Here are the six smallest chains and their rankings:
#1 Best Sandwich: Portillo's Hot Dogs
Portillo's serves Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. It started as a hot dog stand in 1963 called "The Dog House" and now has 48 locations in Illinois, California, Indiana and Arizona.
The restaurant's signature sandwich is its melt-in-your-mouth Beef 'N' Cheddar Croissant. It is also well known for its Chocolate Cake Shake, which is made by blending a piece of Portillo's famous chocolate cake with ice cream.
#1 Best Burger: The Habit Burger GrillThis chain won the top spot for best-tasting burger in the country, as we wrote about last week. The company, which was established in Santa Barbara in 1969, now has more than 100 locations in California, Arizona and Utah.
It's best known for its signature char-grilled Charburger, which customers have the option of ordering in a lettuce wrap, as pictured above.
#2 Best Mexican: Rubio's Fresh Mexican GrillThis San Diego-based restaurant won second-best Mexican chain after Chipotle. Rubio's is best known for its seafood-stuffed tacos and burritos with fillings that include salmon, citrus shrimp, mahi mahi, and tilapia. The chain's signature dish - called The Original Fish Taco - contains beer-battered wild Alaska Pollock served in a stone-ground corn tortilla topped with Rubio's signature white sauce, mild salsa and fresh cabbage.
The chain was founded in 1983 and now has more than 190 restaurants in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.
#5 Best Sandwiches: McAlister's DeliMcAllister's has the fifth best sandwiches and subs in the country, according to the Consumer Reports survey. But the chain, founded in Oxford, Miss. in 1989, is perhaps best known for its Famous Sweet Tea.
Fans of McAlister's also love their wide variety of side orders, which include macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. The chain has 325 restaurants in 24 states.
#8 Best Burger: Burgerville
The 45-year-old chain's most popular menu item is the Pepper Bacon Cheeseburger, which consists of a beef patty, cheddar cheese, two slices of pepper bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
#9 Best Burger: Freddy's Frozen Custard & SteakburgersFreddy's is one of the fastest-growing burger concepts in the nation, according to the food industry research firm Technomic. The chain is known for its 1950s-style atmosphere and made-to-order custard and and steak burgers.
The restaurant was founded in 2002 by World War II veteran Freddy Simon and his two sons. There are now 113 locations in 18 states, which is up from 58 locations in 2011.