McDonald's, Subway, Taco Bell — Where Were They Born?

A guide to the original locations of iconic American fast-food chains

The first McDonald's
The first McDonald's

The fast-food industry in this country has a long and storied history. The founders in this field built mega-empires based on the pursuit of the American dream, and in the process spurred a love-hate relationship that affects most people who live here.

Click here for The Birthplaces of American Fast Food Slideshow

Given the ways that fast food influences everything from American pop culture to politics to dietary trends, it’s fascinating to look back on the origins of the biggest players in the industry. One of the first fast-food chains to emerge was White Castle, founded by Bill Ingram in Wichita, Kan. in 1921; the design of the original White Castle was inspired by the Water Tower building in Chicago.

The novel and efficient system developed by the McDonald’s brothers at their original San Bernardino, Calif., location inspired a handful of other up-and-coming entrepreneurs to try their hand in the industry, namely Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns (founders of Insta-Burger King, which would later become Burger King), Carl Karcher (founder of Carl’s Jr.), Glen Bell (founder of Taco Bell), and James Collins (the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken). But certainly the person most famously inspired by the original McDonald’s was Ray Kroc, who bought the company from the McDonald brothers in 1954 and turned it into the mega-corporation that it is today.

Take a look through this collection to see what the very first locations of your favorite iconic fast-food chains looked like and to learn about how those companies got their start.

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djspinster's picture

WOW!!!!! whats amazing is that the McDonalds corporation and McDonalds university is in oakbrook,illinois and the first McDonalds opened in Des Plaines Illinois but yet this hasbeen says it opened in california

djspinster's picture

that photo is a picture of mcdonalds in des plaines illinois moron

djspinster's picture

you really must be an idiot the first mcdonalds was opened in des plaines illinois wow who or where did you get your information at lmao wow what an idiot


Actually, you @djspinster must be the real idiot here. The first McDonald's opened in San Bernardino, California, just as the author said. There wasn't a McDonald's in Des Plaines until 1955. This is 15 years AFTER the first McDonald's opened in California, and 7 years after the chain had officially changed its name to McDonald's. I don't know where YOU get your information, but I got MINE from the official McDonald's site that outlines all of their corporate history. You can read it for yourself, right here:


The first McDonald's opened in San Bernardino, CA. The museum is there now. It is at the corner of 14th and E Street in San Bernardino. As a high schooler, I went to that McDonald's original location even though the old design the brothers had used had been changed. TW is right. The myth that the original McD's opened in IL is wrong.

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