America is a country of chain restaurants. Drive through the urban sprawl of a city like San Antonio, and you’ll see basically nothing but chain restaurant after chain restaurant, all of vastly different qualities. Some chains are mediocre, some are fine but nothing special, and some are so good that we’re insanely jealous of the Southerners who get to patronize them.
In the United States, there are thousands of restaurants that can be considered “chains.” These restaurants all have more than a few outposts, and they tend not to stray too far from the original locations; even if a chain has 20 locations, most of them seem to only stay in one state or expand only into adjoining states, generally in order to maintain quality control.
While there’s no shortage of chains with national (and international) presences, there’s something about those small(ish) regional chains that can be sources of serious pride and devotion. When two people from the same area meet, the conversation often turns to a shared love of a local chain (Wawa anyone?), because it’s something that can tie a whole community of different people together.
Not only are these chains the source of plenty of local pride, they also happen to serve legitimately good food. Some have been around for decades, some are newcomers that seem primed for a national expansion, and some are content to be a small-town favorite, but they all have two things in common: They all can only be found in the South, and we wish they had locations all over the country.