10 Awesome Southern Chain Restaurants We Wish Would Go National

10 Awesome Southern Chain Restaurants We Wish Would Go National

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. 


Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits can only be found in the Southeastern U.S., with its northernmost location in Reading, Pennsylvania. In the race for fast food fried chicken superiority with chains like KFC and Popeyes, Bojangles acolytes will tell you that there's no competition: Chicken shows up at every location fresh and never frozen, is marinated on-premises for 12 hours, then gets breaded with a slightly spicy mixture before its bath in the deep-fryer. Extra points for its insanely good biscuits, dirty rice, sweet tea, and all-day breakfast. 

El Taco Tote

Headquartered in El Paso, Texas, with 20 locations, El Taco Tote is one of those rare Mexican Restaurant chains that is actually Mexican; it was founded in 1988 in Ciudad Juarez and there's still a handful of locations in the country. Everything at El Taco Tote is handmade fresh daily on-premises, from its six signature salsas to the flour and corn tortillas. As opposed to the quasi-Mexican fare you'll find at most chain Mexican restaurants, El Taco Tote is Mexican to the core; where else can you find tripitas and menudo?


Jack's was founded in Birmingham in 1960, and today has about 130 locations in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee. This southern classic is a burger chain the way it should be: Its burgers are simple, tasty, and made with high-quality fresh beef; and its fried chicken is also surprisingly good.  


Jim's has been a San Antonio staple for nearly 70 years, and today there are locations of this family restaurant scattered throughout the city as well as Austin. The vast majority of locations are open 24-7, and the expansive menu includes everything from chicken-fried steak to huevos rancheros, tortilla soup, fried chicken, steaks, burgers, and homemade pies. 


It's fiercely debated whether Krystal or White Castle is the superior chain, because they both specialize in tiny little square burgers, but you don't see White Castle offering free wifi at every location and topping its burgers with fresh onions and a little mustard. Krystal's breakfast is also legendary, with popular items including sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits, and "Scramblers," a bowl of grits topped with fresh scrambled eggs, sausage, and cheese. The chili is great, too. Krystal was founded in 1932, making it the South's oldest burger chain.  

Sonny’s BBQ

For nearly 50 years, Sonny's has been serving real-deal Southern-style barbecue. The barbecue joint got its start in Gainesville, Florida, when Sonny Tillman and his wife Lucille opened the first restaurant in 1968; they began to franchise nine years later. Today, there are more than 150 locations across nine states, and the chain received far more votes in our survey than any other. Pork is served pulled or sliced; ribs are served wet, dry, St. Louis-style, or baby back; and all the meats, including beef brisket, chicken, and turkey breast, are smoked for up to 12 hours at each location. A bottomless salad bar, burgers, wings, pulled pork egg rolls, sides including baked beans and three cheese macaroni and cheese, and desserts like homemade fruit cobbler and banana pudding round out the menu.


Texadelphia, which has locations in Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Oklahoma, and South Texas, is home of "The Original Texas Cheesesteak," and that fact alone makes us fans. Founded in Austin in 1981, its signature cheesesteaks are made with Texas Black Angus beef, and we'd suggest topping yours with some of the housemade queso, because Texas. Every cheesesteak comes with fresh tortilla chips, too — a nice touch.

Torchy’s Tacos

At Torchy's, which has locations throughout Texas (centered in Austin, Dallas, and Houston), owner Michael Rypka has created tortilla-bound concoctions that are nothing short of devilish, and made fresh every day. There's the Brush Fire (Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled jalapeños, and mango), the Dirty Sanchez (scrambled eggs with fried poblano chile, guacamole, escabeche carrots, and shredded cheese) and The Republican (grilled jalapeño sausage with shredded cheese and pico de gallo), but the wildest and most delicious creation on the menu is the Trailer Park, a massive battered and fried hunk of chicken breast, topped with sautéed green chiles, lettuce, pico de gallo, and shredded mixed cheese on a flour tortilla from El Milagro, topped with poblano sauce. If you prefer to "get it trashy," they'll remove the lettuce and replace it with cheese sauce. And who needs lettuce when cheese sauce is an option?

Waffle House

What is there to say that hasn't already been said about Waffle House? It's open 24/7, a jukebox is playing Waffle House-themed songs like "Waffle House Hashbrowns," the hash browns have their own lingo (scattered, smothered, and peppered, please), and the waffles are made-to-order and things of beauty. 


Mostly centered in Texas and its neighboring states, Whataburger has been going strong since 1950. Its burgers are plenty tasty, and the patty melts and green chile doubles are also worth ordering. It really excels at breakfast, though; the biscuits, cinnamon rolls, and taquitos with cheese are decidedly crave-worthy, and its honey butter chicken biscuit is nothing short of legendary.