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If you HAD to eat at a fast food chain...

Fast food is junk, I know, but with my budget I can't eat out at too many places these days. If you had to eat at one of the major chains, which one would you choose?

I would pick Wendy's, hands down. The one in my neighborhood has good service and the fastest drive-thru around. They make decent salad and baked potatoes, the chili is pure awesomeness, and their burgers and fries aren't too bad either. I shy away from obscene stuff like the Baconator, but I think most of their menu is pretty good.

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  1. You are pretty much right there. Whataburger is another one and the best one in my book is a chain that's only in NM called Blakes Lotaburger. I really can't understand the big deal about In-n-Out, They're OK, but that's about it.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

      In-n-Out...sorry big
      Del Taco
      Steak and Shake

      I'm looking to experience SmashBurger soon.

      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        What it is about In-N-Out is that they do NOT use frozen pre-formed patties or frozen precut fries. Their patties are formed daily from fresh hamburger meat, and the fries are cut from fresh potatoes. At the risk of sounding too much like the oldfashioned Progressive that I am, I think the familial atmosphere within the restaurant's business structure has a lot to do with it, too. I firmly believe that happy staffers produce better food. So far they have deliberately resisted getting too big, and I hope they continue to do that.

        McDonald's Filet-O-Fish is OK but weird - what's that piece of "cheese" doing in there? But That's my chain of choice up until 10:30AM; give me a couple of Sausage McMuffins and a hashbrowns cake and I'm a happy if overfed boy.

        1. re: Will Owen

          For cheap breakfasts I would go to McD's for either a $1 sausage McMuffin or an egg burrito - with hot sauce, which it seriously needs, and get a couple of apple pies ($1 for 2) to go with it.

          Then I discovered Burger King's super cheap breakfast possibilities, with ham and egg on an english muffin - which is quite good, and tater tots stuffed with cheese. Their apple pie ain't bad either.

          BTW, both places sell coffee at a greatly reduced price to Seniors.

          1. re: Sharuf

            I'm slightly addicted to McD's sugar-free Vanilla Ice Coffee (We're in FL.) for breakfast. I can't stand any of their McMuffin items, but they make an above avergae bicuit.

          2. re: Will Owen

            I like In-n-Out's burgers okay, but their french fries are absolutely the best fast-food fries I've ever had. They taste like potatoes, and they're not oversalted.

        2. i find burger king in calgary my favorite.big king all the way."do ya want the crown or the clown"

          1. Agree, Wendy's chili is pretty good stuff.

            1. First of all, fast food is not junk (at least not all of it).

              That said, here are my choices:

              McDonald's: Filet-O-Fish.
              In-N-Out: Burgers
              Which Wich: Sandwiches
              Chipotle: Burritos (esp. the barbacoa)

              1. Popeye's
                Five Guys (since there are no In N Outs on the East coast, but if there was it would take the place of Five Guys)
                Chick fil A
                Bud's Broiler (if I was back home)

                2 Replies
                1. re: roro1831

                  Yum....Bud's Broiler! I used to bring large cup fills of Bud's sauce to friends living out of town =)

                  1. re: roro1831

                    I'll add Bojangles to my list, not as good as Popeye's but still very good. The biscuits are better IMHO, but the two sides I tried were not that good (dirty rice and cajun pinto beans). My wife's mashed taters were good with the white country gravy

                  2. I love Mcdonalds fries, and every so often a McD's cheeseburger can be quite delicious and satisfying.
                    I used to love TacoBell when I was young, but it's been YEARS since I have had it and I'm too afraid to try it now...

                    I can't remember ever having Wendy's..hmm I'll have to try it

                    1. Wendy's, b/c I can baked potatoes or chili (or both.) I don't normally eat much FF though.

                      1. Arby's - There's something about the horsey sauce!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Den

                          I am with you there...I think the roast beest sandwich is just a polite way to eat horsey sauce. About the only fast food I get an occaisional lust for.

                          1. re: Sam at Novas

                            Back in my Arby's-eating days, I could never get into their beef-like substance, but I did like the equally fake turkey. My favorite lunch was the Super Turkey (that's how I ordered it, don't remember what the menu called it) with a potato cake on the side, and both of those things got liberally anointed with Horsey Sauce. Use to be able to get that for about $4...

                        2. Taco Villa for fast Tex-Mex. Their taco burgers and meat burritos are, as they say, da' bomb.

                          1. On our Weight Watcher days: McDonald's grilled southwest chicken salad; Subway roast chicken or roast beef 6" subs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: junescook

                              I'm glad to see someone mention Subway. With their $5 footlong subs, you can make two meals . . . that is if you enjoy loads of veggies on your sandwich, which I do. It's also a great way to get more servings of veggies into your diet at a modest price! My fave is the oven-roasted chicken with a combination of ranch dressing and sweet onion sauce.

                              1. re: chowdawggy

                                Wow, that's exactly what I have when I go to Subway. Oven-roasted chicken on Monterey cheddar bread, pepper jack cheese, ranch, sweet onion and some veggies. Doesn't get much better than that.

                            2. If I had a very tight budget, and I've been through a few periods of that, I wouldn't spend my food dollars at fast food restaurants. I'm sorry if that bothers you, but I felt it needed to be said. Now if the issue is time and convenience, that's another matter, but given that you want FF recs, I'll say this. There's a breakfast bar at Whole Foods that's 2.99/lb. for polenta, steel cut oats, or a mixed grain porridge with toppings bar. That'd be my breakfast choice, or the local coffeehouse that gets croissants and sandwiches from a good baker. For lunch or dinner, I'd likely head to the Mexican place where I can get a huge torta (sandwich) for $5-6, with drink, or get tacos for $1 each. Not a chain, yes, but good value, and most cities have similar options.

                              Chipotle's portions are big enough to make two meals of one burrito, etc. Wendy's for a baked potato at the beginning of the evening, when they haven't been overcooked, with some chili and cheese. In-n-Out when I'm on the west coast, though the burgers are a total gut bomb. There's also a regional chain here called Winstead's that makes an edible grilled chicken sandwich with an overly sweet bun. Some of my friends love Culver's, but I find the food greasy and bland.

                              1. Love that McDonald's Double cheeseburger (loved it more on the dollar menu)
                                But overall I'm really liking Panera these days.

                                This will likely get moved to the Chains board...

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                  "Chipotle's portions are big enough to make two meals of one burrito, etc. "

                                  Interesting. I really like Chipotle, but up until recently I've found their servings fall _short_ of a full meal, i.e., I'm still hungry after eating there. However, the last couple of times, it seemed that my local branch had increased its meat servings, so it's now an adequate meal. Still can't imagine getting two meals out of it though. FWIW, I usually order the 3-taco meal, all barbacoa.

                                  1. re: Steve Green

                                    The barbacoa burrito fills me up pretty darn good, and the poster stated that it was the burrito. I agree with you, three tacos don't fill me up

                                    1. re: roro1831

                                      The tacos usually don't have the rice in them, which accounts for a significant difference in the volume of food you get. The tacos are satisfying to me as a meal, but I can (and try to) get 2 meals out of a burrito bowl

                                    2. re: Steve Green

                                      Steve, I must point out the obvious here. I am a woman and you are clearly a guy by your moniker. 'Nuff said.

                                      While there are undoubtedly some men who only need the same caloric intake as an average woman, I'd say that generally, men need more calories to feel satisfaction than a woman would.

                                  2. Arby's for a Jamocha Shake. It's my yearly post-half-marathon treat.

                                      1. re: Cherylptw

                                        Wow - how did I forget White Castle?!
                                        I haven't had it in years but man I still get a huge craving for them every once in a while....regular burger (not w/cheese) and onion rings! mmmm

                                        1. re: NellyNel

                                          I can get WC in the frozen section of the grocery her in NoCal. They MW great.

                                          1. re: NellyNel

                                            Yes, we do get them frozen here as well, but they just arent the same!

                                            The best thing about WC is the texture of the bun...it gets kind of mushy...and the onions are soft and lovely as opposed tyo the onions on the frozen ones which are just annoying bits of yuck... plus you have to add your own ketchup which ruins the continuity of the whole thing...I cant even say for me they will due in a pinch...they arent the same at all :(

                                            Sorry C - what does MW stand for? I have been tryin to figure it out!!

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                yeah - I guess that's right!! LOL!!

                                        2. Chik-fil-A - freshest food in general and the best service. Good cole slaw and fruit
                                          Bojangles - great chicken, biscuits and coleslaw
                                          Five Guys - great burgers & fries
                                          Wendy's - decent salads. Did they change their buns recently? I got a burger and I always liked their buns and this one was different. It had seed-like things on the top bun that were never there before.

                                          1. Fast Food Restaurants I will eat at:

                                            Au Bon Pain

                                            Honorable Mentions:

                                            Carl’s Jr.
                                            Five Guys
                                            Der Wienerschnitzel (sometimes you just have to have a chili dog)
                                            Chick fil-A
                                            El Pollo Loco
                                            Taco Time (we all have our quirks)

                                            Places I avoid like the plague:

                                            In-N-Out – greasy burgers, pasty cheese, nasty fries, it’s all marketing hype.
                                            Baja Fresh – dirty restaurants, highly inconsistent food, spoiled salsa on 3 out 5 trips to different locations.
                                            Panera Bread – The nastiest surliest employees I have ever seen in any establishment (2 locations, 2 different franchisee’s, 2 different states), is this their gimmick, be rude?
                                            Panda Express – greasy items topped with overly sweet canned sauces.
                                            Long John Silvers – no comment needed.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                              While I am by no means of Panda Express, I do have to say that their food is not greasy (at least by Chinese fast food standards) and their sauces, while indeed very very sweet and cloyingly so, are not from cans.

                                              1. re: RetiredChef

                                                Chick-Fil-A is the best chicken sandwich, got to be the peanut oil.

                                              2. For breakfast, easily McD's. Now serving oatmeal!

                                                For the rest of the day, Wendy's is a good choice. McD's for McDoubles and fries. Chipotle. Chik-fil-A. Subway for a cheap, filling lunch. Sonic/Steak n Shake/Checkers if I'm south of DC.

                                                And about twice a year -- Taco Hell.

                                                1. I like Tropical Smoothie's sandwiches, and the lettuce in their salads has consistently fresh. Their Jamaican wrap actually has a decent kick to it by fast food standards.

                                                  1. Chipotle makes an acceptable burrito. But if your main issue is price, and you have a good independent tacqueria nearby, then I wouldn't bother.

                                                    1. I guess I'm lucky to live in an area where I can get a better lunch for cheaper than I would pay at a fast food place (i.e. a dosa and a lassi, or a torta with a bottle of jarritos, etc., all for around 6 bucks) but there are times where I will crave some good old fast food, and those times I'm usually drawn to Nathan's. They make a quality dog, cooked on a flat top griddle, and their fries are among the best of all chains. Can't beat that.

                                                      1. We live in urban, downtown SF, and fast food restaurants are few and far between, but I love certain chain fast food restaurants:

                                                        Subway (this is a go to, inexpensive, healthy meal nearby)

                                                        In N' Out - so on board with the freshness and general vibe of this restaurant
                                                        (this is strictly our en route to Tahoe stop)

                                                        Panda Express- really pretty good, fresh ingredients and their Panda Bowls with a smart choice entree like broccoli beef are healthy and yummy.

                                                        Taco Bell/Del Taco/Jack In The Box Tacos - ONLY after a long night out in Vegas. But then, DELICIOUS!

                                                        1. well i don't eat fast food unless someone else makes the decision & leaves me no choice, but if i *had* to eat it, i'd go somewhere that offered at least a few healthful menu items...like Au Bon Pain, Baja Fresh, El Pollo Loco, Chipotle and Rubio's.

                                                          standard burger, sandwich, pizza & fried chicken places aren't really options for me because i can't have gluten, and their salads are usually pretty underwhelming.

                                                          i do remember liking Wendy's chili when i had it many years ago. and of course i could never resist a Frosty ;)

                                                          it also depends on where you live, since some fast food chains are regional.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            I agree about "regionality". Here is the PNW we have Taco Time. It is by far my favorite FF option for their crispy burritos, soft tacos and their amazingly great hang over cure called a Taco Burger.

                                                            1. re: Befuness

                                                              I've been waiting for someone to mention Taco Time. We were down to one in town until one opened relatively close to me. I always get a soft combo burrito and crisp meat burrito. Yummmmm!

                                                          2. Not Your Average Joe's isn't bad. The 99 is decent, too, but that may be a New England chain.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                              Actually, they're both New England chains, although both have expanded (a little) beyond the region. (In the case of NYAJ, one store in northern VA.) But neither is especially relevant to this thread, which specifically asks about fast-food restaurants.

                                                              That said, my vote would go to Bojangles or Church's for chicken (neither of which is plentiful in the Northeast), McD's if I need a quick breakfast (and, VERY infrequently, McNuggets, although I still haven't forgiven them for ditching dark meat), and Arby's, mainly for the Jamocha Shake mentioned upthread. I've gotta try Chipotle's, now that they've moved into my area.

                                                            2. I'm from Indianapolis, which may be chain restaurant ground zero, so I know what I'm talking about when I say Hardee's is the best fast food chain. Alongside Hardee's, none of the other chains have a reason to exist. Their breakfast biscuits are made on-site, with real fried eggs, and right at this moment I can't remember if I've had a better biscuit at a "real" restaurant or anywhere else. For lunch and dinner, stay away from their expensive flagship burger line and troll their specials menu which they are always changing, like spicy chicken sandwiches for $1 and two chili dogs for $3.

                                                              The fries are the only weak link but they are no more lousy than any other fast food fries.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                The ones around here stopped serving their chili. Now that was good stuff, far better than what you can get at Wendy's or Tim Horton's. And plenty of local joints.

                                                              2. for burgers I like Culvers Butterburgers (midwest chain)

                                                                otherwise Chipotle hands down, unless you have an authentic local place

                                                                of course cooking at home is the best way to save $ on food IMO :D I prefer free range/air chilled chickens, but you can still make a .88 cent/lb supermarket water chilled bird yummy! :D make a 5lb on the weekend and it could last a long while

                                                                at any rate for the price of one chipotle buritto or burger value meal you could roast a free range bird :D or even buy a $5 sams club or costco rotisserie

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: DukeOfSuffolk

                                                                  Where on earth are you that you can get chicken for 88 cents/pound? I can't even get supermarket/no name whole chicken for less than $1.99/lb. :(

                                                                  Anyway, as for this thread, Chipotle, hands down.

                                                                  1. re: irishnyc

                                                                    Ralphs in southern californnia just had whole chickens on sale for 59 cents a pound.

                                                                    1. re: irishnyc

                                                                      I honestly have no idea where you could POSSIBLY be shopping to experiance whole chicken prices that high, I have personally never seen them higher than about $1.49, and that was during a nationwide shortage due to contamination. Now, organic is another matter, but I assume we are discussing regular chicken?

                                                                      1. re: aemrynna

                                                                        Here in New Jersey, unless the stores are having a sale on poultry, it very common for the prices to be $2.99-3.99/lb. regularly. Extended, it's shocking for me to see the final price from $10-16 dollars. That alone is reason enough to join Costco, where the every day price is .89 cents.

                                                                  2. If I must, Pollo Tropical. Their grilled chicken is pretty tasty - especially with the (fakey, neon yellow, delicious) curry sauce slathered over the chicken. Also - I have had luck with their salads - usually fresh and crisp, with grilled chicken. Not bad at all if I have to grab a quick bite somewhere.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Mothership

                                                                      I am here in Dallas and I want to put in a vote for Taco Cabana.
                                                                      Not sure where else they have them but for fast food mexican I find it on par price wise with Taco Bell and the like and the quality much higher. Plus they have a fresh salsa bar with four or five different kinds at all times that makes all of the difference.
                                                                      Popeyes for chicken.
                                                                      For fast food burgers my choice is usually to spend a few extra bucks and move up to a chain restaurant. Fuddruckers my favorite but Red Robin, Outback and even Chilis has a decent burger if you can spend a little more time and a few bucks more. Usually well worth it and you can often take half to go even on a good size appetite. (at outback if you sit at he bar they wil often give you a oaf of their bread first which should make taking half the burger to go very doable for most.)
                                                                      Also, join Costco or Samsclub and head in for the $1.50 1/4 hot dog with a drink. Best deal going IMHO...

                                                                      1. re: ronaldpedwards

                                                                        I haven't had Taco Cabana in quite some time since I lived in TX, but I did like it. It was about the only option in College Station when I lived there, although now that Freebirds is a chain, that makes my list as well.

                                                                        1. re: ronaldpedwards

                                                                          What kind of hot dog is it at Sam's Club? They're not as good at Costco since they switched from Hebrew National but still a bargain.

                                                                          1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                            At Sams here in Des Moines, they serve Nathans. Costco, Kirkland.
                                                                            Sams wins.

                                                                      2. Firehouse Subs - puts Subway to shame
                                                                        Steak and Shake

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Wakeley Bridge

                                                                          I hear good things about Firehouse. My friend has the rights to open up some locations in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

                                                                          1. re: roro1831

                                                                            Firehouse is pretty good, depending on what you order. My standby there is the Sweet & Spicy Meatball, which even when they don't have on the menu, they can still make. It's basically just their regular meatball sub with a douse of the datil pepper sauce, but it makes it something special.

                                                                        2. Taco Cabana - when visiting Austin
                                                                          El Pollo Loco
                                                                          Jack in the Box

                                                                          I was thinking - can a place be considered fast food if it doesn’t have a drive-thru?? If so, then also:

                                                                          Panera - those little breakfast quiches are fantastic
                                                                          Panda Express

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: karrill

                                                                            I had my first (two) Jimboy Tacos the other day and really liked them. My husband remembers going to their first location in Kings Beach/Lake Tahoe in the 50s.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              There is something about those crazy tacos that reels me in. I have a Jimboys two blocks from my house and I have to fight the urge to pull in the drive-thru (almost successfully) quite often. :)

                                                                              1. re: karrill

                                                                                I want to go inside now and watch them "do" the tortillas. A little fried/crispy but only a little. Lard?????????

                                                                          2. Boston Market for Chicken
                                                                            Quizno's for subs (though frankly would rather get a sub at Publix or one of the local italian delis, they run about the same price but give you a much better sub, but neither of those qulify as a fast chain)
                                                                            Moe's southwest grill for burritos, would rather have Chipotle but they are not conveniently located for me.
                                                                            If I have to have fast food burger its checkers, though I pretty much have to be dragged to a burger place by someone else, I will never pick it.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: willdupre

                                                                              I like Quizno's specifically for that sauce they have on the fixings bar. I could eat that with a spoon.

                                                                            2. if i have to eat fast food, and sometimes i must, i choose taco bell. most of their stuff is actually boiled in a sealed prefrozen sack, so there is not frying or oils. i'm vegan so i'm really picky. they allow you to customize the order and their guacamole is great. i love the crunch wrap, i get it with just beans lettuce and tomato and sometimes just lettuce and tomato and of course i always add the guaco for extra flavor. they have fresco bean burrito that is good too. i always feel that i get what i want from the bell which is more than i can say for most the others, tho wendy's has the baked potato, plain is great, fulling and nutritious.

                                                                              1. Carl's Jr., Five Guys, and Popeye's.

                                                                                1. Well, I don't know if this is exactly a chain - but here goes - Pop Burgers in NYC! Had them the last time I was there and now I can't get them off my mind! There was just something about it.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                    I wasn't impressed at all with Pop Burger

                                                                                  2. For burgers, Wendy's or Steak and Shake. I agree with the obscenity of the baconator, they accidentally gave me one instead of the regular apple wood smoked bacon burger the other day, which I didn't realize until I had driven back to work. I ate about half of it then had to throw the rest away - how can you eat that much meat and cheese without having some vegetables to cut the grease? I've eaten at in & Out once while visiting LA, and I thought it was good. Any burger served with thousand island is OK in my book.

                                                                                    How about WaWa? I'm sure there are some mid-atlantic residents here who are familiar. Open 24 hours, very good subs and sandwiches fresh made at the in-store deli, plus all of the standard convenience store fare. WaWa is one of the things I miss most about Delaware, well, also Country Maid delis as far as good goes. I can't understand how things that awesome are a Northeast regional thing, the rest of the country would love to have it too.

                                                                                    1. TACO BELL! Can't believe no one mentioned it yet. Even in San Diego, with the plethora of taco shops, I find myself drawn to TB every once in a while for their bean burritos and Nachos Bell Grande. Funny, of all the other fast food establishments I've frequented in my childhood, adolescence, and adult years, TB is THE only place I've never had a bad experience at!

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: globocity

                                                                                        It was mentioned, just referred to as Taco Hell

                                                                                        1. re: globocity

                                                                                          I admit that I regularly crave a bean volcano crunch wrap.

                                                                                        2. Wendy's - baked potato with sour cream and a chili. Dump the chili over the baked potato, and then add as much hot sauce/sour cream as you like. Tastes good, and is nearly healthy.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: FrankD

                                                                                            Okay, I just gotta ask. What part of that is "nearly healthy"? The potato?

                                                                                          2. Whataburger or Church's Chicken.
                                                                                            Maybe an ocassional Whopper or a Chik-fil-A with extra pickles.

                                                                                            I lived in LA for 10 years and still do not understand the attraction of In-N-Out.
                                                                                            Once you've had a Whataburger why would you ever want an In-N-Out burger? Makes no sense.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: CharlieKilo

                                                                                              I've eaten at Whattaburger maybe 4 or 5 times, and have *never* thought it was any good, yet people on here are always saying how great it is. I must be ordering the wrong thing! What do you get there that is so good? I think that I usually just get the large style CB, whatever it is called...

                                                                                            2. Every once in a while I like a Dairy Queen Cheese Burger. Our local DQ makes them pretty good and gooey!

                                                                                              1. I grew up in Washington State, but now live in NC, so I have a unique view of both sides of the US.

                                                                                                Taco B(H)ell, especially in my 3rd trimester as my daughter decided even before birth that hot sauce was its own food group.
                                                                                                Wendy's-I love their nuggets, chili, and baked potatoes. BY THE WAY, ALL YOU WENDY'S CHILI LOVERS OUT THERE, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO ACTUALLY KNOWS HOW IT'S MADE? I FIGURED SO MANY MORE OF YOU WOULD OBJECT TO THAT...
                                                                                                Mcdonalds-The best salads, hands down.
                                                                                                Subway-Best subs here in NC, since you can't seem to get a Port of Subs here.
                                                                                                Port Of Subs-Best Subs EVER!
                                                                                                Jack In the Box-Best dollar burgers, the Jumbo Jack is only $1.19 and has all the veggies the cheap ones at other places lack. Unfortunately, NC doesnt have JIB :(
                                                                                                Taco Time-Again, none in NC. GREAT mexican-american for the price, and its fast and fresh. Used to work there, so that is saying alot.
                                                                                                Arbys-Everytime I get tired of the grease fest, Which is alot lately now that I am 25 and not a teenager, I go there. The only thing greasy they have is their fries, so it's easy to get a healthy meal. And NOTHING on earth can beat Arby's Sauce!

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: aemrynna

                                                                                                  The thought of ANY chain makes me retch, so this is hard. I actually would rather go to a gas station and get a granola bar and beef jerkey.

                                                                                                  Hmmm, but if we must. I'd go to Subway and get some sort of veggie sub, if one exists.

                                                                                                  1. re: aemrynna

                                                                                                    I don't know what part of NC you are in but in the areas that I frequent I have seen plenty of JIB.

                                                                                                    My fave fast food has to be Bojangles and Popeyes. Not really big fan of other fast food places. But then the restaurant that my family runs is actually a fast food concept. Japanese fast food actually and we are just as quick as McDonald's with much fresher food. So that is my other favorite fast food place.

                                                                                                  2. chic fil-a!
                                                                                                    then wendys.