HOME > Chowhound > Chains >


Which fast food chain has the most cultish (and maybe even divisive) following?

Is it In-N-Out?

Shake Shack maybe?

Perhaps White Castle?


My vote goes to In-N-Out.

Those that like the place will defend it to the death and those who don't poo-poo it like it's some sort of frozen, expired Sysco creation.

Not curious about the quality of the food, just the loyalty and zealousness of the following.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I immediately thought of In-N-Out, and I don't even live on the west coast. . . .

    3 Replies
    1. re: Rilke

      INO wins hands down for a divisive cult like crowd, I've been attacked by INO zealots simply for saying:

      " I think INO gives a good value but an average fast food burger, better than some, not as good as others."

      That's all it takes and I will have some people come unhinged at my opinion, it's even worse if I mention a blind taste test that I was involved in and INO didn't win. . . . . .

      1. re: RetiredChef

        That thread on the taste test was freakin' hilarious. The Fanboi's were going nuts.


      2. re: Rilke

        Has to be In-N-out

        Just check out these threads about the proposed in-n-outs coming to texas

        Or don't check them out. Because if you are one of the followers, then you already know.

      3. Based on reading this board I would say In N Out. With Five Guys and and Chick Fil a right behind it

        1. At least in the west INO.

          1. Easily In-N-Out. Folks who love it are ardent fans... folks who don't get it think those people are wasting their time on 'terrible fast food'. There's not much in between, weirdly.

            I'd also put my vote to Skyline Chili in the midwest. Either you preach the gospel of Cincinnati-style chili or you think the stuff's disgusting, seems like. [disclaimer: I love it]

            1 Reply
            1. re: Boston_Otter

              Skyline is almost ubiquitous. You'd think their main (chain) competitor, Goldstar, didn't exist. Outside of Cincinnati proper (and Northern Kentucky) it's Skyline or nothing.

              I'm not a fan of Skyline, myself, for the main reason their hot dogs are a distant third behind the chili and cheese. Growing up among the numerous coney places in Metro Detroit, the lack of focus on the dog is a mark against them.

              But folks love their Skyline.

            2. The problem is, the chains with a devoted following are regional. Does anyone worship a truly national brand?

              5 Replies
              1. re: GH1618

                Maybe McDonalds for their fries?

                Since 5Guys has made it to the West Coast I would consider them more of a national than a regional chain, though not a large one.

                1. re: viperlush

                  I live and travel on the West Coast and I've never seen one. Where are they?

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I see — they are "all over" the Pacific Coast States, but in somewhat out-of-the-way locations. I might be able to get to one soon to try it.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        There's one 2 blocks from where I live, and I consider that too far to travel for their lame offerings.

              2. Chipotle was the first place that came to mind.

                I agree with Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A & In-N-Out.

                30 Replies
                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  Chipotle, really? I've yet to meet a fan, here in NY, anyway.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Certainly not a fan in VA either.

                    1. re: Rella

                      I love it....withouth apology :-) I'm in VA as well.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        I am hopelessly addicted to Chipotle, and I'm in VA :)

                        I think that others are Five Guys, certain items from McD's (Filet of Fish, McRib).

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          Perhaps a Texan here (or someone from the Southwest) in VA or elsewhere might comment?

                          When I first went there, a woman in line started a conversation with me about it was the best "whatever cusine she called it" she had ever eaten. Perhaps I had a high expectation.

                          I was taken back to the restaurant again. No dice. Actually maybe it was all those little bottles sitting up there that one can squirt on their meals. Yuk!

                          The menu was very confusing as well. You are not sure what comes with what plate, when you are asked do you want this or that. Yes, I can read and understand fast-ly.

                          However, to me the taste was too bland to ever return. Heaped up nothingness. I'm a believer.

                          1. re: Rella

                            Bland and starchy... where's the beef? (to quote a Little Old Lady).

                            1. re: Rella

                              What you are describing doesn't sounds like Chipotle at all. Not sure what little bottles you are refering to and the menu isn't confusing at all.

                              1. re: Rella

                                Their menu is one of the simplest and most basic of any fast-food chain, and there are no "little bottles" to squirt on your meals. You must not be thinking of Chipotle.

                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                  "You must not be thinking of Chipotle."

                                  It says, "Chipotle." How could that be?

                                2. re: Rella

                                  What little bottles? I agree with Janet -- this doesn't sound like Chipotle.

                                  1. re: Rilke

                                    "... -- this doesn't sound like Chipotle."

                                    Yes, all these little bottles of "squirt and serve" were lined up alongside the napkins, extra utensils, etc. Just squirt a little of whatever 'salsa' type squirt one wishes, take napkin, utensils, extra salt & pepper thingies, go sit down and enjoy.

                                    Yes, 'tis chipotle.

                                    1. re: Rella

                                      Doesn't sound like any Chipotle I've been to or heard of.

                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        Which fast food chain has the most cultish (and maybe even divisive) following?

                                        is the thread. Can we still be friends?

                                      2. re: Rella

                                        You're talking about the bottles of Tabasco for use at the table, which yes, they offer. I can't imagine being disgusted by hot sauce, but to each their own.

                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                          Who said anything about being disgusted by hot sauce? Not me.

                                          Dozens of chilis in and of all manner in my kitchen.

                                          1. re: Rella

                                            Sorry, I must be confused. You said you were taken aback by the little bottles of hot sauce and said "Yuk!" about them.

                                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                                              Yes, I did say: "Just squirt a little of whatever 'salsa' type squirt one wishes,.."
                                              "Actually maybe it was all those little bottles sitting up there that one can squirt on their meals. Yuk!"

                                              they were some sort of salsa types of stuff, be in a mild or hot, a thin or thick liquid of some type, all lined up in a row, or more like it, rowS.

                                              One, of course, would have to go several times to be able to tell what one really preferred of these, but I had not the heart.

                                              I cannot remember if there were also Tabasco and a few little other thingies on the table, but I assume there was.

                                              Yes, this is one complaint, but not a complaint about the food itself, which I found way to bland despite the offering of many little squirt bottles for dressing it up to suit oneself.

                                              I know that a restaurant cannot keep dirt and grime from attaching itself to these bottles from each and every customer - no, I'm not a big fan of buffets, either.

                                              However, I'm always sad to see any establishment go bust, and I am glad that they are doing a good business, and people enjoy it.

                                              1. re: Rella

                                                Not to beat the dead horse but I have never seen (or heard of) squirt bottles of any type of sauce or salsa at any Chipotle. Could it have been another similar type chain?

                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                  No, not a similar-type chain; it is "THE" Chipotle known to all.
                                                  Food with integrity.

                                                  Maybe we aren't on the same page as to what is a squirt bottle. Chefs use them even in the highest class of restaurants, but I've not seen them previously out for guests to use. Oh, Oh, they are called "SQUEEZE" bottles - close, but no cigar! Squeeze and Squirt!

                                                  Here we go:

                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                    I have never seen any bottle like that in any Chipotle I've been in. They don't keep the sauces/salsas in them. If they had those just sitting out with sauces for squirting, it's absolutely not what other Chipotles do.

                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                      I know what a squirt/squeeze bottle is. Like I said, I frequent Chipolte once a week on average and have never seen that or anything like that or heard of anything like that in regard to any Chipolte anywhere.

                                                      The only place salsa is served is through the line while they are building your burrito/taco/burrito bowl/salad. They will put salsa in a cup on the side if you request, but there is not public access to any type of salsa/sauces. There are only the usual Tabasco bottle like you'd get at the grocery store.

                                                      At the station with soft drink dispenser, iced tea, napkins, utentils, etc. The only bottle of anything in any form are variations of Tabasco sauce.

                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                        Fine, but I'm not going in to see if they are still there!

                                                        The parking lot is always full, probably couldn't get in if I wanted to :-))

                                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                          Why on earth would Rella lie about it? You all have had different experiences in different Chipotle locations, clearly. No need to rinse and repeat non stop. BTW, it's ChipOTle, not Chipolte. :-)

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            I have not said nor do I believe Rella is lying. I believe she is mistaken or that where she went runs their establishment outside of the corporate guidelines. Also the criticism of the menu leads me to the same conclusion.

                                                            Out of the plethora of negative comments I've heard about Chipotle, squeeze bottles & hard to follow menu have never been mentioned.

                                                            I have never heard of any Chipotle having sauces as she is describing? Have you?

                                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                              I stay away from Chipotle entirely, so I can't answer your last question. But if a poster says she ate at a Chipotle and she is certain it is THE Chipotle and those bottles were there, I assume its management is operating outside of corporate guidlines and that the representation is true and accurate. The fact that *I* may never have seen such a thing isn't a point against another poster's credibility, in my view.

                                                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                Sounds like California Tortilla. The locations I've been to have a couple dozen types of hot sauces with weird names. Besides, Chipotle is delicious and to say otherwise is blasphemy :)

                                          2. re: Rella

                                            I'm no rabid Chipotle fan myself, I think they're good in a pinch but I don't go out of my way to go there, but there are no squeeze bottles at any of the 4 or 5 locations I've been to either. There are a variety of hot sauces that you can add yourself that are at the station with the napkins and forks and such, but they are typical hot sauce bottles like habanero, tabasco, etc. I think Sriracha comes in a squeeze bottle but I don't use that and am not sure it's there, but it's certainly not a generic sysco plastic bottle filled up with stuff. And no salsa in any of the bottles, just different hot sauces. This one you went to must be an odd duck, Rella.

                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              I wouldn't call them squeeze bottles or squirt bottles, but there have been bottles of a variety of Tabasco and similar sauces near the eating utensils and napkins at every Chipotle I have ever visited (several in the Denver, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia areas). It is no more disgusting than a restaurant having bottles of ketchup or steak sauce available for patrons to use, but to each his or her own, I guess.

                                              1. re: Velvet Elvis

                                                Every Chipotle I've been to (from VA to MA) has had rows of different Tabasco sauces lined up near the soda machines. I don't know why this would dissuade someone from eating there, though.

                                      3. re: mcf

                                        Someone likes it... $2.4bn revs growing at 25%+ per year. The lines at lunch in NYC are ridiculous. I don't love it myself and rarely go, but there are definitely devout lovers of Chipotle.

                                    2. How about Krispy Kreme? Not necessarily "fast food", but a chain nonetheless.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Philly Ray

                                        I'd agree with Krispy Kreme for sure. I think In-N-Out has the most devoted cult at the moment, although White Castle has a cult of longer standing.

                                        1. re: Philly Ray

                                          KK in 1997, maybe. Then cupcakes became the 'IT' dessert.

                                          1. re: pdxgastro

                                            Doughnuts are dessert? I always thought of them as a breakfast kind of thing. Or as a snack with coffee.

                                            1. re: pdxgastro

                                              OK, ask any New Englander which "chain" they frequent the most and it will undoubtedly be Dunkin Donuts. I'm usually there at least once a day, everyday, sometimes twice. Not just your average coffee shop. Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. and the best coffee.

                                              1. re: othervoice

                                                oh yeah, if i'm going anywhere, gotta stop at dunkin' at some point..... too hot out? iced coffee. too early? coffee. too cold out? coffee. or just thirsty....? DUNKIN'

                                          2. Love this question. To me #1 is Five Guys. I think the burgers are almost inedible and friends have gotten so mad they actually have told me I don't know anything about food, haha.

                                            I'd also add the defenders of McDonald's fries and Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee. I think all three are revolting, but people go crazy when you say it.

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: jhopp217

                                              I think McDonald's Filet-O-Fish belongs in the discussion.

                                              I, for one, will defend it to the death. And then some.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                McDonald's Filet-O-Fish introduced me as a child to one of the iconic condiments - tartar sauce.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Mmmm...filet-o-fish. We KNOW it's awful, but it's still good.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Honestly, I've never had a filet of fish there. Scares me

                                                  2. re: jhopp217

                                                    Weird, I've never had a bad burger at Five Guys. They're not "fine restaurant quality", maybe, but it's good meat cooked well with ample toppings. What was yours like? And did you complain to the manager?

                                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                      Good meat? I questioned what it was. Ground beef doesn't look like the two burgers I had at Five Guys and definitely doesn't taste like it either. The patty literally disintegrated while I was eating it. It almost looked like particle board when I opened the bun.

                                                      Plus, anyone that eats there burgers well done isn't allowed to discuss burgers. Not saying you, but the burgers are so over well done, they have no juices. Even Big Macs and Whoppers have some.

                                                      1. re: jhopp217

                                                        Yikes, that sounds like the polar opposite of any burger I've seen there. If I got what you described, I'd complain to the manager. Definitely not the norm.

                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                          Well I've only been to two and it was the same at both. Actually looked up a picture of their burgers and found two...looked exactly like what I described.

                                                    2. re: jhopp217

                                                      Good call on the Starbucks. The difference between those who defend DD and those who defend Starbucks is that I think those defending Starbucks can get indignant because there is a sense that they are somehow buying something higher class, and they do not like to have their status or 'cool' quotient impugned. While people ardently defend DD, they know there is nothing high class or 'cool' about the place.

                                                      1. re: Cachetes

                                                        As a Boston boy myself, the DD cult is huge here. Dunkie's is working-class and 'honest', and the coffee's hugely popular. To me it's tasteless brown water. I do like their iced tea, though!

                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                          Donuts seem to be all fluff everywhere. Dont' want either the coffee or donuts. However, the coffee must be a big seller - in bags now just about everywhere. Hey, I even have a couple of their mugs, but honestly, I use them for my Polident ritual. Honest! Good cups!

                                                        2. re: Cachetes

                                                          In Canada we kind of have a reverse snobbism effect with our version of DD, Tim Horton's. The default assumption is that you must love Timmy's (yup we have a nickname for it) and go there at every opportunity. If you don't like Tim Horton's, you must be a terrible snob and a Starbucks lover. Given these two options I will go for Starbucks every time, and I can see people mentally putting me into their snob category.

                                                            1. re: Rella

                                                              I'm also not a fan of Timmy's. Five guys is also causing quite a debate here in the Toronto to Hamilton region.

                                                        3. I'd have to say In-N-Out, too, and I happen to drink that particular Kool-aid. I briefly considered White Castle, but even among WC's most ardent fans, I don't really know any that claim the sliders are all that good...just satisfying, in a "I'm so stoned and have the munchies" kinda way.

                                                          If we're talking about cult followings for a single menu item, however, I humbly offer the JitB taco for consideration.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: ricepad

                                                            Jack in the Box tacos -- si si! Around here you get two for a buck! Incredible price! And a smoothie to go with them is nice too.

                                                            1. re: Sharuf

                                                              The McRib at McDonald's belongs in this category. People lose their damn minds during its rare returns to the menu. I admit I loved them in my teens and 20s until they served me one and forgot to douse it in sweet barbecue sauce. Not only was it overly salty, greasy, and yet somehow bland by itself, but the mystery and excitement were gone.

                                                              An unsauced McRib is almost as disturbing as accidentally seeing your parents naked, let me tell you.

                                                              1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                Uh, thanks. I may never eat another McRib for the rest of my life.

                                                              2. re: Sharuf

                                                                I've been begging JITB to move to the east coast, for years now. I miss them terribly. I lived in CA for 25 years, and two tacos and a chocolate cake at midnight were the best munchie food anywhere.!!!!!

                                                            2. In N Out. Crazy lines, particularly in their drive-thrus. I live within seven minutes of three In N Outs and I've never seen what I'd consider a good time to go. Its reputation is fortified by well-known chefs - many with greats reps - who consider their burgers to be on their must-eat list.

                                                              Edit: I know ipse says he's not interested in the quality of the food, but I think it's game - it "feeds" into the cultish following. In N Out's fries are a major point of contention. imho, they suck big-time. The marketing point of In N Out is their ingredients are fresh - never frozen. Their fries are made fresh from potatoes on premises. The result? Their french fries need Viagra. Limp, oily, "steam-fried" if there's such a description. But yes, there are those who atavistically defend this sad excuse for fries. "I like them that way..." Or to fix the impotency issue, "get the fries 'light well,' or 'well.'" To each his own.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                Better yet, skip the fries altogether unless you can get the real thing. I had pomme frites with my sandwich at the café in Nordstrom (San Francisco) awhile ago, served with fresh mayonnaise, as the French take them. Every "french fry" in every fast-food outlet in America is a poor imitation of the genuine article.

                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                  While I agree with your assessment that pomme frites > french fries, eating a burger without fries leaves me nonplussed. And that is part of the reason why:

                                                                  >>...I've never seen what I'd consider a good time to go.<<

                                                                  If In N Out's fries were edible, I'd wait in line for the burger. To me, it's just a poor starch filler between the pretty darn good burger bites.

                                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                                    Hmmm, never saw pommes frites with mayonnaise in France, and we're big moules frites fans. Belgium, though....

                                                                    In-N-Out's fries are on the skinny side, but I can attest that they are cut just before frying. I make a point of going to In-N-Out when I'm in southern California, and they're ok for what they are, sort of the ur-drive in.

                                                                    1. re: tardigrade

                                                                      My information on French fried potatoes is second hand. How did you see them eaten?

                                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                                        Without any condiment at all. They don't need any.

                                                                        1. re: GH1618

                                                                          Béarnaise is a popular "dipping" sauce and often comes with the ubiquitous steak frites.

                                                                    2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                      Who eats In N Out's fries plain?
                                                                      It's animal style all the way....

                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                        Many do like (or don't care either way of) the taste and texture of their standard fries. I guess if this weren't the case, animal style would be their standard...

                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                          I dig on the animal style fries, but when I'm eating a burger, I like having a side of regular, crispy, salty fries with ketchup. The animal style ones are great to share or as a special treat.

                                                                      2. I know they are regional, but Burgerville is highly thought of in the Northwest. They are formatted like a fast food place, but the food is in a class by itself.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Sharuf

                                                                          +1 and Burgerville has locally sourced, seasonal offerings like Walla Walla onions, sweet potato fries, portobello mushrooms and strawberry shakes.


                                                                        2. It's strictly local to Western New York, but my vote goes to Mighty Taco. People - some of whom I'm related to - come from several states around to stock up on bland, Taco Bell-wanna be crisp tacos to take back with them to benighted places like Chicago and Manhattan. OK, they don't have much in the way of decent Mexican food in those parts, but still the devotion amazes me.

                                                                          Another regional favorite you left off is Krystal's, if they're still around.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tardigrade

                                                                            We like Mighty Taco. It's nothing I'd cross the boarder for but when we've been hungry and there was one around, it fit the bill.

                                                                            Krystal's is still around. For a while they were lunch every trip home from the inlaws. We've gotten away from that the last couple years. They are what they are. I prefer them to White Castle but to each their own.


                                                                            1. re: tardigrade

                                                                              Do their commercials still consist primarily of someone chanting "Mii-tee Ta-co, Mii-tee Ta-co"?

                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                Here I am being devisive again. DH goes in occasionally for one of their freezing cold cones - I sit in the car and wait.

                                                                                1. re: Rella

                                                                                  Folks, we removed a long sub-thread about Chik-Fil-A's political stance. We know that's a pretty big issue for the business and their customers, but this thread is really more about which chains have food that inspires loyalty and/or divisiveness. There are other threads about the Chick-Fil-A issue out there to have the political debate on.

                                                                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                    I have no interest in political debates here. I was speaking of the food and its rabid devotees, who will camp out for three nights like Chick Fil A is the local ticketron and the Beatles are reuniting.

                                                                                  2. re: Rella

                                                                                    I don't think having a difference of opinion requires one to be divisive. "each to his own," said the old lady as she kissed her cow. :)

                                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                                      I agree wholeheartedly with you. A difference of opinion is just that.

                                                                                      When I said, "here I go again being divisive," calling on the theme of the thread as the example. it was tongue and cheek. However, one doesn't want to step on toes. It can really 'hurt.' Ouch!

                                                                                2. The answer is really simple. In n Out. End of story. The zealots are incredible. This is a good fast food burger, nothing more. The fanboi's would have you believe that God herself was cooking up the burgers to a blessed perfection.

                                                                                  Chic Fil A has it's place. As does White Castle. Neither can hold a candle to InO.

                                                                                  I'm not sure 5 Guys is applicable because even their fans agree that it all depends on which 5G's you go to. They're wildly inconsistent. One can make a really good burger while one 5 blocks away can be virtually inedible.


                                                                                  1. I vote Chick-Fil-A. They seem to have the most cultish devotees to me.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. I gotta vote for Chipotle
                                                                                      May have spelled wrong.i do not at all understand the love this place gets

                                                                                      19 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: mizzdee

                                                                                        One of the first Chipotles opened in Columbus OH, where I come from, so they've been around awhile as the local "decent, large, but not terrific" burrito option. When I moved to Boston, where there's actual Mexican taquerias, I was amazed when the first Chipotles opened... "OMG! Have you seen this Chipotle place? It's sooo awesome!! They have, like, burritos!!" ...???

                                                                                        If all you have in your vicinity is Chipotle, you could definitely do worse. They have decent food and their social/meat policies are admirable. But if there's taquerias around, I have no idea why someone would choose Chipotle over the "real thing".

                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                          >>But if there's taquerias around, I have no idea why someone would choose Chipotle over the "real thing".<<

                                                                                          Some folks like square corners, and some folks like rounded corners. :)

                                                                                          There was a good piece on Public Radio a few weeks back. Chipotle CEO Steve Ells talked about his take on why Chipotle gets their pork from sources like Niman Ranch. I truly was pleasantly surprised. I've never eaten at Chipotle for the reason you stated above, but now I'm interested...


                                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                            And some folks like fractals. I live a couple blocks from a Mexican place with a pretty good taqueria menu and we eat there often and happily. But every once in a while, I still crave a bangin' chicken (think boneless buffalo wings) burrito and black beans and rice from Tijuana Flats no matter how inauthentically Mexican it is.

                                                                                            1. re: beachmouse

                                                                                              Fractals? Very few food comparisons that I can think of would apply to that analogy. That "wingarito" you describe sounds more like some quadrilateral with radian attached to its backside. :) Now fractals relative to growing up in the 70s? Yeah man, I can relate...

                                                                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                              Not really fair to compare Chipotle to a taqueria. The former is clearly an Americanized version of Mexican food; whereas the latter is not.

                                                                                              Arguably, the two are not even in the same food category -- your proverbial "apples and oranges" comparison.

                                                                                              Would a person compare Taco Bell to a local taqueria? Probably not. And Chipotle is really just a grown-up version of Taco Bell, no?

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                I've never been to Chipotle so I'll defer to your comparison as being very reasonable. But a chain pulling their pork from Niman Ranch as opposed to Smithfield et al seems counterintuitive.

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  I know what you mean - but I think Taco Bell has far and away the worst food of any national fast food chain. The standard red taco sauce is horrible, worse than anything you could get out of a can - no heat, no flavor but grease and an UNBELIEVEABLE, almost anti-freeze level of acridness. My stomach is churning just thinking about it. Just awful - they can't even make it look appetizing in their TV commercials.
                                                                                                  You know, I wonder if Taco Bell might have the LEAST cultish following of any fast food chain.

                                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                    They have a huge cult following amongst drunk people. Probably less so with sober people. Who may also have once been the drunk people. The cult is probably strongest between the hours of 12AM - 4AM. I was one of them.

                                                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                        Scrambled eggs, rye toast with butter and home fries at the local diner with black coffee cures mine :) TB would give me a belly ache. More power to you, JfR.

                                                                                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                          Ha. So there's not only the drunk cult following but the morning after one as well!

                                                                                                          1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                                                                            FattyD, at that point the hour of day/night isn't really the point :0)

                                                                                                        2. re: FattyDumplin

                                                                                                          All I can say is those Taco Bell cult drunks must be even less discriminating when drunk than I am. Here in NYC my drunk cult food would of course be White Castle. Where I grew up in LA it was of course Jack in the Box. I might add that I'd happily eat a Jack Taco (or a Moby Jack! ah, memories)even stone cold sober whereas I really would pretty much have to have a gun at my head to eat a Taco Bell taco.

                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                      Niman Ranch article dated 2-22-2009

                                                                                                      "The 64-year-old Bolinas man said he can live with losing the business he built from scratch. But he can't stand quietly by, he says, while the new owners fundamentally change the brand that influenced an entire food movement. He refuses to eat their products.

                                                                                                      Officials from the company argue that the integrity of Niman Ranch's meat program has never been better."


                                                                                                      1. re: Rella

                                                                                                        The article doesn't seem to prove anyone being right or wrong. I can see Niman's point, but at the same time - as the article states:

                                                                                                        "He suffered from classic founder syndrome," said Guy Muzio, an early investor, who wound up walking away after the merger with only 12 1/2 cents for every dollar he put into the company. "He was resistant to change."

                                                                                                        This is extremely common with founders of businesses. My wife does a lot of consulting with businesses that are having cashflow issues, and it usually boils down to the owner trying to grow the business while not while not being willing to modify the business plan to accommodate the process. Knowing this, and seeing this stated in the article by folks who were associated with Niman's business, I suspect that while Niman was trying to do what he thought was right, it was probably time for him to move on.

                                                                                                        The article goes on to mention about the post-Natural Food take over incident where cattle were shipped 1,300 miles and in the process, six head were lost. Like any new operation, one has to expect losses - mistakes WILL be made. It's sad that living creatures had to suffer, but...

                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                          " The article doesn't seem to prove anyone being right or wrong."

                                                                                                          Yes, I thought it was a reasonably fair article representing both points of view. Thank you for your reply.

                                                                                                    2. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                      Totally different taste profile... I generally prefer the "real thing". But every once in awhile, I just want that gringoed up meat with cilantro lime rice and all those funky salsas.

                                                                                                      1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                                                                        That's very fair. Now that you say it, man, their rice is pretty awesome.

                                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                          ironically, i almost never get the rice because it's just unneeded carbs. but there was a time, when my metabolism was better, that i loved putting down a whole chipotle burrito with chips and guac.

                                                                                                  2. I am a bit surprised no one mentioned Popeyes.I am aware it's not exactly a national chain and I can only speak of my experiences on the east coast but after many conversations with like minded Popeyes Fried Chicken nuts like myself about the miles we will travel just for their oh so salty and delicious biscuits, dirty rice and spicy,crispy fried chicken,I would definitely consider it as having a cult like status.

                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Duppie

                                                                                                      Popeye's is a national chain, though you won't find them in rural areas when outside of the southeast. They don't swamp you with numbers, KFC style, but you can find them without too much trouble.

                                                                                                      I'd say that is a good example - I've heard more than few people say that they love their Popeye's.

                                                                                                      1. re: Duppie

                                                                                                        Good call -- Popeye's is great fast food. I rarely eat it these days (for health reasons, sigh) but the three items you named are fantastic.

                                                                                                        Also, unlike many of the other chains listed, I don't consider Popeye's to be divisive at all. When was the last time you heard someone say, "Popeye's sucks, KFC blows them away"? 8<D

                                                                                                        1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                          Count me out of the Popeye's camp. To me the chicken is good, but nothing special. I know of at least five places in my area that do better chicken, six if you catch Church's on a good day. With all the love on Chowhound for Popeye's, I tried it three times this year, twice for fried chicken, and once for the tenders. I was not impressed at all, and the beans and rice are terrrible, with overcooked rice and beans tasting of liquid smoke. I do like the biscuits and onion rings, but they will not bring me back.

                                                                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                            The only Popeye's "near" me is on 14th St. in NYC.... which is why I could never be bothered to try it out. I mean -- I'm in the freakin' city. Just couldn't ever justify wasting a meal or even a snack on a chain.

                                                                                                            Maybe one day in Bawlmer or New Orleans.

                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                              Agreed.... then check out Charles fried chicken in Harlem. Worth the trip and way better than Red Rooster's yardbird.

                                                                                                              1. re: Duppie

                                                                                                                I'll have to keep that in mind for my next city trip. And I've never been to Harlem (ssshhhh, don't tell). I'm a downtown kinda gal.

                                                                                                            2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                              Where do you live with 5 great fried chicken joints?

                                                                                                              Here's a fried chicken tip for I-95 travelers: Parker's Barbecue in Wilson NC. If I had to choose between the barbecue and the chicken, I'd opt for the chicken. And I am a big fan of the barbecue.

                                                                                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                Church's used to be the the worst. I vowed about 15 years ago never to go back.
                                                                                                                And i believe Popeyes owns it now. That's probably why it is better.

                                                                                                            3. re: Duppie

                                                                                                              Love Popeye's. Jim Leff, who founded Chowhound, used them as an example of a chain that could turn out "deliciousness".

                                                                                                            4. Panera Bread...given the move by Starbucks to buy up a popular westcoast bakery and position themselves in a PB mode of late....I'd say Panera Bread has grown and won fans steadily over the last few years. Last time I stopped by the place was packed with SB-like laptop groups, moms groups, children running around and plenty of the over 50 diners. Long line, short staff and everyone waiting was a buzz with what they were going to order....including the nearly $20.00 lobster roll sandwich!! Lobster @ PB...yup...a growing cult following.

                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                I don't understand the Panera obsession at all. The place is always packed to high heaven -- why? Is it the free wi-fi? The food just isn't good.

                                                                                                                1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                  Rilke, this is just my observation but I would say where SB lacks square footage and room to sprawl and their recent remodels are more about take out than stay in; Panera Bread has gigantic living room spaces with fireplaces and family-friendly tables. Panera Bread doesn't chase you out it welcomes you in. I think the food/menu is completely secondary.

                                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                    Here is my take on a PB restaurant not tooooo far from me - we've been there a couple of times and walked out because there were no seats available, although a large place. The time we did eat was at a table that obviously no one wanted, because the people in line were standing beside us with their backside about even with our eyes and food. UGH!

                                                                                                                    There is another PB closer to us, where the crowds aren't large.

                                                                                                                    Perhaps I shouldn't make any other observation, so as not to be devisive :-))

                                                                                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                      That's more on the crowd issues and how the public uses communal spaces. PB isn't going to build a stadium to accommodate a lunch crowd :) But their business model is far more welcoming than many chains with large lunch/business lunch crowds and evening/after movie diners. SB all but took out the last table in several of the locations surrounding me. They gave more footage to the prep area and less to the customer space. More to product sales and less to the Waiting line. Once the bakery goes in it's anyone's guess. 1/2 of PB's business is their bakery (love it or leave it).

                                                                                                                      Crowd control is considered an challenge of envy.

                                                                                                                    2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                      That makes sense to an extent, but people (including my mom and her friends) rave about the food too. Oh well, same mystery as OG I guess.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                        Well Rilke, take a look at those 3-6 foot food billboards. They make the food look lavish. Served on beautifully, large ceramic dishes. You can have your coffee or latte in a ceramic mug without the SB price....they know how to market just as well as the next chain :)

                                                                                                                        1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                          There are things I like about Panera. I like the sandwiches more than the soups & salads and also like that you get a small bag of chips you can eat then (and it's one serving) or take them with you for later. And they are good chips. I like their tea.

                                                                                                                          My local one has very good service, is clean and has a nice atmosphere. I don't eat there every week, but there's times when it fits the bill.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                            Janet have you tried the mediterranean sandwich? It's their tomato-basil bread cut thick with a spicy pesto spread that includes sliced roasted peppers, cukes, lettuce, red onion and feta cheese. The only sandwich I have ever ordered there but I do enjoy it.

                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                              I have not...I will check it out. I love that tomato basil bread!

                                                                                                                  2. I will say 100% of my vote goes to Starbucks. People are not only cultish, but can't fathom anything else. I live and work in Delaware and for some reason we only have a handful of these across the state. Our local chain is Brew Ha Ha, which is good and I find it to be a good replacement. I work at a local hotel and regularly have to explain to people that there is, in fact, no Starbucks within a 20 minute radius. You have no idea the level of horror that I receive on a regular basis. HORROR!

                                                                                                                    21 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: jessicheese

                                                                                                                      I think the saying "YMMV" is about as appropriate as it gets on topic. I've seen people wait for a seat at PB or share a table with another family rather than leave. I've heard people put down SB's until they were red in the face and I've learned that people are loyal to familiar spaces until the next big thing comes along in their neighborhood.

                                                                                                                      So many choices on our planet--we have room to complain.

                                                                                                                      1. re: jessicheese

                                                                                                                        I feel your pain jessicheese. Imagine how the independent coffee roasters feel.

                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ


                                                                                                                          I don't want to stray too far off-topic, but you *do* realize that without Starbucks the whole notion of indie coffee roasters would be an anachronism, right?

                                                                                                                          Starbucks has essentially created a market for, and legitimized, $4 cups of joe, something that indie coffee roasters have essentially been riding the coattails of now for the past decade or so.

                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                            ipse, i've been buying indie coffee beans locally and over the Net long before I ever stepped foot in a SB or ever heard the words "would you like a tall?"....so, I'll have to disagree with you on the chicken or the egg on this one. My first indie bean was in 1975.

                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                              There's an interesting book about this issue/phenomenon by Taylor Clark called "Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture" which is an interesting read in and of yourself.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                I read Howard's book this year, friend works at an SB some eighteen years now lent it to me. I'll look for this title next time I'm in a second-hand book store. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  STARBUCKED explores how America transformed into a nation of coffee gourmets in only a few years, how Starbucks manipulates psyches and social habits to snare loyal customers, and why many of the things we think we know about the coffee commodity chain are false.


                                                                                                                                  From the Amazon.com synop. I might have to pass afterall. I've heard more than my share about SB over cocktails in the past 20+ years.

                                                                                                                                  ips, your tongue & cheek nature NEVER gets old tho-thank you for the giggle.

                                                                                                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                During their first year of operation, SB purchased green coffee beans from Peet's, then began buying directly from growers. That was in the early 70's. The chain as most of us know it now took some 10 years more to develope. Howard didn't have his hands on it until 1988.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  Maybe in some places, but the San Francisco area has had independent coffee roasters long before Starbucks. In fact, Starbuck learned his trade working at Berkeley-based Peet's Coffee.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                                    The first Peet's Coffee being served at a restaurant that I remember and seemed to be "all the rage" was about 1976, at a restaurant in Corte Madera, CA, across the water from Berkeley.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                        Did you like it, right off? Peets? Starbucks?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                                          Peets is far more robust even today. The roasted beans last longer, keep their sheen longer. SB is a cut below and tends to shelf beans too long at the roast level they use. If a bean shines I use it. Otherwise it goes into the compost.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                            Your kidding! Any bean? My heavens! If that be the case, I'd better start roasting my own.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                                              I have roasted my own and I wasn't happy with my own home results. Gotta leave it to the pros. I just make sure I treat them well and they treat me well.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                              Love Peet's, hate Starbucks. I buy Peet's to make at home in a demitasse stovetop . SB I hate for both ideological and taste reasons.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                                        I think those who disagree with ipsedixit may be overlooking the impetus of his post. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf had been around since 1963 (according to their claim) but how many were sipping their coffee? Sure - there were roasters doing artisanal stuff back in the day, but so few drinkers were actually taking advantage of it - seeking it out. Starbucks broadcasted it out to the public at large - not the existing coffee wonk. In fact, I'd bet that after many wonks tied SB, the criticisms probably spewed forth and the went back to into their coffee wonk shells. Starbucks was the first to create the demand for coffee beyond Folger's et al on a large scale. Their beans with exotic names like Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, Java and Sulawesi pulled consumers' imaginations and curiosity to go deeper into something that was viewed as pretty generic for decades.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                          Yup. Thank you for reading my mind, bulavinaka.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                            Just a side note - I sure do miss having a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf nearby. The city I used to live in had one directly across the street from a Starbuck's. Both did a brisk business.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: laskiblue

                                                                                                                                              I personally prefer Peet's, but CB&TL are more numerous, easier to find and access. I'm no coffee snob - I like caramel lattes with an extra shot - and both houses do them the way I like them. The part of town that I live in is littered with coffee houses, covering the breadth of current market, but because CB&TL offers easy access and hits high marks for my drink, I got there the most.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jessicheese

                                                                                                                                      Well, there is one on Main St in Newark, but the Brew Ha Ha is better.

                                                                                                                                    2. The taco bell Locos Tacos work for me!

                                                                                                                                      1. Here's how strong In-n-Out's cultishness is: I'm a devoted follower, and I desperately want In-N-Out to 'win' this debate! I tell ya...I drink the Kool-Aid!

                                                                                                                                        1. In-N-Out definitely is cultish with their secret menu.

                                                                                                                                          However, I think Starbucks has the common folk drinking the Kool-Aid where they make up names for their drinks where Tall is small, Grande is medium (but to me that implies large), Venti is large and Trenta (sp?) is the extra large.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                            A little history:
                                                                                                                                            When they opened, there were two sizes: Short and Tall. When they introduced the Grande, the 8 oz Short size wasn't as popular, and eventually they dropped it off the menu in favor of the Venti. You can still get the Short... it's just not on the menu.

                                                                                                                                          2. Certainly here in Southern California, In-N-Out has many devoted followers. The first time I tried their burgers and fries, I didn't even realize they were supposed to be a big deal. The second time I tried them, I was with a friend who very excited about getting me into the In-N-Out fold. My response was along the lines of "huh, they're okay." If I'm going to eat a burger that I truly want to enjoy, I know a couple of locally run places that really make it worth the money, time, and calories. :-)

                                                                                                                                            1. It's gotta be White Castle. It's always "love'em or hate'em".

                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: chicagothr

                                                                                                                                                  I think I am part of the White Castle cult, because everyone I know despises them. I rather like their burgers, if I don't think of them as a burger. They're like a cross between Chinese steamed bao and a British steak and onion pie.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                                                                    What if those folks knew they could get their chicken parm on?


                                                                                                                                                2. Here in Canada, it's Tim Horton's. Cultish and divisive for sure.