2022’s Best Cities for Fast Food Lovers

Young woman smiling and holding a fry, with a burger and fries in front of her.

Fast food has come a long way since the world’s first fast food restaurant opened 100 years ago in Wichita, Kansas. These days, you don’t even need to leave the house to “have it your way.”

But which cities will most indulge your on-the-go (or on-the-couch) cravings? 

LawnStarter ranked 2022’s Best Cities for Fast Food Lovers to help you celebrate National Fast Food Day in style on Nov. 16.

We compared nearly 200 of the biggest U.S. cities based on access to fast food restaurants and food delivery services. We also weighed the quality of the food based on consumer ratings and Thrillist’s Fasties Awards.

Check out our ranking below, followed by some some highlights, lowlights, and expert tips.

Life in these top cities will definitely have fast food fans saying, “I’m lovin’ it.”

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Fast Food By the Numbers
  4. Ask the Experts
  5. Methodology
  6. Slow Food

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreAccess RankQuality Rank
1Orlando, FL66.03133
2Houston, TX58.05241
3Phoenix, AZ54.43482
4Chicago, IL49.71283
5Las Vegas, NV48.53310
6Los Angeles, CA48.08504
7San Diego, CA47.92235
8New York, NY44.86526
9Louisville, KY42.69787
10Austin, TX42.511716
11Atlanta, GA41.88231
12Tucson, AZ41.453511
13Honolulu, HI40.641122
14San Antonio, TX40.31059
15San Jose, CA40.234714
16San Francisco, CA39.461921
17Seattle, WA39.167412
18Washington, DC39.15640
19Philadelphia, PA39.14218
20Spokane, WA38.661032
21Baltimore, MD38.064520
22Charlotte, NC37.651768
23Columbus, OH36.69817
24Miami, FL36.04577
25Frisco, TX35.91247
26Portland, OR35.3216513
27Knoxville, TN35.26781
28Lexington, KY34.146327
29Boston, MA33.991372
30Raleigh, NC33.8914519
31Indianapolis, IN33.6517815
32Mesa, AZ33.4110624
33Orange, CA33.283343
34Des Moines, IA33.199026
35Sacramento, CA33.037730
36Pittsburgh, PA33.011591
36Dallas, TX33.013244
38Alexandria, VA32.821493
39Salt Lake City, UT32.698117
40Long Beach, CA32.5313423
41Plano, TX32.477135
42Tampa, FL32.381690
43Bakersfield, CA32.1810428
44Jacksonville, FL32.1310029
45Cincinnati, OH31.879236
46Huntington Beach, CA31.798638
47Lubbock, TX31.682571
48Savannah, GA31.664154
49Sunnyvale, CA31.543165
50Denver, CO31.252282
51Jersey City, NJ31.234460
52Wichita, KS31.126445
53Madison, WI30.839742
54Tallahassee, FL30.62199
55Pasadena, CA30.453475
56Tulsa, OK30.426058
57Fresno, CA30.3412137
58Chandler, AZ30.157648
59Torrance, CA30.036656
60Augusta, GA29.697057
61Anaheim, CA29.588053
62Gilbert, AZ29.559349
63Tempe, AZ29.34094
64Omaha, NE29.2816334
65Arlington, TX29.079950
66Colorado Springs, CO29.055187
67Olathe, KS28.8515039
68Virginia Beach, VA28.659563
69Minneapolis, MN28.636185
70Birmingham, AL28.5827120
71Sioux Falls, SD28.486776
71Scottsdale, AZ28.4846102
73Escondido, CA28.3311952
74Hialeah, FL28.0918725
75Vancouver, WA28.0736119
75Irving, TX28.076884
77Memphis, TN28.0310264
78Irvine, CA27.8611761
79Bellevue, WA27.788778
80Baton Rouge, LA27.6612558
81Arlington, VA27.4920160
82Fullerton, CA27.4511566
83Dayton, OH27.368388
84McKinney, TX27.316995
85Richmond, VA27.2839129
86Boise City, ID27.2662108
87Corona, CA27.1410374
88Naperville, IL27.117397
89St. Louis, MO27.0941130
90Bridgeport, CT27.0265105
91Garland, TX26.8237137
91Amarillo, TX26.8218167
93Little Rock, AR26.6858122
94Albuquerque, NM26.5712870
95Glendale, AZ26.5426157
96Aurora, CO26.5311479
97Tacoma, WA26.5172110
98Reno, NV26.4959124
99Henderson, NV26.4617446
99McAllen, TX26.4638142
101Rockford, IL26.484104
102Santa Clarita, CA26.3594100
103Chesapeake, VA26.2691103
104Nashville, TN26.1982111
105Fort Lauderdale, FL26.169185
106Springfield, MO26.1479116
107Fort Worth, TX26.1212680
108Rancho Cucamonga, CA25.7811692
109St. Paul, MN25.6417555
110Riverside, CA25.6119141
111Ontario, CA25.5988118
112Chula Vista, CA25.3175128
113Oakland, CA25.2915273
114St. Petersburg, FL25.2556146
115Lincoln, NE25.1916668
116Clarksville, TN25.1713789
117Fort Collins, CO25.09113107
117Salinas, CA25.0929164
119Grand Rapids, MI25.0143161
120Eugene, OR24.9418154
121Corpus Christi, TX24.9213098
122Greensboro, NC24.8814983
123Glendale, CA24.66133101
124Oklahoma City, OK24.3817967
125Mobile, AL24.06138109
126Pasadena, TX24.0115396
127Cary, NC23.8917186
128Newport News, VA23.8185148
129Brownsville, TX23.77140114
130Kansas City, MO23.6618369
131Santa Ana, CA23.59146112
132Lancaster, CA23.32132127
133Santa Rosa, CA23.24124132
134Miramar, FL23.2219362
135Joliet, IL23.09112141
136Buffalo, NY23.0654175
137Modesto, CA23.0496152
138Fremont, CA22.97120139
139Cape Coral, FL22.7849178
140Midland, TX22.7253178
140El Paso, TX22.72108149
142Chattanooga, TN22.63107151
143Shreveport, LA22.62131136
144Huntsville, AL22.6141131
145Fontana, CA22.35172115
146Palmdale, CA22.24143135
147Murfreesboro, TN22.2381169
148Anchorage, AK22.0619651
148Cleveland, OH22.06180106
150Norfolk, VA21.97118155
151Oceanside, CA21.95111158
152Overland Park, KS21.72177121
153Fayetteville, NC21.66139147
154New Orleans, LA21.65173126
155Salem, OR21.54160134
156Oxnard, CA21.42155140
157Winston-Salem, NC21.36168133
158Stockton, CA21.25154144
159Garden Grove, CA21.11156143
160Worcester, MA21.05109168
161Grand Prairie, TX20.93151150
161Newark, NJ20.93127162
163Providence, RI20.73182125
164Syracuse, NY20.757187
165Toledo, OH20.69188113
166Pembroke Pines, FL20.51170145
167Elk Grove, CA20.46135163
168Thornton, CO20.14123173
169Fort Wayne, IN19.9167156
170Pomona, CA19.89159159
171Rochester, NY19.7330192
172Columbus, GA19.69101180
173Jackson, MS19.59184138
174Milwaukee, WI19.46192123
175Peoria, AZ19.3289186
176Hayward, CA19.23144174
177Metairie, LA19.01162166
178Killeen, TX18.52110184
179Durham, NC18.28161176
180San Bernardino, CA18.27136181
181Aurora, IL18.07142182
182Paterson, NJ17.65169177
183Moreno Valley, CA17.35129188
184Port St. Lucie, FL17.09157183
185Macon, GA17.0855195
186Detroit, MI17195153
187North Las Vegas, NV16.73185172
188Akron, OH16.66190165
189Kansas City, KS16.65186170
190Lakewood, CO16.33189170
191Yonkers, NY16.02147189
192Mesquite, TX15.07122193
193Hollywood, FL15164190
194Montgomery, AL14.72158191
195Springfield, MA13.97148194
196Laredo, TX7.06194196
Infographic showing the best cities for fast food lovers, a ranking based on access to fast food restaurants, consumer ratings, and fast food awards

Highlights and Lowlights

Orlando: Land of Universal Fast Food

In between roller-coaster rides, why not stop for a burger and fries? Orlando, Florida, makes that easy as the No. 1 Best City for Fast Food Lovers. Not only does O-Town have more fast food establishments per 100,000 residents than any other city on our list, but it’s also served by all the popular food delivery apps. 

And no matter your taste, Orlando has a quick-eats option for you. Grab the usual suspects from McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A, or try something more adventurous, say, Canadian cheese curds from The Daily Poutine, an authentic Mexican burrito at Gringos Locos, or traditional Caribbean fare from Pollo Tropical. Clearly, Orlando’s fast food scene caters to an international audience. 

What(aburger)’s Up With Texas?

The Lone Star State is all over the map in our ranking. Houston came in at No. 2 overall, Austin at No. 10, and San Antonio in 14th place. On the other end, Laredo ranked dead last at No. 196, with Mesquite close behind at No. 192. 

Why the disparity? Quality is key. The larger Texas cities fared well in this category, with Houston at No. 1, Austin at No. 16, and San Antonio at No. 9. In smaller towns like Laredo (No. 196) and Mesquite (No. 193), low median consumer ratings suggest the on-the-go dining options just don’t taste as finger-lickin’ good.

But everywhere in the state, you’re sure to find Texans swarming to Whataburger, a regional chain founded in Corpus Christi with a huge, loyal fan base of locals. Just like a Texan staple should, Whataburger claims to serve up a “bigger, better” burger than other fast food chains. 

The Golden (Arches) State

With four cities in the top 20 and more McDonald’s locations than any other state, California is the best state overall for fast food lovers. Los Angeles finished at No. 6, followed by San Diego at No. 7, San Jose at No. 15, and San Francisco in 16th place. 

Where the Golden State really shines is food delivery. If you prefer to stay in and have your chicken tenders brought to you, California has plenty of places where you’ll fit in. Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Salinas, and Sunnyvale all tied for No. 1, along with multiple other cities, in food delivery services. 

With LA and San Diego both in the top 10, it seems Southern California is where the action is for fast food lovers — fitting, as SoCal birthed the most iconic fast food chain in existence. The first ever McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino (No. 180) in the 1940s. You can still visit that first location, but don’t expect to order a Happy Meal — it’s now a McDonald’s history museum

Yummy Food in Kentucky 

What do KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut all have in common besides serving delicious fast food? They’re all owned by the aptly named Yum! Brands, based in Louisville, Kentucky, our No. 9 Best City for Fast Food Lovers.

The Yum! family of brands comprises more than 52,000 locations of these popular chains altogether — including The Habit Burger Grill — across 150 countries. That’s right: The company that manages your Crunchwrap Supremes and Meat Lover’s Pizzas operates from Colonel Sanders Lane (the real-life address of Yum! headquarters).

Fast Food By the Numbers

Infographic showing various fast food statistics
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 | Research by: Sarah Bahr

Ask The Experts

There’s hardly anywhere in the world you can go without seeing Colonel Sanders or Wendy’s red pigtails. Fast food is a global staple of daily life. Why do we love it so much? And how much of it can we eat without feeling guilty? We asked the experts.

  1. How did fast food become as popular as it is today? What would you say draws so many people to fast food?
  2. How do you think the advent of the fast food restaurant has impacted the way our society thinks about food?
  3. Food delivery became extremely popular over the last year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Now that most places are open again, do you predict people will continue to order in rather than go out?
  4. Studies show that Americans are thinking more about the health of their food choices in recent years. How much fast food is too much for a healthy diet?
  5. Just for fun: What’s your go-to fast food order?
Susan West
Assistant Professor Parks Recreation Hospitality Administration
Frederick DeMicco, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Professor, the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, The W.A. Franke College of Business
Susan West
Assistant Professor Parks Recreation Hospitality Administration
Arkansas Tech University

How did fast food become as popular as it is today? What would you say draws so many people to fast food?

I believe it was a combination of events. Women entered the workforce which created time constraints to work all day and then prepare a fresh meal.

Additionally, people started traveling more and let’s be honest, it is just easier to drive through and get something to eat on the way rather than stop, eat and get back on the road.

We live in an instant world. Push a button, get something delivered the same day or within two days, push a button and see your agenda for the day, push a button and receive immediate feedback (i.e. text). I think we want our food just as rapidly.

How do you think the advent of the fast food restaurant has impacted the way our society thinks about food?

We stopped thinking about where our food comes from or who took the time to prepare it. We are hungry, we are impatient, and we do not think about all the processes that took place to get us that food so quickly.

Also, franchising has become easier and therefore more business people are able to open fast food establishments at rates faster than previous times in our history.

Food delivery became extremely popular over the last year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Now that most places are open again, do you predict people will continue to order in rather than go out?

I think there will have to be BOTH options. Even as we are re-opening, people have discovered how they can have something delivered and not even have to drive through themselves.

I believe restaurants will have to continue with both options and will also need to invest in more outdoor seating options.

Studies show that Americans are thinking more about the health of their food choices in recent years. How much fast food is too much for a healthy diet?

Well most fast food places now have healthy options. I think people need to balance their own options. If in a hurry, maybe opt for a wrap as opposed to a burger.

Personally, More than twice a month eating fast food is too much. But I am also older and my stomach will not allow much more (haha) however, students probably have fast food every week!

Just for fun: What’s your go-to fast food order?

Grilled chicken nuggets with Kale salad at Chick-fil-A

Frederick DeMicco, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Professor, the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, The W.A. Franke College of Business
Northern Arizona University

How did fast food become as popular as it is today? What would you say draws so many people to fast food?

Better quality, variety, convenience (using apps and online ordering), and the drive through, as time is our most precious commodity today. (Covid played into the quick service strengths.)

Food delivery became extremely popular over the last year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Now that most places are open again, do you predict people will continue to order in rather than go out?

About 30% of our food is ordered online today, and it is expected to be over 50% by 2025.

Takeout, drive through, and delivery are mainstream now and new designs of restaurant drive throughs/pickup lanes are being created to accelerate this trend–so fast food is here to stay. Also, driverless delivery and drones are expected to expand.

Studies show that Americans are thinking more about the health of their food choices in recent years. How much fast food is too much for a healthy diet?

There are many healthy options out there, so choose wisely, and limit fat and salt intake. The quick service restaurants are in tune to this as consumers are interested in more healthful cuisine that tastes good, remains at a good value and is still convenient.

I think the greater variety of global menu offerings can play well with healthier options (think Asian, Southwest, Mediterranean cuisine, such as Noodles, Garbanzo’s, Pei We, etc…)

Methodology

We ranked 196 of the biggest U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 196) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across all the weighted metrics listed below. 

“Fast Food Establishments” include national, regional, and local chains, as well as nonchain “mom-and-pop” establishments. 

“Food Delivery Services” include eight of the most popular brands, Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates, Delivery.com, Foodie Call, Seamless, and BeyondMenu.

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Access
Fast Food Establishments per 100,000 Residents32.85157.75Max. Value
Number of Food Delivery Services147Max. Value
Quality
Number of Fasties Award-Winning Fast Food Locations39309Max. Value
Median Consumer Rating for Fast Food Establishments (Out of 5 Stars)21.533.15Max. Value

Sources: BeyondMenu, Delivery.com, DoorDash, Foodie Call, Grubhub, Postmates, Seamless, Thrillist, TripAdvisor, Uber Eats, and Yelp

Slow Food

Even if you love fast food, it’s nice to slow down and smell the roses (or the fries) every once in a while. In 2020, people across the country cooked at home more and ate out less because of the pandemic. With vaccination rates on the rise, going out is back “in.”

If you need a break from the drive-thru lines and delivery apps, here are some suggestions for finding the best “slow” version of your favorite fast food staples:

  • Au Cheval in Chicago: Au Cheval serves a massive cheeseburger that made it onto Food Network and Today’s lists of the best burgers in America. It comes with three patties, melted cheddar cheese oozing down the sides, maple-glazed bacon, and a homemade “Dijonnaise” sauce. You can add a fried egg on top if you feel like trying something new. 
  • HopCat in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Both Food Network and Food & Wine Magazine named the addictive “crack fries” at HopCat as some of the best fries in the country. Locals seem to agree. The fries are cut thin, battered in beer before frying, then seasoned with a hearty helping of black pepper.
  • Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles: Looking for a KFC substitute? Food & Wine and Today agree that Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles serves some of the best fried chicken anywhere in the States. Dishes come with homemade waffles and a variety of sauces to shake up this classic sweet-and-salty combo.
  • La Taqueria in San Francisco: It’s no surprise that some of the best tacos in the country (according to Food Network and Delish) come from California. La Taqueria serves their tacos on a crunchy grilled tortilla. The Carne Asada Tacos Dorados, a favorite dish among regulars, comes with Monterey Jack cheese, tender sirloin, el sabor sauce, salsa, avocado, and sour cream.
  • Cochon Butcher in New Orleans: This combination wine bar and butcher counter is a charming spot with one of the best sandwich menus in America, so named by Thrillist and Food Network. You might try the Cochon muffaletta (a New Orleans classic), the pork belly sandwich with mint and cucumber, or the Moroccan spiced lamb sandwich. 
  • Via 313 in Austin, Texas: Local pizza chain Via 313 has indoor and food truck locations around Austin, so you can choose to sit down and savor or grab a slice and go. Thrillist and Food Network say Via 313 serves up some of the best pies in America, with Detroit-style thick crusts covered in crispy caramelized cheese and plenty of signature toppings. 

Is your mouth watering yet? Even if you can’t get to one of these highly acclaimed eateries around the country, you can always head down to the nearest drive-thru to get your fix fast. 

While you order dinner on your phone, why not order lawn care, too? LawnStarter makes it easy to book local pros to handle the lawn for you, so you have more time to eat, drink, and be merry.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and indoor plant enthusiast hailing from Florida. In her spare time, she enjoys chasing her two cats around the house and trying to keep her houseplants alive.