2023’s Best Cities for Fast Food Lovers

A smiling young woman and man enjoy combo meals at a fast food restaurant

From the drive-in to the drive-thru, America loves finger-lickin’ good fast food. 

But which cities are best for satisfying on-the-go hunger (or on-the-couch cravings)? 

LawnStarter compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities to rank 2023’s Best Cities for Fast Food Lovers.

We looked for cities with access to plenty of fast-food establishments. We also considered affordability and quality, including Thrillist’s Fasties Awards. 

Have it your way on National Fast Food Day (Nov. 16) with the help of our ranking below, followed by some highlights, lowlights, and expert tips.


City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Overall Rank (1=Best)CityOverall ScoreAccess RankQuality RankAffordability Rank
1Orlando, FL67.3721146
2New York, NY66.343291
3Miami, FL61.16193147
4San Francisco, CA59.00101415
5Chicago, IL58.919969
6Philadelphia, PA58.79114127
7Huntington Beach, CA56.9933632
8Washington, DC56.8962228
9McAllen, TX56.2491362
10San Diego, CA55.6047741
11Los Angeles, CA54.51261096
12Las Vegas, NV54.461413128
13Scottsdale, AZ54.09142116
14Chandler, AZ53.5471174
15Killeen, TX52.53765149
16Boston, MA52.3244876
17Torrance, CA51.95242342
18Glendale, AZ51.203112160
19Atlanta, GA50.89204320
20Austin, TX50.77412833
21Palmdale, CA50.61152875
22Pasadena, CA49.91363729
23Seattle, WA49.24394426
24Long Beach, CA49.012825124
25Rancho Cucamonga, CA49.001082625
26Tempe, AZ48.20254285
27Orange, CA48.06326221
28Tampa, FL48.041747104
29Phoenix, AZ48.025518141
30Mesa, AZ47.84823343
31Pomona, CA47.75872482
32Glendale, CA47.641064612
33Peoria, AZ47.511571671
34Escondido, CA47.491073049
35San Antonio, TX47.236120143
36Plano, TX47.19735713
37Anaheim, CA47.01375068
38Moreno Valley, CA46.971322166
38Corona, CA46.97844527
40Naperville, IL46.9165753
41McKinney, TX46.141026511
42Oceanside, CA45.801033590
43Louisville, KY45.505117112
44Dallas, TX45.36198670
45Charlotte, NC45.241502981
46Fontana, CA45.20795944
47Olathe, KS45.191713238
48Henderson, NV45.041703439
49Santa Ana, CA44.74219545
50Denver, CO44.67407958
51Fort Lauderdale, FL44.641213151
52Thornton, CO44.611005857
53Fullerton, CA44.59468835
54Salt Lake City, UT44.59905372
55Norfolk, VA44.564951135
56Lexington, KY44.511763152
57Portland, OR44.481216034
58St. Louis, MO44.334355140
59Sunnyvale, CA43.40291572
60Springfield, MO43.2015915181
61Jersey City, NJ43.16816050
62Sacramento, CA42.541513799
63Frisco, TX42.49671328
64Riverside, CA42.301137460
65Waco, TX42.079368105
66Garden Grove, CA42.038063137
67Eugene, OR41.9817338117
68Winston-Salem, NC41.921954147
69Hampton, VA41.877552170
70Fresno, CA41.875272152
71Chula Vista, CA41.561221305
72Overland Park, KS41.481747616
73Pittsburgh, PA41.3816147110
74Columbus, OH41.338566153
75Raleigh, NC41.311688024
76Little Rock, AR41.2113361122
77Houston, TX41.1435103121
78Roseville, CA41.095713823
79Lincoln, NE41.0416256106
80North Las Vegas, NV41.0219627134
81Colorado Springs, CO40.968378129
82Modesto, CA40.813813361
83Knoxville, TN40.694587163
84Fremont, CA40.581481247
85Santa Clarita, CA40.421447774
86Richmond, VA40.4018112171
87Nashville, TN40.261726484
88Baltimore, MD40.2527104162
89Ontario, CA40.238610673
90Alexandria, VA40.06719517
91Tallahassee, FL39.955096151
92Tulsa, OK39.8713670133
93Virginia Beach, VA39.73979898
94Kansas City, KS39.7319219184
95San Jose, CA39.63621649
96Rockford, IL39.5816440177
97Clarksville, TN39.5219154108
98Amarillo, TX39.3258122100
99Kansas City, MO39.2019736145
100St. Paul, MN39.209814822
101Fort Worth, TX39.1910111965
102Lubbock, TX39.186694156
103Salinas, CA38.933017614
104Tacoma, WA38.8864110136
105Providence, RI38.8010591154
106Elk Grove, CA38.7611514330
107Columbus, GA38.5914690103
108Irving, TX38.267716118
109Bellevue, WA38.09951771
110Laredo, TX38.0815882138
111Jacksonville, FL38.0769107158
112Oxnard, CA38.008115446
113Durham, NC37.8917510254
114Madison, WI37.761788992
115Lakewood, CO37.6918071142
116Greensboro, NC37.6616110193
117Surprise, AZ37.65114111132
118Rochester, NY37.6313128191
119Fort Collins, CO37.5311215048
120Murfreesboro, TN37.5112015631
121Omaha, NE37.51149100109
122Chesapeake, VA37.2418311436
123Augusta, GA37.1716584157
124Mobile, AL37.1319449172
125Indianapolis, IN37.07140109119
126Wichita, KS37.03124120107
127Hialeah, FL36.9123124185
128Milwaukee, WI36.9011881180
129Baton Rouge, LA36.80111108168
130Corpus Christi, TX36.8013413477
131Anchorage, AK36.781998567
132Carrollton, TX36.765917340
133Cincinnati, OH36.5660146148
134Buffalo, NY36.554473196
135Tucson, AZ36.529569190
136Hollywood, FL36.413418337
137Santa Rosa, CA36.3411615279
138Lancaster, CA36.2015412995
139Albuquerque, NM36.17143121115
140Stockton, CA36.0894118169
141Vancouver, WA36.025316789
142Bakersfield, CA36.0192153111
143San Bernardino, CA35.8418267179
144Denton, TX35.8218810597
145Arlington, TX35.7074159102
146Oklahoma City, OK35.6519383150
147Warren, MI35.6416016319
148Oakland, CA35.596317453
149Sioux Falls, SD35.3616614178
150Boise, ID35.3413715864
151Grand Rapids, MI35.2951151173
152Shreveport, LA35.2313492182
153El Paso, TX35.20117144144
154Dayton, OH35.167097188
155Fort Wayne, IN34.71151115161
156Irvine, CA34.6913818210
157Aurora, CO34.50123113176
158Huntsville, AL34.5019014259
159Midland, TX34.1513117156
160West Valley City, UT34.14189123113
161Macon, GA33.93155135155
162Minneapolis, MN33.347218080
163Grand Prairie, TX33.2912717086
164Newport News, VA33.2799139183
165Des Moines, IA33.25163155125
166Akron, OH33.1716739200
167Memphis, TN33.16156140167
168Yonkers, NY33.124818987
169Fayetteville, NC32.96179127165
170Garland, TX32.837818483
171Hayward, CA32.7689175130
172New Orleans, LA32.64184149118
173Birmingham, AL32.04147116187
174Salem, OR31.71145168139
175St. Petersburg, FL31.2468194101
176Reno, NV30.88153178114
177Savannah, GA30.7656181174
178Toledo, OH30.7114199198
179Springfield, MA30.55119136193
180Spokane, WA30.4554179178
181Mesquite, TX30.41130185116
182Paterson, NJ30.30126186123
183Pembroke Pines, FL30.2613918794
184Pasadena, TX30.14169165164
185Port St. Lucie, FL30.13110191126
186Worcester, MA29.92109193131
187Cleveland, OH29.74125126199
188Chattanooga, TN29.25177169159
189Cape Coral, FL29.06104190166
190Montgomery, AL28.58181166175
191Aurora, IL28.4512919963
192Charleston, SC27.6819818855
193Detroit, MI27.29185145194
194Jackson, MS27.14187162186
195Joliet, IL27.06128172192
196Newark, NJ26.6242197189
197Brownsville, TX26.05186196120
198Syracuse, NY24.9422198195
199Miramar, FL24.5920019288
200Bridgeport, CT20.4388200197
Infographic showing the Best Cities for Fast Food Lovers, a ranking based on access to fast food, quality, and affordability

Highlights and Lowlights

Happiest Meals

What better place to hold the fast-food crown than Burger King’s backyard? Florida cities topped our ranking, with Orlando reigning supreme for the second year in a row. 

Miami (No. 3) might not have the most affordable or highest-rated fast food, but it has the most fast-food establishments per square mile of all the cities we ranked. Such easy access to fast food was enough to push Miami to third place overall.

Orlando, however, comes out on top with the highest-quality to-go meals. O-Town has the most Fasties Award-winning food brands, too, followed by Tampa, which is tied for the No. 2 spot. 

Fast food is a great option for Floridians and tourists who are busy riding roller coasters or soaking up the sun. 

Local Tips:

  • Orlando: 4 Rivers Smokehouse is a family-owned chain that started just outside of Orlando in Winter Park. They now have 14 locations throughout the state, with more on the way. Beefy King is another local favorite, with one drive-thru location serving up legendary roast beef sandwiches and tater tots since 1968. 
  • Miami: Burger King actually began in 1953 as Insta-Burger King in Jacksonville, but today the chain’s headquarters is located in Miami. Magic City loves grabbing Cuban cuisine at Islas Canarias. You can get a quick croqueta at their SW 26th Street drive-thru.  

The Golden (Arches) State

California is a beacon for commuters and road-trippers, so it isn’t surprising that the state is full of drive-thrus. Over 30 Golden State cities landed in the better half of our ranking, with San Francisco (No. 4), Huntington Beach (No. 7), and San Diego (No. 10) sizzling to the top. 

Cali-founded chains — McDonald’s, In-N-Out, Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr., and Jack in the Box — cook up many fast food favorites. Even Gordon Ramsay can’t help but indulge in high-quality, Animal Style eats.

West Coast cities fared well overall, with only Spokane, Washington, ranking in the bottom 25.

Local Tips: 

  • San Francisco: Mel’s Drive-In began in 1947 as a carhop diner and became popular thanks to the film “American Graffiti.” Pull up a stool at Beep’s Burgers, another beloved drive-in specializing in burgers.

Burgers, Barbecue, and Biscuits

Southern cities may be slow-paced, but they love their fast food. 

Despite having fewer fast-food joints, McLovin’ McAllen, Texas (No. 9), has the second-highest average consumer rating for fast-food establishments and third-best Quality rank overall. Other Lone Star cities like Killeen (No. 15) and Austin (No. 20) scored well, thanks to their high-quality eats. 

San Antonio (No. 35) ties for the second-highest number of Fasties Award-winning brands. SA is also where Texas chains Taco Cabana, Church’s Chicken, and Bill Miller Bar-B-Q began. 

Car-friendly comfort food is popular in Atlanta (No. 19), Louisville, Kentucky (No. 43), and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 45). Louisville has the second-highest access to restaurants recognized by the Fasties Awards. Atlanta has similarly high access to fast-food joints, while Charlotte impressed in quality.

Local Tips:

  • Texas: It’s no secret — Texans love Whataburger. If you feel like making magic in the kitchen, try to cook the patty melt for yourself. Texas cities are also full of speedy food trucks

Fast Food for Fast Cities

Busy cities like New York (No. 2), Chicago (No. 5), and Washington (No. 8) snacked their way to the top of our ranking. It’s easy to grab a quick bite between meetings or before a show in these three cities, which all scored high in Access.

Quality meals helped boost these cities, too, each boasting big shares of highly rated establishments. There are also plenty of food delivery services to meet the demand in NYC and Chicago (tied for No. 1 in this factor).

On the flip side, smaller cities and suburbs didn’t fare so well. With little access to quick eats, places like Miramar, Florida, Brownsville, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina, took the slow route in our ranking, landing at the bottom.

Local Tips:

  • Chicago: Billy Jo’s Drive-Thru is a Chicago favorite for fast food. It has a gaming lounge if you have the time to stay and play. You can get a next-level, late-night dog at Fatso’s Last Stand
  • Washington: Sweetgreen is sweeping the nation, with a rotating seasonal menu of fresh, delicious salads. DC is also home to local sandwich chain Taylor Gourmet.

Fast Food by the Numbers

Infographic showing various statistics about fast food, including its history, consumption, sales, and more
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 | Research by: Sarah Bahr

Ask The Experts

Some fast-food chains follow us wherever we go, while others stand as regional landmarks. Whether you stop by for a bite, they’re an integral part of daily life for many Americans.

How does fast food impact our society and bodies, and why is it so loved? We asked the experts. Read on to see what they had to say.

  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. 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?
  4. 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.

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.)

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…)

Behind the Ranking

For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below. 

We then grouped those factors into three categories: Access, Quality, and Affordability.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for each city across all categories.

The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 200). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be 200 due to ties among cities.)

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Fast Food Establishments per Square Mile20.036.86Max. Value
Fasties Award-Winning Locations per Square Mile30.012.56Max. Value
Number of Food Delivery Services2210Max. Value
Average Consumer Rating for All Fast Food Establishments33.44.3Max. Value
Average Number of Consumer Reviews per Fast Food Establishment22.2164.8Max. Value
Share of Highly Rated Fast Food Establishments (With at Least 10 Reviews)30%36.8%Max. Value
Number of Fasties Award-Winning Fast Food Brands3311Max. Value
Cost of McDonald's Combo Meal or Other Brand Equivalent (Income-Adjusted)30.01%0.02%Min. Value

Sources: Beyond Menu, ChowNow, Delivery.com, DoorDash, Foodie Call, Grubhub, Instacart, Numbeo, Postmates, Seamless, Thrillist, TripAdvisor, and Uber Eats

Eatin’ Good in (and Outside of) the Neighborhood

Fast-food restaurants have taken over the streets. They’ve also infiltrated our Twitter timelines and the Metaverse. McDonald’s even hacked into our childhood nostalgia by releasing limited-edition adult Happy Meals

Today, many fast-food joints offer vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-adjacent options. There are even plant-based fast-food chains like Project Pollo popping up around the country. 

No matter your diet, fast food is easy when you don’t have the time or the kitchen skills like Joshua Weissman’s to cook at home. 

Fast food is seemingly everywhere in America, but some regional favorites have yet to reach all 50 states. Don’t get fast food FOMO — add these chains to your fried chicken-filled bucket list. 


Cheese is an essential ingredient when it comes to making fast food favorites, and Wisconsin is one of the cheesiest states. Culver’s started in Sauk City in 1984, and it’s the place to be when you’re craving cheese curds, butter burgers, and frozen custard — stat!

North Carolina

Southeasterners know “It’s Bo Time” anytime Bojangles is open with fresh biscuits and fried chicken. The biscuit fascination continues at Biscuitville, which has been serving scratch-made biscuits since 1966. Popular chains Cook Out, Hardee’s, and Krispy Kreme originated in North Carolina cities. 


Kansas isn’t just great for tasty BBQ. It’s home to America’s first fast-food chain, White Castle. Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers also got its start in Wichita in 2002 and now feeds 36 states.  


Whether you’re craving burgers or biscuits and gravy, you can get a quick bite at Pal’s Sudden Service. Another locally loved franchise is Fat Mo Hamburgers (aka Fat Mo’s), which has been stacking up burgers for over two decades. 


New Orleans has delicious beignets and boozy brunches and is also home to one of America’s favorite fast fried chicken spots, Popeyes. Dat Dog is another beloved local institution that’s starting to expand its franchise territory beyond Crescent City and Louisiana. Raising Cane’s traces its roots to nearby Baton Rouge. 

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate of the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.