Whether you travel to Paris, France or Paris, Texas, everyone knows that the South is a hotbed of delicious food that is cooked in pure grease and made with pure love. There’s nothing tastier than fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, chicken fried steak, and all of the barbecue you can possibly eat. When you think of Southern restaurants, though, what springs to mind? Of course you have the classic Whataburger and Cracker Barrel, but which restaurant chains take home the prize of being the best in the South?
To figure it out, we sat down and determined what made Southern food so dang delicious. Of course fried chicken appears on this list more than once, and most of the establishments are actually fast food chains. Isn’t that even better? For your next road trip through the South, make sure to stop at one of these locations for a seriously delicious meal you won’t soon forget.
10. Frenchy’s Chicken
Percy “Frenchy” Creuzot and his wife Sallie opened a po-boy shop in 1969 called Frenchy’s. Though he tapped into his New Orleans background slinging po-boys, the shop added fried chicken to its menu. Using his New Orleans family recipe, his Southern Louisiana-inspired fried chicken became a huge hit.
You can’t go wrong with the 4-piece feast that includes a biscuit or roll, dirty rice or fries and pepper. Every side on the menu has its merits, but the collard greens, mashed potatoes, and dirty rice are showstoppers. Better yet, bring someone along with you and have them order the jambalaya. Don’t forget a side of hot sauce!
San Antonio, Texas
In 1947, Bob Luby and his cousin, Charles R. Johnston, opened the first Luby’s Cafeteria in San Antonio after he returned from serving in World War II. The Luby’s story is based in the tradition of servicemen and as its popularity grew, so did its locations.
With 95 locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi, it’s worth stopping in whenever you pass one. The mac and cheese is so good, even H-E-B is selling a frozen version to enjoy at home. We always add bacon, it’s our little secret to making this soul food taste out of this world.
8. Corky’s BBQ
Ah, the first non-Texas restaurant on the list. Just because it didn’t come from the Lone Star State, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve great food. In fact, Corky’s BBQ has the best Memphis-style barbecue you will ever have.
The hickory-smoked ribs are incredibly delicious and it’s not a meal at Corky’s without an order of green beans. The next time you see a sign for Corky’s on a road trip, you need to stop in to appreciate barbecue from a different part of the country.
7. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Raising Cane’s truly beat odds to exist. Founder Todd Graves always knew a chicken finger restaurant would be a hit, but no one else believed him. In 1996, after a few long and hard years, Graves finally launched the flagship location with a mural inside that would come to inspire the logo.
Now, you can find Raising Cane’s at over 150 locations in the U.S., but don’t let its popularity fool you from thinking it’s worth passing by for a new restaurant stop. This is some of the best fried chicken you can find throughout the South. Missing your buttermilk biscuit? This Texas toast will change your life.
6. Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits
Charlotte, North Carolina
Yes, this list is full of fried chicken joints. We warned you, right! However, it is for a good reason because no matter where you are in the South, it means you are never far from the best fried chicken you’ve ever had. In 1977, Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas opened the first Bojangles in Charlotte, and the rest was history.
With over 600 locations across the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic, Bojangles’ serves up the kind of chicken you would expect only from a mom-and-pop shop in Nashville or Atlanta. The only thing that would make Bojangles’ better is if they served pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes, but that’s just us.
Born on a basketball court, the idea for Zaxby’s took friends Zach McLeroy and Tony Townley does a path of fried chicken royalty in the early 1990s. With a fresh selection that tastes like it came from your grandma’s kitchen, it is worth a trip to one of their 600 locations in the South and Midwest.
In paradise somewhere, there is a fountain of Zax sauce and it comes with all the cluckin’ crinkle fries you can eat.
4. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
With over 600 stores in 44 states, each with its own gorgeous and rustic country store, Cracker Barrel serves up delicious homegrown classics. Whether you find yourself in St. Louis, Missouri or Richmond, Virginia, you are never far from Cracker Barrel’s cornbread that is so dreamy, it deserves its own award.
And that Double Fudge Coca Cola cake? What a dream. Every restaurant is filled with a hint of Southern hospitality that is so genuine, it feels like coming home.
3. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
No matter where it comes from, there is only one thing you need to know about Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken: it is heavenly. Plain and simple, Gus’s serves up the juiciest, crispiest fried chicken. Gus’s is a such a staple that every trip between visits feels like a long time.
The hot chicken is the best you’ll eat if you’re outside of downtown Nashville, and no trip to Memphis is complete without a visit to the original Gus’s location.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Whataburger is more than a Texas-born restaurant chain, it is a lifestyle. Whether you love the secret menu, photoshoots of babies covered in Spicy Ketchup, or the little trick everyone falls for, there’s no denying that in 1950, the fast food game changed forever.
Harmon Dobson’s idea for a truly good, double-handed burger was executed so well that now, Whataburger is an iconic example of quality fast food. From their experiments with chorizo and spicy strawberry sauce to their humorous social media accounts, it comes down to the food at Whataburger always. And when a chain is so good that you head there at 2:00 a.m. just for an apple pie, you know it’s one of the best in the South.
1. Waffle House
Avondale Estates, Georgia
When a restaurant is such a staple of American and Southern culture that FEMA relies on it to gage natural disasters in an area, it has undeniably earned its spot as the best Southern restaurant chain out there. Whether you love to your hash browns peppered, capped, or country, there is something for everyone at Waffle House
Why is it the best restaurant chain in the South? It’s a home away from home for people of all walks of life, whether they drive trucks on interstates for weeks on end, or they’re raising a family and the kids love the breakfast sold all day. There’s nothing more Southern than feeling like you belong in a place, no matter where that place is on the map.