First of all, let’s get one thing clear: L.A. isn’t hurting for good food. The many, many, many, countless articles we write about everything from $1 street tacos to white-tablecloth pop-ups are all designed to drive home the fact Los Angeles is America’s best food city (in our totally biased opinion).
Still, it’s always exciting when a treasured chain restaurant comes our way. Remember the mile-long Shake Shack line debacle? Or how excited you were when Dunkin’ Donuts rolled into town? Here are five regional fast food chains we’re praying will migrate west.
Waffle House: (25—primarily Southern—states)
The Hype: Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West walk into a Waffle House. No, that’s not the opening line of a joke—it really happened last year and is probably biggest, most meme-able endorsement of all time. The chain is also so dominant that it’s been known to stay open through basically anything—one of the ways FEMA monitors storm severity is via the number of open Waffle Houses with the awesomely named Waffle House Test.
Why LA needs it: When Anthony Bourdain calls a place a “yellow beacon of hope for the seriously hammered,” you know it’s serious. Right now, taco trucks have the post-bar crawl market cornered, but we could use some sweet options.
Blake’s Lotaburger (New Mexico and Texas).
The Hype: Hatch Valley green Chile cheeseburgers, Carne Adovada breakfast burritos, and Chile Frito pies are crowd favorites at this Southwest chain. The flavors of New Mexico make this a standout from the normal fast food franchise fare, even meriting a cameo on Breaking Bad. If it’s good enough for Heisenberg, it’s good enough for us.
Why LA needs it: L.A.’s deep-running hunger for Mexican food has practically primed Angelenos to welcome a new style. A Blake’s Lotaburger would fill a unique niche in the LA fast food landscape, and green chilies are always welcome.
Culver’s: (26 states across the Midwest with a few in the South).
The Hype: Culver’s serves typical fast-food fare like burgers and sandwiches, but they’re on this list because of their frozen custard. As a native Angeleno, my first introduction to frozen custard came via a high school trip to Chicago. No Californian should be deprived of frozen custard for that long. Cool, creamy, and thick enough to stand a spoon straight up in it, it’s the ultimate summer night dessert.
Why LA needs it: Our city is home to many amazing small batch ice cream places with unique flavors (Salt & Straw, Sweet Rose), but there’s always room for drive-through access to a chocolate Oreo volcano custard sundae. Once more: Chocolate. Oreo. Volcano. Plus, if the chain does that well though frozen Midwestern winters, imagine an outpost on the Santa Monica Pier.
Wawa: (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Central Florida).
The hype: Die-hard fans include Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper, who wrote the chain a love letter in the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Outsiders of the Wawa cult might be perplexed that it’s basically a glorified gas station convenience store. These poor, unconverted foodies haven’t ordered a customized hoagie (or sub for non PA folks) at 2 a.m. off Wawa’s ubiquitous, glowing touchscreens.
Why LA needs it: How does a city with such a strong car culture not have more delicious gas station options? The Expo Line may be here now, but traffic-induced hunger is forever.
Whataburger: (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas)
The hype: Texans ain’t exactly known for their humility, but their love for Whataburger is still massively impressive. Buzzfeed’s Ultimate Whataburger Taste Test video is almost at 5 million views, and the commenters are hungry. The biggest menu stand out is the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit, which oozes sweet butter the way only something from the South can.
Why LA needs it: Sometimes you want to drink green juice; sometimes you want to get intimate with a honey butter chicken biscuit. We won’t tell the hottie from your neighborhood vegan, gluten-free place if you won’t.