10 Fast Food Chains That Chefs Love

Whether it’s late at night, right after a day’s work, or first thing in the morning, there’s nothing quite like the craving for fast food. If you’re in the mood for a juicy burger, hot fries, crispy tacos, or pizza with cheese, you’ve got to have it. Luckily, there’s no shortage of excellent fast food outlets in the area.

A recent study of dining habits showed that consumers are choosing fast food more often, not only for convenience but also because of rising grocery costs. Chefs are no different from you, whether they run a massive hospitality business, work at an upscale restaurant, or work behind the pass at your local favorite. They head to their favorite drive-thru for convenience, speedy service, and great food.

But where are their goals? We asked chefs to dine at their favorite fast food chains and share some ordering tips. Here are the fast-food spots they love, their top orders, and some pro tips for a tasty meal.

RELATED: 10 Most Overrated Fast Food Burgers

taco bell double steak grilled cheese burrito
Taco Bell / Facebook

Living más is a popular choice among the chefs we surveyed about fast food, with the cheesiness and crunchiness of Taco Bell menu items being a key factor.

brian poe, the chef and owner of The Tip Tap Room and Crane River Cheese Club in Boston, is a fan of the Cheesy Gordita Crunch (we weren’t kidding about cheese and crunch) and says, “I love it so much when I can I.” can’t get my hands on a Taco Bell, I often recreate them at Crane River Cheese Club, The Tip Tap Room and at home.”

“My guilty fast-food product is Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch. It instantly takes me back to my slightly irresponsible late teens and 20s with that first bite,” says Poe. “My tip when ordering is to upgrade your Cheesy Gordita Crunch (there’s a make-it-yourself list of extras) by adding bean puree, extra hot sauce, and ranch avocado. I might as well order two or three.”

Chef Tobias CoxVice President of Dimension Hospitality Group, is also a fan, and with good reason, as he explains: “I started my career at Taco Bell in Littleton, Colorado when I was 15 years old. Because of my age, I had to have a special permit to work.”

“What I learned at Taco Bell was really fundamental to my career. I’ve learned to be fast in everything I do, learned how to deal with great clients and difficult clients, I’ve learned how to work and communicate with a team in a fast-paced environment while being organized and willing to learn and do whatever I want to get the job done,” he shared.

Cox remains a huge fan and lover of Mexican pizza. He told us: “I have joined the hundreds of thousands of fans around the world in petitioning to save this amazing dish. Now I’m happy to report that it’s on [the menu] forever and I just had one yesterday.

Rearing Canes Box Combo Extra Sauce
Courtesy of Raising Cane’s

Everyone loves chicken tenders, and raising cane’s are some of the best around, he says Chef Rafael Gonzalez of the JW Marriott Houston Downtown.

“The best chicken tender restaurant! I love the four-piece menu,” enthuses Gonzalez. “The chicken tenders are huge and tender. I like to swap out the slaw for a different cane sauce (cane sauce is way better than Chick-fil-A’s Polynesian sauce). My kids love the sweet tea here.”

If you’re a chicken finger fanatic, find out from one of Raising Cane’s 670+ locations in 38 states across the country, although the chain has most locations in Texas and California. And don’t skip the predominantly Post Malone-designed Utah branch of the restaurant if you’re in the area.

wendy's chocolate frosty
Courtesy of Wendy’s

Cox is also a fan of this burger chain but not for the product you would expect! He tells us, “My family and I love going to Wendy’s to buy an Original Frosty.”

He even shares a pro tip on how to eat the frozen drink, saying, “Anything can be dunked in a Frosty — especially Wendy’s french fries!”

He’s not the only fan. “As far as fast food goes, it has to be Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger,” says nominee James Beard Chef Douglas Williams, owner of Mida and Apizza in Boston, previously told us. “I have more than just the food, I have so many memories of preparing it, touching the bun, the pride I had in making it and understanding its simplicity. I can talk about this burger and just smile!”

McDonald's fries
Adobe Stock. Design: Joe Heroun / Eat This Not That

It’s no surprise to see America’s favorite fast food chain on this list, but to see it praised by a member of the family that built NYC’s Delmonico’s is shocking. Max Tucciwhose book The Delmonico Way, which celebrates his family recipes, told us, “On my current book tour, I get asked a lot, ‘Growing up in Delmonico’s and with the best chefs, did you or did you ever eat fast? Eat?'”

The answer is yes, says Tucci. “I’ll tell them I’ll make a Delmonico steak and have McDonald’s fries delivered!”

Arby's curly fries
Courtesy of Arby’s

Top Chef winner Kristen Kish is a fan of the roast beef sandwich chain, but not for the sandwiches. The chef, who admitted to having a “childish palate,” says Arby’s “chicken fingers and curly fries are by far the best fast food I’ve found.” She went on to explain that “it’s just chicken fingers all day, every day, no matter what fast food joint I go to, I always gravitate toward some type of fried chicken.”

Shake Shack burgers with bacon and cheese

We’ve spoken to dozens of chefs who have raved about this chain Chef Charles Withers, of C Salt on Cape Cod, says he always eats Shake Shack’s Smoke Shack Burger, saying, “It’s got some heat and acidity from the cherry peppers, smoked bacon, and American cheese.” For me, it hits the best notes of a delicious dish.” Chef Aidan McGee of Boston’s The Dubliner is also a fan and likes extra cheese.

in n out meal
In-N-Out Burger / Facebook

It’s not uncommon for chefs to wax poetic about this West Coast chain, which has only ventured as far as Texas. With fresh, never frozen beef ground from beef in on-site beef facilities, freshly cut fries and freshly baked buns, In-N-Out is all about quality.

Chef Withers’ favorite is the In-N-Out Double Animal Style, which he puts on the same footing as Shake Shack’s Smoke Shack burger. Other famous In-N-Out fans are celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsaythe late anthony bourdain, And Tyler Florence.

Whataburger Cheeseburger

Star chef Aaron SánchezAppearing on Iron Chef America, MasterChef and Chopped, he’s a fan of Texas-based chain Whataburger, and it’s all about the sauce.

“Most other places have this special sauce, which is basically ketchup and mayo with relish.” Whataburger, on the other hand, “uses a mustard-based dressing,” according to Sánchez. That makes a big difference in taste.”

Chipotle Steak Bowl

Not only is the burrito and bowl chain popular with office workers across the country, it also has a fan Celebrity chef Richard Blais. Not only does he enjoy the food, but he also appreciates how the company is run. He said: “I’m a huge fan of Chipotle in every way [food] and business model. They’re just solid company and we eat a lot of Chipotle at my house.”

pollo tropical

Blais also called out this Florida chain, which does amazing Caribbean-style food, saying, “I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten Pollo Tropical, but it’s Caribbean-inspired grilled chicken and plantains and beans and rice and I could.” eat every day. And it’s fast food, but one of my favorite concepts.” Pollo Tropical has about 140 locations throughout Florida and several surrounding states that focus on citrus marinated chicken and other proteins with a tropical flair.

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