What Are the Worst and Best Fast Foods in America? See the List

07/07/2014 at 02:20 PM ET

Worst Fast Food in America
Jason Alden/Bloomberg/Getty; Courtesy Taco Bell

Somewhere, Ronald McDonald is weeping into his quarter pounder with cheese: According to a new reader survey from Consumer Reports, McDonald’s makes the worst burgers in America.

Subscribers weighed in on the food at 65 different chains across the country — evaluating a grand total of 96,208 meals eaten — and found a few other losers: namely Taco Bell for worst burritos, KFC for worst chicken and Au Bon Pain for worst sandwiches.

Who snagged the top spots? The Habit Burger Grill, a West Coast chain, was rated number one for burgers, followed by In-N-Out Burger, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Smashburger and Fuddruckers. In the burrito race, Chipotle Mexican Grill came in first.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs, which has mostly Illinois locations, was named favorite spot to grab a sandwich or sub (Subway—which is the world’s largest chain with 40,000 restaurants in 106 countries—came in second to last). As far as finger-lickin’ good chicken, readers found it at Chick-fil-A.

What swayed readers’ taste buds? For starters, food quality was a higher priority than finding grub in a convenient location. The survey speculated that younger adults are willing to travel further away for a higher-quality meal, leaving some traditional chains in the dust. Meanwhile, more modern chains are thriving: “Fast-casual dining in places like Chipotle … lets the consumer guide the staff to prepare their meal just the way they like it,” Darren Tristano, executive vice president of food-service research and consulting firm Technomic, told CR.

Something else nontraditional chains like Noodles & Company and Panera are doing: catering to health-conscious consumers by serving meat produced without using antibiotics in animal feed.

The survey acknowledged that smaller national and regional restaurants, including Jason’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s and Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza, are also making inroads in the fast-food world by serving higher-quality fare and focusing on a dine-in rather than drive-through experience. The higher menu prices that result? Consumers don’t seem to mind.

This could give a whole new meaning to “happy meal.”

—Nancy Mattia

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FILED UNDER: Burgers , Food , Food News , Restaurants

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Showing 36 comments

Leslie on

Jason’s Deli…Yum! Started right in my hometown. If you ever have a chance, definitely check them out. My favorite is the California Club, but any of their sandwiches are amazing! Also, be sure you get a side of fruit with whatever you order. Somehow, no matter the season, they have the best strawberries, apples, grapes, pineapple, and cantaloupe. And the yogurt dip that comes with it? Totally addictive! *LOL* And all that is before you get to the free soft serve ice cream for dessert!

Gigi on

Five Guys?? Really?? I’ve eaten there once and when I when I took my first bite, so much grease poured out of the burger that I couldn’t eat it. The fries were greasy and limp and it was way too expensive for fast food…especially bad fast food.

Tina on

@Leslie, Jason’s Deli ought to sign you up as their spokesperson. You made everything sound so good. I don’t recall seeing a Jason’s Deli in New York though but I could be wrong.

Guest on

Five Guys is easily the best hamburger place I’ve ever eaten at, and I’ve eaten at many. I’ve never had a greasy burger there and the meat tastes like high quality. Every other hamburger place I eat at now gets compared to 5 Guys and falls short. I also agree with Chick-fil-a having the best chicken. They also have the best fries and shakes. Worst fries would definitely be In-n-Out. Truly awful. I’m surprised Papa Murphy’s made the list. I haven’t eaten there but everyone I know who has tried their take-and-bake pizzas thought they were disgusting.

Guest on

A few other places that should be on the list: Earl of Sandwich makes wonderful sandwiches (especially their chipotle chicken), Chopped is fast food salad made just the way you want it – wonderful and healthy, U-Swirl is great for its frozen yogurt and toppings, and Jamba Juice is the perfect icy treat on the go.

Anonymous on

Five Guys is horrible. Shake Shack is the best. But I still like McDonald’s. I remember them from when I was a kid and on ocassion get one during it’s busy time so they are hot. Also best chicken Popeyes. They don’t have any close enough to where I live, but they are great.

Mayathebee410 on

Portillo’s !! Best bacon cheeseburger, best fries and best chocolate cake milkshake !

Mandy on

If KFC is so bad, then why is it the largest chain around? It has more than McDonald’s which I also like on occasion. We don’t even have most of these restuarants they list in my area.

Anonymous on

I like KFC, Taco Bell and McDonalds. I live a short drive from Five Guys and I’ve never felt compelled to eat there so I can’t say for myself whether or not I like their food. I like Subway as well but lately I go to Roly Poly’s for hot rolled sandwiches.

Leigh on

Back Yard Burger has the best burger. They also have great seasoned fries.

auntblue on

Consumer Reports should stick to rating cars, appliances, etc.

Guest on

Five Guys is very expensive…. I agree their food is greasy..

yahoo on

Chick-fil-A has the worst fries ever, those waffles are always soggy, but I agree, the chicken is great. Five Guys is way too expensive because it’s ala carte (you pay an extra .50 cents for cheese). Have they ever heard of the word combo? Backyard Burgers is also good, but only available in the south.

shannon m on

Habit is fantastic! They have really good salads, too.
I LOVE Jason’s Deli! Everything is fantastic! Their salad bar is incredible, their sandwiches are divine, and their baked potatoes are fantastic!
As for fried chicken, Bojangles and Zaxby’s in the south beat the pants off KFC.

Kal on

Subway is good recently, they offer variety of meals like salads, special sandwiches etc. and they are not expensive.

Shelly on

My question is how can chains that are only on the west coast or mostly in one state, be the best in America? This is a pretty good sized country, so I just find it hard to believe that places that most of the country don’t have access to could be voted the Best.

RLS on

I actually prefer local places over a nationwide chain. It may be a little bit more expensive, but I like the hospitality and the atmosphere. I especially like the place if they use organic and local foods from our local farmers market.

Courtney on

PDQ!!!!

Katie on

I definitely agree with some of the ratings on this survey. McDonald’s burgers are pretty bad, but their fries are second-to-none. Crispy and just right level of salty, without being soggy or burnt. I’ve tried the fries at many other fast food restaurants, and they’re always too soggy and bland (esp. Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries – yuck!). KFC’s fried chicken used to be good 20 years ago, but now, it’s usually too greasy and stale for my taste. Popeye’s is my go-to joint for tasty, fast fried chicken. It’s always perfectly seasoned and crispy. However, I don’t get all the fuss about In-and-Out burgers. I’ve had them once or twice (after waiting forever in long lines), and I was completely underwhelmed. They just serve ordinary burger patties with Thousand Island dressing on them. Nothing to write home about. In fact, a friend of mine visiting from the east coast tried one of their burgers and it made her nauseous. But I totally agree with the last-place sandwich rating for Au Bon Pain. It’s overpriced and completely “meh” as far as their sandwiches’ taste and quality of ingredients.

Amy on

“Best fast food” is an oxymoron.

Emily R. on

Popeye’s has the best chicken hands down. You can’t beat their red beans and rice either.

Holly on

Five Guys is disgusting, I’m disappointed by their selection.

Chipotle is top notch, as is In n out Burger (and this is coming from an east-coaster!)

ree on

I just had jasons deli for the first time and it was way disappointing. The salad was pretty gross they left out the cantaloupe in my fruit cups and the dip for the fruit was runny and nasty. The only thing good was the soup (broccoli + cheese) but I can always go to Panera for the BEST non-homemade broccoli cheddar soup. I’ve lived north and south so I’ve had a lot of different chains and I guess the one place I’ll consistently go is sonic. (Which of course is better in the south and right now I’m in the north) Good burgers but a ton of variety. And the BEST onion rings!!!! (So unhealthy but so freakin good)

sue on

SmashBurger is really, really good. Several locations in the San Diego area. La Jolla, Del Mar. We always go there when we go to SD (an hour away from home).

Anonymous on

In and Out Burger the Best!!!! I live on the east coast and wish they were here!!!!!!

Judy on

In and Out burger is the best!! We don’t have them here in the east wish we did!!!!!!

Jennifer on

I prefer Qdoba to Chipotle. Five Guys is so good though, but I agree a bit on the expensive side.

Bianca on

I’ll be a In- N- Out girl for ever being originally for L.A. I have to admit that moving to Houston has given my pallet a new found appreciation for smaller joints that haven’t gone commercial. Local whole in the walls places is the way to go. Houston for sure has plenty of those.

Bianca on

BTW- Shout out to “Torchi’s” down by Riveroaks !!!!

jlo27916 on

Yuck! The Habit is just NOT good and the burgers are small. WTF

Carrie M on

Subway is so incredibly disgusting that it’s embarrassing. How that chain has 40,000 locations worldwide absolutely astounds me.

Toni on

Apparently it only counts if you live west of the Mississippi. None of these “best” fast food empires are anywhere around where I live.

Jane on

Well all you guys that like Subway need to ask them how long their product sits in the back coolers. I know a local one that just changes the containers and continues with the limp lettuce and squishy tomatoes.. I have heard that Churches Chicken is good but haven’t had it… When I was younger and went to McDonalds I used to get sick all the time after eating… Chipotle rocks.. the burrito bowels are awesome! KFC charges an arm and a leg for everything even those little nuggets that are half burned and when you put them all together you pay like $6 for the equivalent of 1 piece of chicken!

Jess on

I love five guys! The fries are soooo good with vinegar. Yum!

caroline on

what about potbellies for a quick sandwich? my favorite if i need to eat from a chain!

Phantom on

I know McDonald’s has unhealthy food but come on you have to admit it’s not half bad😎😎👱🍔🍔

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