Whether you are a true foodie or just love to eat there are plenty of fast food chains to satisfy any palate. The West Coast is bursting with places to get good food quickly and make the rest of America jealous.
10. Home Is Where The Stomach Is
Homegrown is a Washington State and San Fransisco area restaurant chain that combines what is essentially a fast food menu of sandwiches, soups and salads with a commitment to a more sustainable farm to table operation. Small, local producers provide most of the fresh ingredients that go into favorites like the grass fed steak and blue cheese sandwich and the Za’Atar smashed chickpea sandwich. Besides sandwiches, Homegrown offers a number of clean salads and bowls to satisfy hardy appetites and vegans alike. This place also offers a handful of breakfast items for early birds such as the Sunrise Bowl: a robust meal that includes two pasture-raised fried eggs, avocado, fried tomatoes, ancient grains and farm greens. A restaurant that pushes sustainability appeals to many people in the millennial generation, especially in Washington and the Bay Area. But whether you’re thinking about saving the planet or just about staving off hunger, good food is a winner every time. Homegrown proudly provides a list of its local produce suppliers which includes a number of small farms, bakeries and beverage companies. The attention on local producers will be more important to some customers than others, but all will appreciate good food.
9. Viva El Taco!
El Taco Tote has locations in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as four locations in Mexico. A woman named Dora instilled in her seven children a love of family and good food. Her children were inspired to start their own business back in the 1960’s and they tried to create a restaurant using what their mother had taught them. Their fast food chain has become well known for its made fresh daily guacamole and salsas. The spiciest salsa, “salsa roja” is a favorite with customers and is spread liberally over chips and tacos alike. Of course El Taco Tote is known for its tacos and you can choose from a number of meats including beef fajita, chicken, adobado pork, shrimp and Bistek. Once you have chose the meat you have a range vegetables to choose from such as lettuce, radishes, pickled onions and limes. Some people just want the tacos, but for those who want a little something to go with them El Taco Tote offers fresh made sides that go perfect with any of the tacos. These sides include charro beans, classic refried beans. If these sides are too basic you can also try the papa asada – a baked potato with sweet beef topped with leek custard. You can always get a classic quesadilla or something like nachos called parchos. El Taco Tote is Mexican fast food, but feels more like a homemade meal than what you’ll get a Taco Bell.
8. It’s Curiously Delicious
This West Coast chain may not be magically delicious, but the folks at Salt and Straw insist their ice cream is curiously delicious and we’ll take that. Salt and Straw is the brainchild of Kim Malek, an ice cream lover who wanted to create a friendly place for people to go and enjoy their favorite treats. With the help of a cousin they grew the business until they had stores, called “scoop shops” from Seattle to San Diego. Individual shops feature unique ice cream flavors that reflect the regional tastes and traditions of those particular locations. For example, the Los Angeles scoop shop offers monthly flavors like an 85% Peruvian Chocolate sorbet, and classic flavors like Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and a Honey Lavender flavor that is actually deep lavender in color and made with local honey. A lot of people like chocolate ice cream, but if you really like chocolate ice cream Salt and Straw offers its Chocolatier Series that includes flavors like Dick Taylor’s Fig & Madagascar Chocolate, Neo Cocoa’s Black Sesame Brittle & Brown Sugar and Dandelion Chocolate’s Salted Honey Almond. You can preorder batches of ice cream from the Chocolatier series and they will ship them to you. If you love ice cream you’ll probably want to try Salt and Straw the next time you’re on the West Coast.
7. Star Of The Show
Donuts are traditionally thought of as a cheap, tasty breakfast food you can eat on go – no muss, no fuss. Times change and back in 2012 Blue Star Donuts became one of the reasons. This West Coast fast food chain offers a foodie’s take on these deep fried pastries. The words “gourmet” and “donut” aren’t usually used together, but Blue Star isn’t your average donut shop. As the good people at Blue star ask: does your average donut shop use brioche, “…the buttery queen of breads, as our raised-yeast base?” This chain also likes to use a wide range of ingredients such as fresh fruit, herbs, spices and liqueurs. Donut lovers are familiar with flavors like Glazed Chocolate, Jelly Filled and Powdered Sugar. But Blue Star bakers have decided to take things to the next level with unique flavors like Passion Fruit Cocoa Nib, Blueberry Basil Cake and a Hard Apple Cider Fritter that looks scrumptious. Most of this chain’s stores are in the Portland area, but there are several locations in California including one in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. The only downside is price. You’re probably used to spending quite a bit less than $3.75 and up for a single donut. However, this is how much they cost at Blue Star Donuts. This chain consistently gets very good reviews on social media so you’ll have to decide if Blue Star donuts are worth the price.
6. Sweet And Salty Goodness
Roscoe’s House of Chicken N Waffles is a soul food fast food chain. It was found by Herb Hudson, who was born in Harlem. He brought his vision to California and opened the first location in Hollywood in 1975. Roscoe’s now has a total of seven locations spread around Southern California. The Hollywood restaurant quickly became popular with celebrities including Natalie Cole and Redd Foxx. As its notoriety increased the restaurant was featured in several Hollywood movies including mentions in Jackie Brown and Swingers. As the name suggests this fast food chain has built its reputation on its now famous chicken and waffles. This sweet and salty combination might seem odd to some people, but most people in Southern California take this tasty combination for granted. Giant fluffy waffles and succulent fried chicken are served fresh with plenty of butter and maple syrup that will satisfy even the biggest appetites. But if you don’t like chicken and waffles there are plenty of other items on the menu you can try such as omelets, biscuits for breakfast. But if you’re in the mood for lunch Roscoe’s offers a choice of salads, sandwiches and a chicken burger. Some of the side dishes are very popular with customers such as the mac and cheese and corn bread. For many in Los Angeles, Roscoe’s is a delicious institution and for tourists who love breakfast the Hollywood location is a must stop.
5. Surf ‘N’ Tacos
Wahoo’s Fish Tacos was started by three brothers in Costa Mesa, California. They loved surfing and food and they wanted to start a place that reflected these passions. Most of this chain’s locations are found in Southern and Northern California, but they have spread to Nevada, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey and even Japan. This West Coast fast food chain is a blend of Brazilian, Asian and Mexican food. The result is a light, tasty and fresh menu that is flavorful and relatively healthy without making a fuss about it. Wahoo’s offers a menu that includes standards like tacos, burritos, sandwiches and salads, but with a slightly exotic twist. For example, Wahoo’s has a Hawaiian Burrito that features Teriyaki steak, Maui onion rings, rice, cheese and Maria’s green sauce. The signature items are still the fish tacos prepared either grilled or Cajun, but they also offer, chicken, braised pork, shrimp, tofu and grilled steak. The entrees come with your choice of white or brown rice and black or Cajun white beans. The citrus slaw is also a popular side if you’re not into rice and beans. After you’ve had a bite to eat you can peruse the collection of merchandise that includes hats, t-shirts and hoodies. The brothers seemed to have succeeded in their ambition to create a welcoming place to get good food you can feel good about.
4. Planet Foodie
Laughing Planet is an Oregon based fast food chain that specializes in basic fare like burritos, bowls and salads. This chain takes its food sourcing practices seriously as they describe in the mission statement:”We take more care in sourcing our food from local farmers, ranchers and purveyors than most high-end restaurants and grocery stores…Even the sea salt we use in all our dishes is harvested from the cold, pristine waters of Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast.” This is all fine, but many customers are likely more concerned with the quality of the food than the exact chain of custody of each head of lettuce. The comfort bowl is representative of the Laughing Planet’s menu and includes brown rice, smart black beans, sliced avocado, organic sour cream, black olives with NY sauce served on the side (Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated yeast sold as a food product.) They also offer a tase looking barbecue chicken quesadilla with chipotle barbecue sauce. There are several varieties of burrito including one made with tempeh, an Indonesian style soy that is fermented in a particular way and then fried to make a firm cake-like product. Soy isn’t for everyone, but this burrito sounds like a viable choice for vegans. The Sumac salad sounds interesting with its kale, curry-roasted chickpeas, spinach, quinoa, apples and roasted cauliflower. Laughing Planet seems to have succeeded at creating a fast food chain that offers relatively healthy fare to customers who want their food sourced from local producers.
3. Next Stop Burgerville
The West Coast hamburger chain known as Burgerville has locations spread across Oregon and Washington. A lot of restaurants in the Pacific Northwest are big into sustainable agriculture and farm to table processes. The folks at Burgerville have taken these concepts to the next level with a commitment to what they call “Regeneration through people place and product.” This is described as, “a complex set of principles aimed at improving soil health and reviving regional economies.” So they want to ave the planet, this much is clear, but how do the burgers tastes. Fortunately, Burgerville cares about this too because the burgers look absolutely delicious. For example, one of their new burgers is called the No. 6. This burger features grass fed beef from Carman Ranch and 2-year aged cheddar cheese from Face Rock Creamery. Why is this burger called the No. 6? The number 6 is the atomic number for carbon the basic building block for all life on Earth. So you could say the name is a tribute to Burgerville’s efforts to make better world? Back to the burgers: the Original burger features a small pattie Burgerville spread and ketchup. There is also a Spicy Anasazi Bean Burger perfect for vegetarians. Other menu items include a turkey club and chicken tenders. Burgerville offers the standard milk shake flavors of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, but you can also get a Northwest Cherry Chocolate shake that sounds really good. An Original burger and a cherry chocolate shake sounds like a pretty good meal next time you’re in the Pacific Northwest.
2. The Crazy Chicken
El Pollo Loco is a West Coast fast food chain that specializes in Mexican themed chicken meals. In 1975 a man named Pancho opened a restaurant in Sinaloa, Mexico to sell his lime marinated, fire-grilled chicken. The first Los Angeles store was opened in 1980 on Alvarado Street. The chain is proud of its commitment to fire grill its chicken instead of relying on more convenient cooking methods. Some of the most popular menu items at El Pollo Loco are meals that include whole cut wings and multiple piece chicken meals that feature a combination of breasts, wings, legs and thighs. The chicken gets high marks from customers for both its freshness and flavor, but the sides are also than you might expect from a fast food chain. You can choose from a pretty wide assortment of sides such as their new Tapatio Fries, rice, pinto beans, corn, mac and cheese and the Loco side salad. Like any good Mexican restaurant, this chain offers a variety of salsas including a tasty avocado salsa. El Pollo Loco offers the usual soft drinks found at fast food chains, but you can also find some traditional Mexican drinks like Mexican Hot Chocolate and Horchata, a plant-based milk drink (sometimes made with almonds.) If you’re not particularly hungry you can always try a bowl of their fresh made tortilla soup.
1. California Eating
If you’ve spent any time in California or the West Coast in general you’ve probably been asked if you’ve been to an In-N-Out Burger. Californians can be a little sensitive about this fast food chain so if you don’t like it you might want to keep it to yourself. There’s not much not to like, however if you like fresh cooked burgers and fries. Unlike many fast food chains that have overloaded their menus with too many items, In-N-Out has stayed true to its classic menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, soft drinks and creamy milkshakes made with real ice cream. Even though this West Coast fast food chain keeps the menu simple it still allows for plenty of variation with its not-so-secret menu. This fan favorite is a list items customers can order even though they aren’t officially part of the menu (but they really are!) This “secret” menu includes items like grilled cheese, the 4×4, which has four beef patties and four slices of cheese, and animal style, which is just the addition of grilled onions. Here’s another secret: even though its not listed on the not-so-secret menu you can order a Neapolitan milk shake instead of just the standard flavors. This tasty treat is made up the three standard flavors: chocolate, strawberry and vanilla blended together into one frothy mix. In-N-Out Burger is a quality fast food chain worth going out of your way for whenever you need a burger and fries fix.