The United States is without question the world's fast food capital, but that doesn't mean it has all of the top-notch fast food chains out there.
Around the world, there are countless restaurant chains that offer their own take on the quick-service meal, and have found success that could rival that of some of the biggest players. Whether they're famous for the icons they've become in their own countries or for how good their food is, these fast food chains are ones you should definitely stop by while on your world travels.
This bakeshop chain started in 1998 and has become famous for their sweet, doughy bread rolls with a coffee topping. The custard-filled ones are especially popular, and have helped propel Rotiboy to over 100 outlets across Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with locations in China on the way.
If Umami Burger had an Italian cousin, it would be this 5-year-old chain. Bologna-based WellDone puts an "all-Italian" interpretation on the American classic, which means that quality, seasonality, and locality take a huge precedence. There's always special burgers on the rotating menu, although the classics include gourmet patties made from beef, chicken, or fish, topped with premium ingredients like Parmigiano Reggiano. The sides are truly unique here, as you can snack on fried olives and capers, beef tartare, or crispy sage leaves. Keep an eye out for this creative chain in Northern Italy, whose 13 locations span to include Modena, Padua, Bologna, and Emilio Regia, amongst others.
Big Bite Submarines (Norway)
If you go to Norway, chances are there'll be one of these near you. Big Bite has grown to 53 locations in the 21 years it's been in business, specializing in sub sandwiches with a variety of fillings. They're a level more creative than Subway, with ingredients like chicken curry, pizza, salmon and egg salad, and chicken fajitas gracing the menu.
Nando's (South Africa)
Nando's claim to fame is their Peri-Peri chicken, made with a special sauce that uses African birds-eye chilies as the base. The spicy, addictive marinade has made the South African chain explode in popularity, with over 1,000 locations in 35 countries to date. If you're in the United States, there are locations around Washington, D.C. and Chicago where you can sample the fiery chicken for yourself.
What started as a lone stall in 1960 has become a global phenomenon for their tonkotsu ramen bowls and solo seating stalls. Ichiran started as Futaban Ramen in the Japanese city of Fukuoka, but began its chain business model in 1993 that has since spread to 65 locations, including one in Brooklyn, New York. What makes it special is that isolation experience, which heightens the sensory appeal of the perfectly thick noodles and flavorful broth to give it a level of enjoyment far beyond what you'd anticipate.
Yang's Braised Chicken Rice (China)
Yang's may only be seven years old, but their size and reputation would suggest otherwise. With 6,000 restaurants to its name, it's drawn comparisons to In-N-Out because of its hyper-limited menu. The only dish it serves is a variation of claypot chicken and rice with an 80-year-old recipe. What makes it so popular is the simple harmony of flavors that come together in every bowl of rice, chicken, ginger, mushrooms, chilies, and sauce. It's first USA location has already left a lasting impression, with several more slated to open in the coming months.
MK Restaurant (Thailand)
MK is a specialist in Thai suki, which is akin to Japanese shabu shabu and Chinese hot pot. Their spicy dipping sauce is something special, especially when paired with slices of roasted duck or fresh seafood. MK Restaurant is a figurehead for Thailand's suki scene, with over 200 locations in-country and 400 globally to speak of.
The acronym of this chain stands for "California Fried Chicken," and started out as an Indonesian franchise of Los Angeles-based Pioneer Take-Out. The two have since split, and CFC has grown into a powerhouse in the island nation, with over 400 locations to its name to date. On top of the fried chicken, which has been compared to KFC, Indonesian specialties like Nasi Rendang and Nasi Kari can be found on the menu.
Goody's Burger House (Greece)
You won't find gyros at this Greek spot. The country's most popular fast food chain serves up burgers, salads, and pastas, and is renowned for the almost gourmet appeal they have. There are 132 locations across 5 countries, the majority of which are situated in Greece. However, you can also find them in Kosovo, Macedonia, Australia, and Albania.
Giraffas is all about the combo plates, which include some type of protein, fries or rice (or both), and salad/veggies. Options feature Brazilian classics like the picanha steak, pork chops, calabresa acebolda (a sausage), and stroganoffs (chicken, shrimp, or filet mignon). The simple but mouthwatering combination has helped Giraffas expand to over 400 units in Brazil, Paraguay, Miami, and elsewhere.
Smoke's Poutinerie (Canada)
Smoke's is hell-bent on bringing their classic poutine to the world, which probably explains their innovative menu. The classic mixture of fries, cheese curds, and gravy gets loaded with all different kinds of toppings, including butter chicken, prime beef, nachos, pulled pork, and even pierogys. They started in Canada in 2008, and in the past decade have grown to 150 locations in Canada and the United States. With a goal to expand to 1,300 locations by 2020, Smoke's is going ham on expanding their poutine empire.
Stop by a service station in Sweden or Finland, and chances are one of these restaurants will be there. Sibylla began slinging sausages and kebabs back in 1932, later adding burgers to the menu as they swelled to a "Superbrand" of over 170 locations. Unique offerings include plates of sausages and mashed potatoes, halloumi and kebab salads, and Swedish meatballs, complete with a dollop of lingonberry jam.