Pretty much every region of the United States has produced at least one iconic dish, from the deep dish pizza that's popular in Chicago to New England's signature lobster rolls. But the South is associated with a pretty mind-boggling list of delicious fare. Just see what comes to mind if you close your eyes and try picturing the region's best cuisine. If you're anything like me, at least, the thought probably brings visions of fried chicken, biscuits, grits, barbecue, mac and cheese, and all other manners of comforting fare.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have learned the ins and outs of cooking these Southern delicacies while growing up, however. And while there are surely some great local spots across the country where you can score a Southern meal, not everyone has the fortune of living near one of these eateries. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurant chains in the United States that offer delectable versions of Southern classics to help you when the cravings hit.
Some of these are regional brands that are only available in some parts of the country. But others have locations all across the country, giving people nationwide access to great Southern grub.
Read on for the 10 restaurant chains that serve the absolute best southern food!
What is it about Waffle House that makes it such a unanimous favorite? Well, as one fan eloquently explained on Reddit a few years back: "People like Waffle House because the food is simple, and tastes good."
That consensus still rings true even in 2023. Waffle House—which is mostly concentrated in the South and Midwest—doesn't get too wacky or innovative with its menu. But it does focus on serving up southern and comfort-food classics, and doing them well. On the breakfast side, customers can choose from hearty egg platters, hash brown bowls, loaded biscuit sandwiches, and, of course, waffles that come in several tantalizing flavor varieties.
The lunch and dinner menu is also packed with dependable, tasty favorites, from Texas toast sandwiches to country ham and pork chops served with your choice of sides. So, definitely bring a big appetite with every Waffle House visit, and be prepared to crave it again and again.
"Waffle House will forever be the love of my life," one fan recently wrote on X.
Tudor's Biscuit World
If you couldn't tell from the name, Tudor's Biscuit World takes biscuit-making very seriously. And the West Virginia-based chain is serving up the Southern classic in all sorts of mouthwatering varieties.
Think buttermilk biscuits smothered in savory sausage gravy and breakfast sandwiches stuffed with sausage, steak, shaved ham, and even sweet fried apples. Customers rave that the portions are huge and those homemade biscuits are consistently fresh and delicious.
Even if biscuits aren't your thing, Tudor's menu boasts plenty of southern-style grub to fill your belly. The chain sells breakfast platters, lunch sandwiches, and—depending on the location—stick-to-your-ribs dinner platters with country fried steak, meatloaf, and even hot roast beef.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit
While you can find barbecue throughout the United States, many Southerners take their smoked meats very seriously. And Dickey's Barbecue Pit, a chain with more than 650 restaurants across the country, has quite the barbecue legacy under its belt after serving customers for more than 80 years.
The first thing you need to know about eating at Dickey's is that the barbecue is made from responsibly raised, quality meats. The spare ribs and pork butt, for example, are free of artificial colors, artificial flavors, and added hormones, while the beef brisket comes from sustainably raised cattle.
The menu itself also packs quite the punch. Customers can choose from smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, burnt ends, sausage, and chicken breast—or mix and match with Dickey's southern sides to build their own barbecue plates. While the options are plentiful, fans say you can't really go wrong no matter what you choose to chow down on.
As one Yelp reviewer put it, "Everything is on point."
If your childhood was anything like mine, stopping at Cracker Barrel to fuel up on some comforting Southern fare was a must during every family road trip. And because the chain has grown to about 660 locations across the United States, it's evident that Cracker Barrel is a go-to for plenty of other Americans as well.
Cracker Barrel places a heavy emphasis on serving up scratch-made food using high-quality ingredients. All of the beef, pork, poultry, dairy, and egg products, for example, come from domestic suppliers that meet or surpass Cracker Barrel's standards for animal care, quality, and food safety.
That attention to detail translates to some truly tasty grub. Standouts on the chain's lengthy list of country-style meals include slow-cooked Roast Beef, Country Fried Steak, Biscuits N' Gravy, and, of course, the famous slow-simmered Chicken N' Dumplins that customers can't help but crave.
"There are times when only Cracker Barrel's chicken and dumplings will suffice," one fan wrote on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Gus's Fried Chicken
Classic, bone-in fried chicken is one of the most quintessential Southern dishes, and customers say you'd be hard-pressed to find a chain that serves a better fried bird than Gus' World Famous Fried Chicken.
The chain, which currently operates 40 restaurants throughout the South and beyond, serves plenty of southern sides, appetizers, and desserts, like fried green tomatoes, fried okra, collard greens, and sweet potato pie. But the real star of the show, of course, is the fried chicken.
This crave-worthy dishy is made using a closely protected family recipe handed down to Vernon "Gus" Bonner from his parents. It's spicy, fresh, made-to-order, hand-battered, and customers swear that it's off-the-charts delicious.
"Best fried chicken I've ever had, the sides were excellent, too," one fan wrote on Yelp earlier this year.
There's something special about a chain that chooses to sell a limited number of food items but make them as good as possible, and Bojangles certainly fits the bill. The regional southern chain focuses first and foremost on fried chicken. Its signature poultry is seasoned, hand-breaded, and offered in several tantalizing formats, including bone-in pieces, tenders, and chicken sandwiches.
Scratch-made buttermilk biscuits are yet another core element of the Bojangles menu. Depending on your preference, Bojangles workers will slather those fluffy rounds with a country-style sausage gravy, or slice them in half and stuff them with all the breakfast foods, like country ham, country-fried steak, bacon, sausage, and eggs.
Just make sure to pair your meal with a cup of Bojangles' famous sweet tea for the most authentic Southern dining experience.
Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen
Scratch-made food crafted with quality ingredients is the core philosophy behind the menu at Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen. And luckily for fans of southern-style grub, the Texas-born chain offers plenty of fan-favorite regional specialties.
The standouts include hand-breaded Country Fried Steak, Country Fried Chicken, house-smoked baby back ribs, and a Homemade Chicken Pot Pie that some customers say is one of the best they've ever had in a restaurant.
"Chicken pot pie was freshly made and fantastic!" one Yelp reviewer raved.
Whichever option you choose, expect to leave Cheddar's full and comforted after indulging in your freshly cooked meal.
Steak is the focal point of the menu at Logan's Roadhouse. But if you're craving some satisfying southern food, there's also plenty to choose from at this Kentucky-born chain with around 130 locations in the United States.
Think country-style buttermilk chicken topped with white pepper gravy, slow-smoked pulled pork, ribs, and country fried steak made in house. The sides are nothing to balk at either: mac and cheese, cinnamon apples, and loaded sweet potatoes.
Between the menu and welcoming environment, fans have found plenty to love about Logan's Roadhouse.
"Service is always good and food is always good," one fan wrote on Yelp.
Like Dickey's, Famous Dave's is another popular chain that smokes meats for the barbecue-loving masses at its restaurants throughout the country.
Founder Dave Anderson inherited his passion for great barbecue from his father—a Southerner—and spent years learning about the cuisine before opening the first Famous Dave's in 1994. Fast forward to 2023, and the chain is still serving quality barbecue that has earned more than 700 awards, per the chain's site.
The menu includes ribs, rib tips, Texas brisket, sausage, chicken, and chopped pork, alongside plenty of sandwiches, sides and desserts. You can order meat by the pound, but the indecisive eaters might want to opt for one of the 'Que Combos that come with sides, a cornbread muffin, and up to three different meats.
If record guest counts and double-digit same-store sales growth are any indication, Texas Roadhouse's popularity is soaring in 2023. And when you peruse the chain's menu of hearty southern fare, it's not hard to see why. Pulled pork, country fried sirloin, country fried chicken, Texas Red Chili, fried catfish, and those famous hand-cut steaks are only some of the options available to customers.
The chain's no-shortcuts menu philosophy means that whatever ends up on your plate, you can indulge with the confidence that everything is fresh and made from scratch. Just try not to fill up on Texas Roadhouse's famous freshly baked rolls with cinnamon honey butter before you have the chance to dig into your entrée.
Hattie B's Hot Chicken
Dining there is a deliciously customizable experience since you get to take your pick between a half-bird, white meat, dark meat, wings, hot chicken sandwich, or tenders. Even spice-averse customers should be able to find something to enjoy since Hattie B's offers a range of heat levels. But what do customers think?
"Hattie B's has fantastic hot chicken and you really cannot go wrong with a visit here," a fan recently wrote on Yelp.
The rest of the menu is somewhat short but still features a strong assortment of desserts and scratch-made southern sides, like pimento mac and cheese, bacon cheddar grits, banana pudding, and peach cobbler.