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Most iconic item: French fries
The first thing you think of when you think of McDonald’s is the Golden Arches. The second? The fries. There’s a reason 9 million pounds of those golden fried potatoes sell daily.
Sure, the Big Mac is popular, and, yes, who could forget the delight of a Happy Meal. But neither of those are complete without fries.
It should come as no surprise then, that the Los Angeles Times ranked McDonald’s fries second-best nationwide in its fast-food french fry power rankings earlier this year.
An order of fries typically costs $1.39 to $1.89 depending on your state, and size, and can run up to 560 calories per order.
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Most iconic item: Pumpkin Spice Latte
Although reports on Starbucks’ numbers vary, general consensus shows that lattes, in one form or another, are the coffee giant’s most popular drink.
While frappuccinos follow close behind, especially on college campuses, the latte still reigns supreme. They're so popular that Starbucks uses more than 140 million gallons of milk each year to fulfill drink orders.
Their most famous latte by far is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The company has sold over 400 million PSLs in the last 16 years, and the drink holds status as a cultural phenomenon.
The sweet seasonal beverage has 380 calories and costs between $4.95 and $5.45, depending on the size.
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Most iconic item: Cold Cut Combo
It may not be the healthiest sandwich choice, but the Cold Cut Combo is the classic Subway sandwich and provides great value for your money.
It’s pretty straightforward with ham, salami and bologna, but it works masterfully with nearly all the sauces and costs just $5.50. While it adds up to just 430 calories for a 6-inch sub with no cheese (and therefore no fun), it also has 1,060 miligrams of sodium.
If you’re a salami-loving, protein-aholic then this sandwich should fit the bill, but it’s probably a good idea to level it out with some veggies.
Subway uses 16 acres of lettuce in its restaurants daily after all.
4. Taco Bell
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Most iconic item: Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Believe it or not, the nation's favorite Taco Bell order in 2016 was the crunchy taco. But the most iconic has always been that indulgent Cheesy Gordita Crunch.
Simple classics will always be a favorite, but the Taco Bell test kitchen pulled out all the stops for creativity and genius in recent years.
From the culinary perfection of Doritos Loco Tacos, to the glorious mouthfeel of the Crunchwrap, the test kitchen churns out masterpieces.
For just $3.49, you get a glorious vessel of a flatbread wrapped around a crunchy corn tortilla with melted cheese, filled with beef, lettuce, more cheese, and that mouth-watering spicy ranch sauce.
(But we’ll all pretend the Cheesy Gordita Crunch doesn’t have 500 calories per order.)
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Most iconic item: Waffle fries
It’s not the Spicy Deluxe — and it certainly isn’t the salads. Chick-fil-A’s most iconic item isn’t even its coveted signature sauce. It’s the exquisite waffle fries.
For the last two years, waffle fries dominated as the chain’s most beloved menu item, and it’s not hard to see why.
There’s something special about those potatoes that other fries just can’t stack up against: the seasoning, the crispy outside paired with the delicate inside for that perfect waffle texture.
Good fries are a fast-food essential, and Chick-fil-A has perfected them.
Each order has about 360 calories and will set you back $1.69 to $2.25, depending on the size.
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**Most iconic item(s): Frosty / Spicy Chicken Nuggets **
It was a sad day in 2017 when Spicy Nuggets were taken away from us. Wendy’s left us dreaming about those perfectly seasoned orbs of juicy chicken.
But thanks to a viral tweet campaign, the nuggets are back and better than ever.
They have just 470 calories and you can get a two-for-$5 meal deal, so there’s never been a better time to visit the Freckled Lady.
Still — we can’t forget the Frosty. It’s cheap, thick and sits at the summit of fast food sweet treats.
Whether you’re a fry dipper, or just a sipper, with less than $3 and 450 calories for a medium, Frostys are a gift from the fast food gods.
7. Burger King
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**Most iconic item: Whopper **
When Burger King introduced the flame-grilled Whopper back in 1957, the company realized that people love the taste of home-cooked food.
This 61-year-old burger predates even the Big Mac, which came out 11 years later. And it's seen it all, charcoal buns, "Angry" sauce and its highly successful plant-based iteration, the Impossible Whopper.
You might not get the flashiest burger, but this puts THE "Burger" in Burger King. The toppings are traditional, the sesame seed bun is fresh and doughy, and the beef is actually cooked over a flame.
The original Whopper has 660 calories and costs just $4.19, but getting that old-school fast-food experience is really priceless.
Most iconic item: Donuts and coffee
A couple of years ago, Dunkin’ Donuts rebranded as the sleek, new “Dunkin’” and invested $100 million in updating its stores. The rebrand brought with it a plethora of new menu options.
With espresso, cold-brew on tap, breakfast sandwiches and a revamped bakery, Dunkin’ is more than just a donut shop.
This American favorite serves up more than 3 million customers per day and surprise, surprise, the best sellers are still donuts and coffee.
The Chef’s Pairings offer their best coffee-donut pairing, but sticking to the classics is always a safe bet. A Boston Kreme and Café au Lait combo has 360 calories and costs under $3.
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**Most iconic item: Pepperoni pizza **
On top of the fact that one of the franchise owners, Werner Lomker, is the fastest pizza maker in the world, Domino’s recently became the most popular pizza chain in the country.
With low prices (each pizza is less than $19), fast delivery, and incredible side dishes, Domino’s is officially the best in the biz.
The most popular pizza topping is pepperoni, followed by sausage and bacon, and Domino's sells 3 million pies per day.
Each slice of pepperoni pizza has 290 calories and a large pizza has 8 slices. If you’re feeling really hungry, it’s probably a good idea to do the math first.
10. Panera Bread
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Most iconic item: Broccoli and cheddar soup
Panera Bread’s gigantic menu is overwhelming, with tons to choose from and even more customizations possible.
But one thing has remained consistently strong: the chain's broccoli and cheddar soup. It’s one of the only soups that is available every day of the week.
We know there are plenty of healthy options and more bread than you could eat in a week, but there’s just something so delightful and comforting about a cheesy, creamy soup.
Also, do yourself a favor and get it in a bread bowl — it’s less than $6. But it does have 900 calories, so maybe only treat yourself once in a while.
11. Pizza Hut
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Most iconic item: Personal Pan Pizza
It turns out that over 50% of Americans prefer pepperoni on their pizza over everything else. The tasty pies over at Pizza Hut are no exception to this rule. The cheesy stuffed crust and decadent slices in the Pan Pizzas are simply immaculate.
The chain gets love on an international-scale and even employed former member of The Beatles, Ringo Starr, in its advertisements.
In a single year Pizza Hut can use more than 300 million pounds of cheese, and seeing how pepperoni is the nation’s preferred topping, we shudder to imagine how much of it gets sold on top of that.
Each slice has around 250 calories and a large pizza costs $14.99.
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Most iconic item: Burrito bowls
Let’s be honest, Chipotle burritos are one of a kind. The ingredients are fresh and held to a high standard (not a browning guacamole in sight), not to mention the larger portion sizes.
But burrito bowls are a clear customer favorite over and above their tortilla wrapped cousins.
It turns out that you get 70% more food in a burrito bowl than a traditional tortilla, so if you get tortillas on the side, you’re basically getting two burritos for the price of one.
The burrito bowl without guac gets you up to 660 calories and costs around $6.50, but it might be the most satisfying 660 calories you’ll have all week.
13. Sonic Drive-In
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Most iconic item: Fountain drinks
Now it might seem strange for the most iconic drive-in chain in America to have beverages as their favorite item on offer, but anyone who has had the delight of slurping down an Ocean Water will get it.
There were more than 168,000 possible drink combinations in 2007 , but Sonic company estimates now boast over 1.5 million possible combinations.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, why not try the Pickle Juice Slush. For better or worse, there’s nothing else out there like it.
A large Ocean Water has 300 calories and costs $1.99.
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Most iconic item: Original Recipe chicken
We all remember the introduction of the Double Down. That deconstructed sandwich with two pieces of fried chicken as “buns.” It’s a novelty, but it also contains nearly a full day’s recommended intake of sodium.
It was a short-lived fad. The Original Recipe Chicken, on the other hand, is nearer and dearer to (and better for) our hearts.
In 1940, after nearly 10 years of experimenting, Harland Sanders perfected the secret original recipe chicken. That mixture of herbs and spices has carried KFC into the annals of fried chicken history.
Never underestimate tradition.
It has about 280 calories per piece of chicken and a combo will cost you $7.99.
Lenin and McCarthy / Wikimedia Commons
Most iconic item: Roast beef sandwich
Arby’s remains a fast food favorite for a few reasons, the biggest one being that you can get their best sandwich for less than $4.
And it’s actually pretty healthy for fast food...other than the absurdly large Meat Mountain Sandwich. Arby’s was even the first fast-food chain to ban smoking in all of its locations.
But if you’re going to Arby’s, you’re going for one reason: the roast beef. The chain sold approximately 5 billion roast beef sandwiches in 50 years.
Their classic roast beef sandwich only has 360 calories and if that isn’t enticing enough, their shakes should do the trick.
16. Little Caesars
Most iconic item: Crazy Bread
Although every pizza place sells more pepperoni pizzas than anything else, Little Caesars doesn’t just do one thing.
Their Crazy Bread is one of their best sellers. It’s doughy and delicate and to die for, especially when paired with their Crazy Sauce, both of which can be modified to be vegan.
Not to mention the more recent Pretzel Crust Pizza, a unique pie that gets slathered in garlic butter and sea salt on the crust.
Little Caesars offers you fresh, hot pizza to carry out for $10 and their Crazy Bread is usually given on the side for free, or 3.99 for a bread and sauce combo. It’s got 100 calories per breadstick though, so don’t go too crazy.
17. Dairy Queen
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Most iconic item: Blizzards
It's fair to say that Dairy Queen is one of the most popular dessert chains in the game, which puts the Blizzard right in the top tier of frozen treats.
Let’s be clear, the soft-serve is killer and the chicken nuggets at Dairy Queen Grill and Chill are super underrated.
But who doesn’t love getting a Blizzard? Who can honestly say that the upside down test doesn't check all their boxes?
Dairy Queen sold 175 million of those heavenly treats in the first year of their introduction. The Blizzard menu features every flavor you could ever want and each is anywhere from 300 - 1350 calories (and costs $3 - $5), depending on the size and type you get.
18. Jack in the Box
Most iconic item: Tacos
We all love a good Jumbo Jack burger, but you’re lying to yourself if you don’t think the tacos are the most iconic item from Jack in the Box. The chain sell 554 million tacos each year and have been making them for 60 years.
The taco sauce melds with a slice of American cheese — a combination that shouldn’t go together, yet somehow it works. You can get two tacos for 99 cents, and the bargain duos are strangely addictive.
Maybe it’s the Southern California roots or the deep fried tortilla shell that makes their tacos so irresistible, but whatever it is, it works.
Each taco set has 390 calories.
19. Panda Express
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Most iconic item: Orange chicken
Panda Express sells more than 80 million pounds of their top notch Orange Chicken each year.
Believe it or not, Orange Chicken — the most famous Chinese-American fast food dish – was actually created in a test kitchen by Panda Express executive chef Andy Kao.
The company is still family owned and operated, and that’s part of the appeal. The main reason for Panda Express’ success? The food is redonkulous.
The Kung Pao Chicken, the Broccoli Beef, the Shanghai Angus Steak. Each menu item comes at you hot, tasty, cheap, and just on the right end of greasy.
It’s just under $10 for an entree and a serving of Orange Chicken has 490 calories.
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Most iconic item: Spicy Chicken Sandwich
The re-launch of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Popeyes sold out at a record pace. The Sunday after the sandwich was brought back, Popeyes reported a 300% increase in customer visits.
The dazzling crunch, the thick cut pickles, the buttery brioche bun it gets served on, Popeyes perfected the chicken sandwich in less than a year.
It does have 690 calories but only costs $3.99, so go and get it while it’s hot, and still around.
21. Papa John’s
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Most iconic item: The Meats pizza
Everyone loves that Papa John’s serves up the pepperoni pizza with a pepperoncini, but an underrated pie is the Meats Pizza.
Some might think five different kinds of meat on a pizza feels like overkill, but no, it’s visionary. A large slice may have 380 calories, but a true carnivore never backs down from a few extra calories.
Each slice features two kinds of bacon on it. TWO. That’s all you should need to know to run to your nearest store and buy it. A large pizza rings in at $18.
The restaurant generated $1.5 billion in sales last year, and appears to be moving past its earlier struggles.
Most iconic item: Whataburger
Even though it stayed a local favorite and was declared a Texas Treasure in 2001, Whataburger has managed to become one of the most popular burger joints in the entire country.
You might be hard pressed to find a Whataburger anywhere North of Oklahoma, but the next time you’re down South, treat yourself to one of their gigantic patties and finally see what the hype is about.
One of the big perks of Whataburger? The customization options. You can deck out your burger ‘just like you like it’.
A standard Whataburger has 640 calories (we told you it was big) and is just $3.09.
23. Jimmy John’s
Most iconic item: Vito sandwich
When you go to a Jimmy John’s you know what you’re getting: fresh bread, delicious, nitrate-free meat, and speedy service.
The Vito is a classic that calls back to the independent Italian delis that populated the country in the 20th century. Oregano, basil, and oil and vinegar on a sandwich is as old school Italian as it gets.
The chain is so committed to freshness that they don’t use any bread that’s been sitting for more than four hours. If the smell of freshly baked baguette doesn’t get your mouth watering, then nothing will.
An 8-inch Vito on French bread has a 630 calories and costs just $5.50.
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Most iconic item: Original Thickburger
Those unfamiliar with the restaurant chain, might look at a Hardee’s and think ‘is this just Carl’s Jr. under a different name?’ Wrong. The hexagonal patties and restaurant shape contribute to setting it apart.
The charbroiled patty is one of the largest in the industry, the bun it gets served on is a homerun, and it seems like Hardee’s has finally found the perfect burger toppings ratio.
The only problem with the Thickburger? You do not want to look at the total amount of fat, or any nutritional values for that matter.
A ⅓ lb. Thickburger has 780 calories, 48 grams of fat, but only costs $4.59.
Most iconic item: Chicken Finger Plate
Zaxby’s has been around for less than 30 years and in that time has become a nationally beloved spot for chicken, mind-melting sauces, and those enormous Zalads.
But the most iconic order from Zaxby’s is the Chicken Finger Plate. Served with crinkle fries and buttery Texas toast, it’s tough not to love this order and all that it stands for.
And we aren’t afraid to say it: Sometimes. We. Need. Six. Chicken. Fingers.
Many hope that the Zax Sauce eventually gets sold in jugs or vats so that they'd never have to be without it. An order has 1240 - 1570 calories and is $6.49 - $8.49, depending on the size.