The United States of America is certainly known for its hefty array of fast food, divvied up between hundreds of different chain and individual restaurants. We didn't invent it, but by god, did we adopt it as our own... Who cares if it tends to be unhealthy? We're busy and need some meat wrapped in plastic on the go, dang it!
In all seriousness, though, fast food is beloved around the globe, not just in the good ol' US of A. Fast food is an important staple in big cities where go-getters running to work need something hot, tasty, and filing. Fast food gets the job done.
Fast food can also differ wildly in other countries compared to the United States. You didn't think classic fast food was just burgers and burritos around the globe, did you? In fact, you can find everything from spaghetti at McDonald's to squid ink sandwiches at Burger King. Just don't expect to find any such delicacies within the States. Still, we've got quite a few super unique fast-food items you can only find on U.S. soil. You definitely won't be able to find a tasty Hot Brown from Chick-fil-A or a Spam Eggs and Rice Platter from McDonald's outside of specific U.S. states! Isn't cuisine so fascinating and diverse, even when it's trash food?
Enough trash talk and more food for thought! Check out our list of 12 Fast Food Items Foodies Can Only Find In The US (And 11 Abroad) below!
23 US - McDonald's Arctic Orange Shake (Pennsylvania)
It's pretty much a universal truth that Creamsicles are delicious. If you want the orange and cream delight of one in shake form with a bit of whipped cream, you're in luck! McDonald's Arctic Orange shake is basically the same thing and just as tasty.
You'll likely only find this shake on very rare occasions when McDonald's releases them nationally for a limited time or if you travel on down to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to select locations. Some online foodies have reported finding them at other national locations, so it seems like you'll just have to get lucky to find one.
22 Abroad - Dunkin' Donuts' Pork and Spicy Beef Floss (China)
I know what you're thinking, especially if you aren't from China. "Beef floss? Like... for your teeth?" While we wouldn't be surprised if such a thing exists (bacon dental floss exists, so anything is game at this point) beef dental floss isn't what adorns these donuts in China's Dunkin' Donuts. Beef floss is a dried meat with a light and stringy texture that's popular in China and Indonesia. It's savory and salty and actually quite a tasty topping for tofu or steamed rice. We're not sure about coating a donut in the beefy concoction, but who knows? Sweet and savory usually works.
21 US - Anything from In-N-Out (Southern US)
Who doesn't love the ultra-simple format of a good ol' In-N-Out? This restaurant only boasts a handful of items on its menu and only a handful more on its "Not So Secret" menu, but don't worry. Literally everything at this fast food joint is delicious. Good burgers and good fries—what else could you need?
Unfortunately, if you live outside of the Southwest and West Coast, you're out of luck of trying a juicy In-N-Out burger. To avoid needing to freeze their meat, restaurant locations are only within a 24-hour drive of their distribution centers in California and Texas.
20 Abroad - McDonald's McSpaghetti (Philippines)
Have you ever been in the mood for spaghetti but gosh darn it the only nearby food joint is the McDonald's down the street? Well, if you move to the Philippines, that'll become a non-issue. Sure, spaghetti literally costs $2 and takes fifteen minutes to make, but you're a go-getter with no time for frivolous cooking.
Yes, in the Pearl of the Orient, you can enjoy a popular combo known as a Chicken McDo and McSpaghetti. The Chicken McDo is a simple leg or wing of fried chicken, and the McSpaghetti is, obviously, a pile of spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese. There isn't anything particularly flavorful or exciting about this rare international serving other than its novelty.
19 US - Taco Bell's Twisted Freezes (Chicago, Illinois)
Is Taco Bell not our nation's go-to for late-night munchies? Why not skip the bar and just get 'shwasty' at the Bell instead? That way, you can access Crunch Wrap Supremes at your leisure!
In Chicago's Wicker Park, you can step right into a Taco Bell Cantina and enjoy a plethora of delights including spiked Cantina Punch, margaritas, and Baja Blasts made with the clear liquor of your choice.
One such cantina has just opened up in Arizona, and another is in the works on the Las Vegas Strip, so expect to see more of these drinks available at Taco Bell nationwide soon.
18 Abroad - McDonald's Ebi Filet-O (Japan)
Now, this is what we call a seafood burger! This tasty item is only available at McDonald's locations in the Land of the Rising Sun, so you'll have to make quite a trip to taste it. It's composed of a simple sesame seed bun, lettuce, and a mixed and battered shrimp patty. "Ebi" means shrimp. While the fish filet sandwich has remained one of those McDonald's items that have stood the test of time despite nobody really going out of their way to buy it, the Ebi Filet-O is genuinely delicious. Who knew that shrimp patties would make for such a good sandwich?
17 US - Popeye's Onion Rings (Random locations around the US)
Onion rings go so well with fried chicken and biscuits, it's definitely surprising that the Popeye's franchise doesn't serve these at all locations year-round. Still, you can enjoy some golden battered onion goodness at a few locations around the United States, but don't hold your breath at the thought of being able to drive down the street to get them. What really sucks is that these onion rings are actually pretty delicious for a fast-food chain, but the locations that do carry them are sporadic and random. Some locations in Kanas, as well as locations in Louisiana and other Southern states, carry them.
16 Abroad - Starbucks' Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino (West and Southwest Asia)
If you've never tried red bean paste, you're missing out. This sweet bean filling is in and on top of many different kinds of food around Southeast Asia and mainland China, from buns to cakes to, apparently, Frappuccinos.
In China and Asian Pacific countries, you can enjoy the smooth and sweet concoction known as the Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino. It is what it sounds like, folks: a green-tea-flavored Frappuccino topped with sweet and saucy red beans. It may be an acquired taste for some Starbucks aficionados, but we think this is one of Starbucks' most filling and yummy items.
15 US - Chick-fil-A’s Hot Brown (Georgia)
The state of Georgia is one of America's soul food capitals, so of course, even fast-food chains have their share of stick-to-your-ribs goodness at a low price.
At only two different Chick-fil-A locations in Georgia (McDonough and Hapeville, if you're interested) you can enjoy a very unique menu with various tasty additions. They even have fried okra!
A hot brown is a simple breakfast composed of white-meat chicken underneath a hefty pile of mashed potatoes and gravy, topped off with cheese and bacon. Slices of toast usually border the plate. Talk about filling! It ain't good for your heart, but it'll do your soul good.
14 Abroad - McDonald's (among many other fast food places) Poutine (Canada)
What other dish is so intrinsically tied to Canada's culture other than the savory delight known as poutine? Poutine is, at its most basic form, a Quebec invention composed of simple fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. There are many variations of poutine that can include ingredients like bacon, lobster, fennel, ragu, avocado, pickles, chicken, or sweet potato fries. Since poutine is such a popular fast food, it only makes sense that chain restaurants that are popular south of the Canadian border would poutine-ify their menus up north. Poutine is a borderline perfect fast food, so you're not risking much by trying Burger King's or McDonald's versions of the dish.
13 US - McDonald's Biscuits and Gravy (the Southern and the Midwestern US)
Is it really so surprising that the citizens of the South would manage to sneak biscuits and gravy into their fast food? The wildly popular Southern comfort dish is available at McDonald's as a luxurious breakfast item. It's a simple dish composed of flaky dense biscuits smothered in cream Southern sausage gravy. Realistically, you can enjoy the same dish with probably better quality at literally any diner in the South. Still, if you want to enjoy a rare McDonald's treat that can only be found in select Midwestern and Southern US locations, it's tasty enough to warrant getting.
12 Abroad - Pizza Hut's Birizza (Sri Lanka)
This is a deeply confusing dish if you just look at photos of it. What's it trying to be? Is Birizza a Sri Lankan delicacy that Pizza Hut is sullying with this fast-food version?
Not entirely. The Birizza is an invention made by Pizza Hut. It combines a common but flavorful mixed rice dish known as biryani with a pizza in a strange sort of way. Chicken or paneer (a tasty cheese) rice lines the bottom of the bowl and is topped with pizza dough and served with a side onion salad and gravy. It apparently isn't that good and is a somewhat complicated experience to eat, but hey... we have to give Pizza Hut points for creativity.
11 US - McDonald's McLobster (New England)
The McLobster is McDonald's take on a New England favorite known as the "lobster roll." At its core, a lobster roll is a simple seafood sandwich made of juicy lobster meat tossed in butter or mayonnaise inside of a grilled hot dog bun or two thick pieces of bread. This is a must-have if you happen to be around the East Coast, but McDonald's McDonald-fied version? Maybe not. It isn't all that great, especially compared to what you can get from a vendor in New England. But if you're a McDonald's junky and love trying new and secret meals from the chain, it's worth checking out when it's released in the region around summertime.
10 Abroad - Wendy's Foie Gras Burger (Japan)
Foie Gras is quite a controversial food that isn't even remotely from Japan. This dish is made by force-feeding corn through a feeding tube to ducks or geese in order to make a sort of Spam-like meat product from its destroyed liver—very dark and quite cruel, we know. But that didn't stop Wendy's from making a burger out of it in order to appeal to the difficult fast-food market in Tokyo.
This is a very premium item (on top of foie gras, it includes truffle as well) and costs over 1,700 yen ($16 in U.S. dollars) for the sandwich alone.
9 US - Anything from Jack in the Box
If you live in the States, you've probably heard of Jack in the Box, but you may not have ever stepped foot into one of the chain's establishments.
Despite boasting around 2,200 locations, you'll only find this restaurant around the West Coast and the Southwestern United States. Jack in the Box is known for its quirky advertising and delicious burgers. They're also known for having a pretty random menu complete with tacos, egg rolls, poppers, and fried chicken. If you have the chance to grab lunch from Jack in the Box if you manage to find one, we recommend it!
8 Abroad - Taco Bell's Tikka Masala Burrito (India)
People from India love their tikka masala, and we certainly do, too. The decadent mix of herbs and spices in this creamy sauce adds just the right amount of flavor to chicken and other dishes. It isn't that much of a surprise that Taco Bells in India would serve something akin to a Tikka Masala Burrito.
This treat is composed of grilled chicken smothered in a Tandoori mayonnaise-like sauce, Mexican rice, red onion, and cilantro all wrapped in a simple flour tortilla. It's so flavorful, you'll be surprised that it came from a fast-food chain. Taco Bell has finally stepped up their game.
7 US - Subway's Veggie Patty (Most of the US)
Officially known as the "Malibu Garden patty," this vegetarian and vegan delight is pretty difficult to track down. Completely random locations carry it, and it's believed that less than 500 of Subway's approximately 25,000 locations carry it in the United States. Still, if you ask, you might get lucky. Veg Heads know that eating out can be a pain, so being able to get something that's actually pretty tasty at Subway is great. This patty is made of brown rice, various oats, veggies including corn and onions, and tomato sauce. It tastes like a garden burger and a good one to boot.
6 Abroad - McDonald's Corn and Shrimp Burger (South Korea)
McDonald's has found a serious shrimp burger market in Southeast Asia, an area notoriously difficult to market US fast food to, and the Corn and Shrimp Burger is a good example of what you can find if you visit a McDonald's in South Korea.
You can enjoy the Supreme version of this burger with spicy onion sauce, lettuce, tomato, and a corn-wheat bun. The Shrimp Beef version has all the fixings plus an extra beef patty to complement the shrimpy goodness of the crispy shrimp patty. The Corn and Shrimp Burger is also available at select locations in Japan.
5 US - McDonald's Spam Eggs and Rice Platter (Hawaii)
If you've ever been to the incredibly beautiful state of Hawaii, you'll know that the canned meat known as Spam is literally everywhere around the islands. It's the state's staple, making its way into everything from sandwiches to musubi. If you head on over to McDonald's, you can enjoy Spam in a Hawaii-exclusive breakfast platter. Say goodbye to that basic pancake platter! The Hawaii version offers up scrambled eggs, a couple slices of Spam, a couple slices of Portuguese sausage, and rice. Drizzle some soy sauce on the rice, and you've got yourself a salty delicious breakfast on the cheap.
4 Abroad - Burger King's Kuro Pearl Burger (Japan)
So the first question we had when we saw these was "What is in that bun, that sauce, and those cheese slices to make them so jet black?" The answer was surprisingly not so chemical but still a little weird. Bamboo charcoal is used to dye the cheese and bun, while squid ink is mixed with the sauce to turn it black. These little goth sliders don't taste that much different from the original sandwich, as charcoal is relatively flavorless and squid ink is delicate and briny. This is certainly just a visual commodity, but you have to admit, it's intriguing.
3 US - Whataburger's Green Chile Burger (Southwestern US)
Whataburger is another elusive restaurant chain that only boasts around 700 locations around the Southwest. Known for their tasty burger creations, this fast-food joint needs to make your list if you ever visit the desert.
One particularly tasty treat is Whataburger's Green Chile Burger. This juicy delight is composed of a simple burger, Monterey jack and cheese, and delicious green chiles. You'll only be able to enjoy these little green peppers on your burger at locations in New Mexico, where they are a statewide staple. Some locations in Arizona and western Texas also have this one on their menu.
2 Abroad - Starbucks' Pink Medley Tea Latte (Japan)
Okay, this is just adorable. Starbucks' Pink Medley Tea Latte and Frappuccinos are only available in Japan and will only be around for a limited time. This instant hit is composed of a Teavana blend called "Joyful Melody" and isn't yet available in the United States. It has a ton of flavors to it, such as orange, peach, strawberry, jasmine, and apple. Since the latte is pink, it obviously became an Instagram hit overnight. Where once the Starbucks strawberry "Pink Drink" was an inescapable Instagram staple image, the Pink Medley Tea Latte has now usurped it—at least in Japan.
1 US - McDonald's Haupia Pie (Hawaii)
You've heard of McDonald's apple pies, rainbow Holiday pies, and delectable Strawberry and Cream pies. Now get ready for the humble but delicious Haupia pie!
If you're not a Hawaiian resident, you're probably scratching your head. What the heck is a "haupia?" Let's enlighten you on one of the tastiest fillings you could ever want inside of a flaky-crusted pie. Haupia is a filling made of sugar, coconut milk, and pia or corn starch. It has a custard consistency and is positively divine. If you love coconut-flavored things, snatch this one up if you ever get to visit the islands.