The Most Popular Fast Food In California Isn't What You'd Expect

Anyone who thinks they can narrow the food culture of an entire region into a single cuisine is running a fool's errand, and California is no exception. Those who have never visited the Golden State might be inclined to count controversial juice cleanses and sprout-filled veggie sandwiches as staples of its collective diet, but the stereotypical dining scene carried on in wealthy, health-conscious pockets of Los Angeles only makes up a tiny fraction of the state's eclectic landscape of eats.

As the most populated state in the country, California's food offerings are just as diverse as its denizens. Some may prefer to find their dinner in LA's historic Koreatown, which Eater calls "the mecca of Korean cuisine in America," or in the Iranian eateries nestled in the city's colloquially named Tehrangeles neighborhood. San Franciscans might gravitate toward the piers for bib-worthy seafood feasts, or flock to iconic Mission District taquerías for juicy tacos al pastor. Further south, beach dwellers might get their taco fix along the boardwalks of San Diego. 

Others might forgo regional delicacies altogether for the familiar comfort of fast food, from the Crunchwrap Supremes of Taco Bell to the secret-sauce-slathered burgers of In-N-Out. According to recent data, however, there's one franchise that rises above the rest in California.

Surprisingly, In-N-Out is not number one

Plenty of states have a regional burger chain that its residents laud as the crème de la crème of fast food establishments. For Oregonians, it's Burgerville. For Seattleites, it's Dick's Drive-In. And for Californians, it's In-N-Out Burger, beloved for its "animal style" fries, quality-obsessed ingredients, and beef burgers topped with crispy lettuce, tomato, and onion. But according to recent data compiled by SafeGraph, In-N-Out is not the most popular fast food spot in California. In fact, the chain has pulled in the least amount of foot traffic out of its competitors in the last few years. Instead, residents of the Golden States tend to head for the golden arches when a fast food craving hits. 

The data shows that McDonald's brought in an average of 3,430 visits (classified as "a stay at a location lasting more than four minutes") in June 2022 alone. Subway, Taco Bell, and Jack in the Box fell second, third, and fourth down the line, respectively, while In-N-Out welcomed a scant average of 682 visits that same June. Evidently, even fries with melty cheese on top can't hold a candle to a Big Mac.