Most Popular Breakfast Restaurants, Ranked
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Perhaps, this is why Americans love their breakfast restaurants almost more than they love their regular lunch and dinner ones.
There are numerous chains in the U.S. that dedicate their menus exclusively or partially to the first meal of the day. And while we all have our preferences, it’s undeniable that some of these chains are simply better than others.
Start off the day on the right foot at one of the most popular breakfast restaurant chains in the U.S., which we ranked from worst to best.
Year founded: 1964
First location: Folsom, Pennsylvania
Number of locations: 900
Bottom Line: Wawa
Whenever someone says East Coast people are too fancy and elitist, remind them of Wawa. Dotting the Atlantic Coast, from New Jersey to Florida, these convenient gas station stores are hugely popular.
And while we wouldn't trade the experience of a sit-down Sunday brunch for a Wawa breakfast, it's true that within the realm of gas station food, it's some of the best. Though, admittedly, that's not saying a lot.
Best Food Item to Get at Wawa: Buffalo Chicken Bites
If you're in the mood for a snack rather than a full meal, nothing beats the buffalo chicken bites. These deep-friend chicken balls are a perfect combination of sweet and tangy and will chase off hunger.
24. The Flying Biscuit Cafe
Year founded: 1993
First location: Candler Park, Georgia
Number of locations: 25
Bottom Line: The Flying Biscuit Cafe
The Flying Biscuit has always strived to have "a quintessential neighborhood spirit and focused on our Southern-inspired menu of comfort food made with fresh ingredients." Its specialties are grits and biscuits, claiming that each location makes as many as 5,000 biscuits per week
Growing throughout the Southeast, the chain has a small cult following. And the biscuits are actually worth stopping for. But if you're not too into biscuits, there are better places out there to get a nice breakfast.
Best Food Item to Get at the Flying Biscuit Cafe: Grits and Biscuit
Should we state the obvious? The grits and biscuit are what's made the Flying Biscuit Cafe. You can never go wrong with the house specialty.
23. Kolache Factory
Year founded: 1982
First location: Houston, Texas
Number of locations: 56
Bottom Line: Kolache Factory
The Kolache Factory is for people who know what they want — as long as what they want is a kolache. These traditional Czech treats have sweetened fruit in the middle of a doughy pastry. The chain has brought over the concept to nine states, spreading from Texas to Virginia.
Selling itself as a quick, delicious breakfast on the go, we definitely think it's hard to have a bad day when you start it with a kolache. Other items available include sausages, croissants and sweets.
The chain has good quality of food, but because its limited menu makes it niche is why it didn't rank higher.
Best Food Item to Get at Kolache Factory: Sausage and Cheese Kolache
We honestly don't think there's a bad kolache to have in this chain. Some flavors are also seasonal or depend on your location. But if you have the chance, go with the simple yet delicious sausage and cheese kolache.
22. The Original Pancake House
Year founded: 1953
First location: Portland, Oregon
Number of locations: 150
Bottom Line: The Original Pancake House
Did the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) completely rip off the Original Pancake House? Probably. But the food here is of such low quality that it makes IHOP look like a high-end breakfast restaurant.
To begin with, it looks like the restaurant hasn't changed its logo since it opened in 1953, which wouldn't be a bad thing if the logo weren't so bad. The real problem, though, is that it doesn't deliver on the promise of its name. This is not a house where you go to get delicious pancakes. In fact, you might be better off making pancakes at home than coming here to spend money.
Why this chain has hundreds of locations in almost half of all U.S. states is beyond us.
Best Food Item to Get at the Original Pancake House: Strawberry Pancakes
Though the pancake choices at the Original Pancake House are seemingly endless, we can't help but favor the simple and classic strawberry ones. They come with sliced strawberries, whose tanginess complements the sweetness of the powdered sugar.
Year founded: 1975
First location: Danville, Virginia
Number of locations: 62
Bottom Line: Biscuitville
Biscuitville has an interesting origin story. Starting in 1966 as a pizza shop that also offered biscuits (only in the South), the business overhauled its focus when its freshly made biscuits proved to be incredibly popular.
As of 2021, the chain has 62 locations throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Of course, you can add a side of grits to your biscuits or to any other meal for that matter. The menu also has other regular breakfast items like eggs with bacon, pancakes and English muffins. We will be honest, though, the fresh biscuits are the only thing that separates this restaurant from any other regular breakfast chain. And while they're OK, they won't be the best biscuits you've ever had.
Best Food Item to Get at Biscuitville: Spicy Chicken and Honey Biscuit
The regular biscuits are delicious, but if you want to add a little bit of spice to your breakfast, order the spicy chicken and honey biscuit. It's as satisfying as it is filling.
Year founded: 1953
First location: Lakewood, California
Number of locations: 1,702
Bottom Line: Denny’s
Denny's is your typical bland chain restaurant that serves food that is fairly tasteless in a generic setting. Yet the company made around $540 million in revenue in 2019 and has more than 1,700 locations!
So, why do Americans keep coming back? One, it's convenient, given that many of its franchises serve breakfast food as well as lunch and dinner all day, every day. This makes it the perfect late night or very early morning place to get a bite to eat.
The other reason for Denny's success is that it's consistent. Humans are creatures of habit, and many of us prefer to go into a place knowing exactly what we'll get (even if it's decidedly "meh") rather than try our luck somewhere new that could be even worse.
The chain's claim to fame in terms of breakfast is its Original Grand Slam, which has all the ingredients for a big American breakfast: pancakes, bacon, eggs and sausage. Treat it as good hangover food, and you'll be good. Just don't expect anything great.
Best Food Item to Get at Denny's: All American Slam
Go all out and order the All American Slam breakfast, which comes with two beef bacon strips, two sausage links, hash browns, bread and three scrambled eggs topped with melted cheddar cheese.
You won't be hungry until dinner.
19. Coco's Bakery Restaurant
Year founded: 1948
First location: Corona del Mar, California
Number of locations: 29
Bottom Line: Coco's Bakery Restaurant
Operating in California and New Mexico, this chain is small but sweet. Eating pies in the morning is definitely acceptable. If you want something sweet but not necessarily a pie, you can go for the raspberry French toast or a classic pancake smothered in maple syrup of actual quality.
If sweets aren't your thing, Coco's has plenty of traditional breakfast favorites. The chain started as a snack shop in the 1940s and has evolved into a restaurant where you can always count on a pleasant breakfast experience.
Lunch food is also available.
Best Thing to Get at Coco's Bakery Restaurant: Chocolate Cream Pie
Pies are the MVPs of the menu at Coco's, and there is no wrong choice. But given seasonal availability, some flavors are not always available.
Curtail this problem by going for the always available and always delicious chocolate cream pie.
18. Marie Callender’s
Year founded: 1948
First location: Long Beach, California
Number of locations: 29
Bottom Line: Marie Callender’s
The brand name of Marie Callender's is now linked mostly to frozen food dinners that you can find in grocery stores. But for the people of California, Nevada and Utah, it also invokes a chain of restaurants that serve breakfast foods all day. (Other types of food are also available.)
The chain started as a pie and bakery shop in the late 1940s before expanding rapidly into the restaurant business. During the early and mid-2000s, many of the locations closed, leaving less than 30 open in the whole country.
The food is basically what you'd expect from a brand that makes frozen meals, but we will give it points because its homemade pies are good and because they have a bar, which sets it apart from other family breakfast chains.
Best Food Item to Get at Marie Callender's: Eggs Benedict
Do a veritable lunch by ordering the eggs Benedict with boozy mimosas. Few other breakfast chains besides Marie Callender's offer the experience.
17. Eggs Up Grill
Year founded: 1997
First location: Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Number of locations: 46
Bottom Line: Eggs Up Grill
Spread throughout the American South, Eggs Up Grill is a typical breakfast diner with a heavy dose of Southern flavors. You'll find a platter with sausage biscuit, gravy and grits as well as the typical pancake, eggs and bacon breakfast.
They also have other menu items that are not as typical of breakfast chains, like the chomelet, a delicious and hearty chorizo omelet, or the shrimp and grits brunch bowl.
The menu is fairly impressive, and they offer apple cider mimosas at certain locations, which pretty much sells us on the franchise.
Best Food Item to get at Eggs Up Grill: Shrimp and Grits Bowl
Why go to a Southern food chain if you're not going to get Southern food?
Skip the typical breakfast chain items and go for a hearty shrimp and grits bowl.
16. The Waffle House
Year founded: 1955
First location: Avondale Estates, Georgia
Number of locations: 1,952
Bottom Line: The Waffle House
Have you been to the South if you haven't been to a Waffle House? We don't think so. This Georgia chain is part of the fabric of the region, and you won't be able to drive on a highway without seeing a sign for one at some point.
The Waffle House serves 24-hour breakfast. They offer waffles, of course, but not as many as you'd think for a place that has them in its name. There are also hash brown bowls, pancakes and biscuits.
We get and respect that the chain has a cult following, but if you were given a menu without any branding, you wouldn't be able to tell which generic breakfast chain you were eating at. The food is on the same level as other casual fast dining breakfast restaurants.
The verdict? If you're in the South, make sure you eat here. Not because of the quality of the food, but more for the experience and because it's the thing to do.
Best Food Item to Get at Waffle House: Chocolate Chip Waffles
Keep it simple with a classic chocolate chip waffle. It's sweet enough that you don't need maple syrup, but not so much that you can't add it if you want to.
Sometimes it's good to start the day with something sweet.
15. Huddle House
Year founded: 1964
First location: Decatur, Georgia
Number of locations: 339
Bottom Line: Huddle House
This unapologetically Southern restaurant has over 300 locations in 23 states. Unsurprisingly, most of those locations are concentrated in the South and Southwest, where the chain's stuffed hash browns, pulled pork and smoked sausages make people feel like they're having breakfast at grandma's house.
We also can't deny that part of the reason we like this restaurant is because it brands its waffles as if they were cattle. If you decide to get some, the HH in the middle of them will remind you exactly where you're eating.
Best Food Item to get at Huddle House: Southwestern Bowl
If you take breakfast seriously and want something atypical, order the Southwestern bowl. The meal features steak, bacon, scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese and potatoes topped in a Southwestern sauce.
14. Egg Harbor Cafe
Year founded: 1985
First location: Hinsdale, Illinois
Number of locations: 20
Bottom Line: Egg Harbor Cafe
Residents of Illinois, Wisconsin and Georgia have the pleasure of being able to have breakfast at Egg Harbor Cafe. The small chain makes it a point to serve high-quality ingredients, using cage-free eggs, fair-trade coffee, and banning high-fructose corn syrup from their menu.
The cafe describes itself as a "gourmet breakfast, brunch and lunch café in a warm, friendly country setting with an upbeat vibe." It's not the best breakfast you will ever have in your life, but it's definitely good, and the vibe is warm and inviting.
Best Food Item to Get at Egg Harbor Cafe: Swedish Pancakes
Crepes are a common breakfast food item at American chain restaurants, but few do them with the understated grace required for them to work. This is why we appreciate that Egg Harbor Cafe doesn't drown its crepes on mountains of fake strawberry syrup.
The result is heavenly.
13. IHOP (International House of Pancakes)
Year founded: 1958
First location: Los Angeles, California
Number of locations: 1,841
Bottom Line: IHOP
With more than 1,800 locations around the world and $910 million in profits in 2019, IHOP is one of America's most successful breakfast chains. The International House of Pancakes specializes in pancakes, of course, and other breakfast foods like waffles, French toast and crepes. There are also items on the menu more geared toward lunch and dinner like sandwiches and burgers.
We can't fully explain what is so appealing about IHOP. If we speak truthfully, the eggs are terrible, the coffee is undrinkable and the orange juice is artificial. The pancakes are good, we will concede that, but the overly sweet concoction they try to pass off as jam is not worth even opening.
Still, somehow, IHOP is a great place to go for a casual breakfast or to eat copious amounts of food that is way too sweet. Nobody has ever felt good after eating at IHOP, yet we will all keep going back.
Best Food Item to Get at IHOP: Blueberry Pancakes
It's hard to just choose one best pancake from IHOP (yes, we're not even considering other items for the title of top runners). But if we have to do it, then the winner would be the blueberry pancakes coated with powdered sugar and a generous amount of whipped cream on top.
12. Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.
Year founded: 2009
First location: Delray Beach, Florida
Number of locations: 20
Bottom Line: Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.
Anyone who really knows bagels knows that only bagels made with Brooklyn water are worthy. We're not joking, and neither is this chain.
They were founded on the premise that they can recreate Brooklyn water. Through a complicated filtration system, they claim to bring real bagels to several places in Florida, California and Massachusetts.
If you're someone who loves a good bagel breakfast, this is definitely one of the best options out there, at least outside of New York City.
Best Food Item to Get at Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.: Williamsburg Bagel
The choice may be difficult, but there is no bagel that can rival the Williamsburg bagel. It contains smoked salmon, tomatoes, red onions and (of course) cream cheese.
Our mouth is watering just thinking about it.
11. Bob Evans
Year founded: 1948
First location: Rio Grande, Ohio
Number of locations: 443
Bottom Line: Bob Evans
Bob Evans is one of the oldest chain restaurants in the U.S., which is impressive considering that it has over 400 locations in more than 15 states. The brand leans into country living, using farmhouse aesthetics and flavors.
The food is pretty good, though not really anything that will leave you in awe. We do like that the menu is a bit more original than other chains' offerings (we're looking at you, Denny's), with items like the Farmhouse Special and the Bob Evans Sausage Gravy Breakfast.
For kids, there's the Little Piggy Hotcakes, which are small pancakes decorated like the face of a cartoon pig. Sure, that doesn't change the taste, but presentation matters.
Overall, this is a decent place for a casual family Sunday breakfast.
Best Food Item to Get at Bob Evans: Three Meat and Cheese Omelet
Omelet lovers will be thrilled with this three meat and cheese omelet, which is made with fresh eggs and farm-sourced ingredients.
10. Village Inn
Year founded: 1958
First location: Denver, Colorado
Number of locations: 137
Bottom Line: Village Inn
Village Inn has won the hearts of Americans with its straightforward, casual dining and a menu that has over 200 items. Yep, you will probably spend more time choosing what to eat than actually eating, but that's the beauty of this chain, which has locations in 18 states and the U.S. territory of Guam.
Breakfast is the house specialty, with a mix of the usual suspects: waffles, crepes and pancakes for sweet-leaning people and eggs, bacon and hash browns for those who want savory. Of course, the menu also has a lot of other options, including biscuits and gravy and skillets. There are also many lunch and dinner options.
Best Food Item to Get at Village Inn: Apple Pie
The one thing that we recommend to absolutely any diner who comes to Village Inn is to try a pie, particularly the apple pie.
Somehow, this chain known mostly for breakfast has managed to make a name for itself with its delicious pies. Here, you won't have to feel guilty about eating pie for breakfast, so go ahead and enjoy it.
Year founded: 1958
First location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Number of locations: 324
Bottom Line: Perkins
Perkins differentiates itself from other casual breakfast chains with its quality of food. For instance, did you know that the waffles here are made from scratch? Or that the pies are freshly baked each day? Your tastebuds can immediately tell when something has been made fresh rather than frozen and heated.
But the best part is that the chain still manages to bring reasonable prices and quick serving time to its customers. We only wish it had more locations so we could enjoy it when we wanted to indulge in this type of breakfast.
The chain's one pitfall is that its menu is mainly uninspired and generic.
Best Food Item to Get at Perkins: Southern Fried Chicken Biscuit Breakfast
Start your morning right with a Southern fried chicken biscuit breakfast. The full meal comes with eggs, hash browns, bacon and two biscuits with fried chicken and cheese topped with gravy.
8. Le Peep
Year founded: 1963
First location: Aspen, Colorado
Number of locations: 46
Bottom Line: Le Peep
Back in the 1960s, Le Peep rocked the world of Aspen by offering something totally new: a breakfast restaurant that opened only in the morning. *Gasp!*
All joking aside, Le Peep's idea really was innovative and has withstood the test of time. The restaurant wanted to offer a more elevated breakfast experience to diners who still wanted their food to be out fast and for the process to be streamlined. In this way, it manages to be the middle ground between a place like Denny's and a fancier restaurant where everything is made-to-order.
Le Peep's has also expanded by becoming a franchise and letting investors open their own locations in various states, including Indiana, Florida, Texas, Nebraska and Illinois. The food is good for a chain restaurant and definitely delivers on the promise of a fast-serving chain with a higher-quality menu. And, yes, some locations do serve mimosas.
Best Food Item to Get at Le Peep: Breakfast Burrito
Skip the typical chain breakfast menu and go for a mouthwatering and filling breakfast burrito. Once you've tried it, you'll be craving it every weekend.
7. First Watch
Year founded: 1983
First location: Pacific Grove, California
Number of locations: 420
Bottom Line: First Watch
The 1970s saw a growing conscience around fitness and eating healthy. So, it makes sense that the early 1980s had what may be the first health-forward breakfast chain restaurant in the U.S.
First Watch has carved a niche for itself within the market of consumers who want to indulge in a nice breakfast without feeling heavy or unhealthy afterward. You'll still find bacon, eggs, waffles, grits and pancakes on the menu, but most items are meant to be healthier than in other places. For instance, you can get multigrain pancakes. There are also foods that you won't find in most other breakfast restaurants, like quinoa bowls and breakfast tacos, which is one of our favorite things about the chain.
The other thing that differentiates First Watch is that it uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and makes many of its food items by hand. You also won't find anything deep-fried. The restaurant is certainly not for everyone, but it provides a good option for anyone looking to lower their cholesterol.
Best Food Item to Get at First Watch: Trailblazer Bowl
The health-conscious breakfast seeker will be very satisfied with the trailblazer bowl, which has scrambled eggs, fresh avocado, chicken, yams, nits and fresh greens.
6. The Broken Yolk Cafe
Year founded: 1979
First location: San Diego, California
Number of locations: 34
Bottom Line: The Broken Yolk Cafe
For 30 years, the Broken Yolk Cafe had a single location in Pacific Beach, San Diego. Then, in 2009, it was featured on an episode of "Man vs. Food," and everything changed. Investors poured in, and the owners decided to build a franchise from their very successful local restaurant.
As it has expanded in San Diego and the rest of the country, the chain has kept its Californian vibes and homemade food.
Best Food Item to Get at the Broken Yolk Cafe: Golden State Benedict
The Golden State Benedict is the all-around favorite.
A close runner-up is the street taco, which is good for a heavy brunch.
5. Another Broken Egg Cafe
Year founded: 1996
First location: Old Mandeville, Louisiana
Number of locations: 75
Bottom Line: Another Broken Egg Cafe
Of all the breakfast restaurant chains, Another Broken Egg Cafe is the one that leans less toward casual and more toward a high-end experience. And the prices reflect it.
The menu boasts items like lemon blueberry goat cheese pancakes, smoked salmon Benedict and dishes made with fresh Mexican avocados. In short, this is as close you'll get to a trendy brunch place without going to a trendy brunch place.
Still, we're not sure coming here is justified when you can simply go to a high-end restaurant for better food and similar prices.
Best Food Item to Get at Another Broken Egg Cafe: Chicken and Waffles
Sweet and savory meet in chicken and waffles, a quintessential Southern breakfast dish that this cafe does very well.
Year founded: 2006
First location: Denver, Colorado
Number of locations: 44
Bottom Line: Snooze
If you want a vibe similar to Another Broken Egg Cafe without the steep cost, come to Snooze.
With locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri and Texas, the restaurant moves away from the usual breakfast chain menu and isn't afraid to get creative. You can enjoy creations like the chilaquiles Benedict, pumpkin pecan pie pancakes and breakfast tacos.
There's also cocktails allowed, so you can feel like you're going to Sunday brunch with friends while paying chain-restaurant prices.
Best Food Item to Get at Snooze: Sweet Potato Bacon Smash Up
Who said delicious food has to be unhealthy? Certainly not Snooze, where you can get a delicious sweet potato smash up that includes a griddled, smashed sweet potato topped with fresh avocado.
Trust us, it is so good.
3. Mimi’s Bistro + Bakery
Year founded: 1978
First location: Anaheim, California
Number of locations: 48
Bottom Line: Mimi’s Bistro + Bakery
From its inception in the 1970s, Mimi's Bistro + Bakery sought to differentiate itself by bringing a French influence to American breakfast. Given how similar restaurant chain menus can be, we certainly appreciate the freshness. After all, most of the other restaurants on here do not offer Croque monsieurs or quiches.
But this isn't a fancy brunch place that charges $50 for a mimosa and has walls painted in millennial pink. What we love about Mimi's is that it's still a casual breakfast restaurant that has good food at good prices. Still, the decor tends to be a little more intentional than at other casual chains. It may be a chain, but Mimi's still manages to be different.
Best Food Item to Get at Mimi’s Bistro + Bakery: Cinnamon Rolls
Overindulge your sweet tooth with the perfectly soft and absolutely dreamy cinnamon rolls, dusted with powdered sugar and covered in thick maple syrup.
2. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Year founded: 1969
First location: Lebanon, Tennessee
Number of locations: 664
Bottom Line: Cracker Barrel
Cracker Barrel isn't necessarily a breakfast chain. In fact, it's the least breakfast-y chain on this list. Still, we had to include it because there is a special pleasure in driving to a Cracker Barrel in the morning ready to put yourself into a food coma for the rest of the day.
Unlike many breakfast restaurants, Cracker Barrel actually has great food. It's heavy and hearty and definitely unhealthy, but it's oh-so-good. And that's really the most important thing. The hashbrown casserole is one of the most popular items on the menu, and it will definitely not disappoint. Neither will any of the other breakfast food, to be honest.
After you've eaten twice your body weight in Southern-inspired food, you can enjoy the second-best thing about Cracker Barrel: walking around the store looking at random trinkets you'll probably never use but definitely have to buy.
Best Thing to Get at Cracker Barrel: Biscuit Beignet
Though not the most obvious nor the most iconic breakfast food at Cracker Barrel, we want to make a case for their fluffy biscuit beignets. This is perhaps the most underrated item in the chain's menu.
1. Hash House a Go Go
Year founded: 2000
First location: San Diego, California
Number of locations: 10
Bottom Line: Hash House
Hash House manages to do what few chain restaurants ever do: surprise you with the quality of its food. Originally opened in San Diego, the chain has now expanded to other states like Florida, Nevada, New Jersey and Connecticut. With only about 10 stores, its footprint is decidedly limited, but it has still risen to notoriety because its food is good, and its portions are huge.
The restaurant describes its food as "twisted farm food" and often uses fresh ingredients — who knew chains could do this? — to make dishes inspired by flavors from the Midwest. Expect what they call "tractor-sized" pancakes and darn-good chicken and waffles. They also have good cocktails for you to enjoy with brunch.
Overall, we encourage you to head to this chain for breakfast.
Best Thing to Get at Hash House Go Go: Hash House Veggie Hash
We can't even begin to explain the utter perfection of the veggie hash. It has eggs, a homemade biscuit, fresh fruit served alongside mushroom, sundried tomato, fresh spinach and artichoke hearts in a cast-iron skillet. The food is garnished with fresh rosemary.
Be right back. We have to go get some.