Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
A new best fried chicken sandwich has been crowned. The onion rings to rule them all have been named. The finest fast food and fast casual cheeseburgers in all the land have been found.
We present to you the winners of The Fasties, Thrillist’s annual fast food awards. For the third year in a row, The Fasties are here to celebrate the absolute best foods we’ve eaten out of grease-stained paper bags over the last year with hilariously over-the-top—yet completely serious—awards in more than a dozen super-competitive categories.
In 2022, we’re honoring the best of the best from major fast food chains across the country in 15 categories, including Best Breakfast, Best Chicken Nuggets, Best Fries, Best Onion Rings, Best Cheeseburger, and Best Fried Chicken Sandwich, to name just a handful. The honoree in an all-new category, Best Spicy Chicken Sandwich, is here to reignite the fast food chicken rivalry. We’re also giving fast casual players—you know, places like Shake Shack and Five Guys, a share of the heat lamp limelight, with awards in three separate categories. The Fasties’ top honor, Menu Item of the Year, recognizes a bold new offering that’s sure to change the game. Meanwhile, the Most Valuable Pickle (MVP) spotlights the best briny cucumbers in the game right now. You’ll find the complete list of categories and winners below.
The winners of the 2022 Fasties were carefully selected from the class of nominees announced on April 13 and based on the findings of our extensive taste tests (you should see our expense reports!). We acknowledge that handing out awards to corporate food chains is kind of weird and ridiculous, but hey, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The Fasties embody our unmatched—possibly worrying—obsession with all things served out of drive-thru windows. And at the end of the day, it’s just about having fun.
You may agree with some of the winners, and you may vehemently disagree with others. That’s totally cool. We don’t have to see fry to fry (sorry, we had to), but you should totally hear us out. As long as we’re all having a good time talking about, say, exactly what distinguishes a transcendent onion ring from a merely great one, then we’re golden. One thing we’re pretty sure about, though: you’re gonna get hungry.
And now, the complete list of winners (and nominees) in each category…
Nominees: Chick-fil-A, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s
Winner: Culver’s – Blue Spoon Blend
Nominees: Chick-fil-A, Culver’s, McDonald’s, Sonic Drive-In, Wendy’s
Winner: Culver’s – Double ButterBurger with Cheese
Nominees: Culver’s, In-N-Out Burger, McDonald’s, Sonic Drive-In, Whataburger
Best Fried Chicken Sandwich
Winner: Burger King – Ch’King
Nominees: Bojangles, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, KFC, Popeyes
Best Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Winner: Popeyes – Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Nominees: Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Jollibee, KFC, Popeyes
Best Fish Sandwich
Winner: Popeyes – Classic Flounder Sandwich
Nominees: Arby’s, Culver’s, Jack in the Box, Long John Silver’s, Popeyes
Winner: Del Taco – The Del Taco
Nominees: Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Taco John’s
Best Chicken Nuggets
Winner: Arby’s – Premium Chicken Nuggets
Nominees: Arby’s, Chick-fil-A, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Popeyes
Winner: Arby’s – Curly Fries
Nominees: Arby’s, Checkers/Rally’s, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Wendy’s
Best Onion Rings
Winner: Sonic Drive-In – Hand Made Onion Rings
Nominees: Culver’s, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, Sonic Drive-In, Whataburger
Best Fast Casual Cheeseburger
Winner: Shake Shack – ShackBurger
Nominees: BurgerFi, Five Guys, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Shake Shack, Smashburger
Best Fast Casual Fried Chicken Sandwich
Winner: Zaxby’s – Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich
Nominees: Fatburger, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Fuku, Shake Shack, Zaxby’s
Best Fast Casual Fries
Winner: Five Guys – Five Guys Style Fries
Nominees: Five Guys, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Shake Shack, Smashburger, Zaxby’s
Menu Item of the Year
Winner: Taco Bell – Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco
Taco Bell’s foray into the fast food chicken wars was… unexpected. The Mexican-inspired chain doesn’t exactly specialize in sandwiches. But because T-Bell’s stunt food powers simply cannot be stopped, it found its way into the conversation anyway with a puzzling new menu item dubbed the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. It was purposely framed as a sandwich and a taco to instigate a debate reminiscent of “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” but markedly lamer. The sandwich-taco or taco-sandwich hybrid hit the national menu on September 2.
Thrillist got an early taste of the new offering around that time and found that it was good, but didn’t exactly blow us away as either a sandwich or a taco. Its deliberate placement between the two categories doomed its potential for deliciousness. It needed to be one or another to succeed. So, why are we talking about it now? And why—if it wasn’t mind-blowingly good—is it the Menu Item of the Year? Well, there’s a couple of things. Hear us out.
For one, the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco’s late arrival on the fast food chicken sandwich scene all but signaled that the chicken wars were over. With a taco chain throwing its hat into the ring, it quickly became clear that the moment, so to speak, should end. It was good while it lasted.
The other, more exciting reason it’s good and important is that it signaled Taco Bell’s interest in and capacity to serve tasty fried chicken. It developed crispy, flavorful tortilla chip-crusted chicken tenders for the sandwich-taco and that’s a huge deal when you think about what else it could use them for in the future. In fact, we’ve already seen this fried chicken appear in the chain’s Cantina Crispy Chicken Tacos earlier this year. The possibilities created by this strange so-called chicken sandwich should excite every Taco Bell fan.
Neither the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco nor the Cantina Crispy Chicken Tacos are currently on the menu, but we think it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing—and eating—a lot more fried chicken from Taco Bell in the near future. And that’s great.
Most Valuable Pickle (MVP)
Winner: Burger King – Ch’King
In a major upset, Burger King’s Ch’King is taking home the Fastie for Best Fried Chicken Sandwich this year, beating out the sensational Popeyes Chicken Sandwich for this prestigious honor. As we explain in our in-depth chicken sandwich ranking, the Ch’King has a lot of great stuff going for it: impossibly crispy fried chicken, a savory mayo sauce that ties all of the ingredients together, and a pillowy potato bun that could rival the ones served by fancier fast casual chains. But the one ingredient that helps take the whole sandwich up a notch—and sends it over the edge and straight into the realm of stupidly delicious is its thick-cut pickles. They’re a joy to eat and BK’s Ch’King wouldn’t be as good without them. For that reason, they’re this year’s MVP.
Miss last year’s Fasties? In 2021, we went big and produced an entire awards show broadcast hosted by David So and Tim Chantarangsu of Send Foodz. You can watch or relive the who thing right here (see the video player). You can also rewatch the inaugural Fasties from 2020.