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Bucky’s 5th Quarter investigates: best fast food in the Big Ten

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We convened a panel of experts to rank the best fast food in the conference’s foot print.

This 19 September, 2006 photo shows a Cu Photo credit should read HOward BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

In honor of National Fast Food Day, the Big Ten Network tweeted out a map of the Big Ten conference’s footprint complete with each state’s best one or two fast food restaurants. Needless to say, there was a lot of discourse on the matter of this map and which state actually had the best option(s).

There are a lot of wonderful options on this map from sea to shining, uh, Nebraska but which one is best? Just about everyone had an opinion even our friend Peter Berkes, who lives in upstate New York, which decidedly isn’t B1G country although he is a Penn Stater, but he writes a food newsletter so his opinion should be respected.

I’m sure we all have a deep respect and love for Culver’s but what about the rest of the conference? What do they think?

“Chicago’s Big Ten Team” Northwestern is high on Portillo’s, a lot of Nebraskans championed Runza and people from Maryland were confused by the choice of Roy Rogers as their top choice.

There was a lot of vitriol directed at the inclusion of Sbarro as one of New Jersey’s representatives. Aaron Breitman, the manager of On the Banks, and our very own J.J. Post were incensed by the choice. “Assigning the state with the best pizza in the country Sbarro is a criminal offense,” Post emailed me. He also shouted about it on our Slack channel. Clearly, it struck a nerve among our East Coast friends.

So, we here at B5Q decided to convene a panel of experts and rank the best choices. J.J., Ryan Mellenthin and yours truly each chose a top-10 of Big Ten Fast Food Restaurants. Here are the final rankings and then some discussion.

Big Ten Fast Food Rankings

Ranking JJ Ryan Drew
Ranking JJ Ryan Drew
1 Steak 'n Shake Culver's Culver's
2 Culver's Little Caesars Portillo's
3 Jersey Mike's DQ Wendy's
4 Wawa Domino's Jersey Mike's
5 DQ Sbarro Jet's Pizza
6 Domino's Pizza Ranch DQ
7 Sheetz Steak 'n Shake Steak 'n Shake
8 Jimmy John's Wendy's Pancheros
9 White Castle Portillo's Jimmy John's
10 Wendy's Jimmy John's Domino's

It’s pretty clear that Culver’s is the best option on the map. Ryan and I had the Butterburger kings in first and J.J. had them in second, only behind his favorite Steak ‘n Shake. Culver’s really does have it all. Their burgers and concrete mixers are top notch, the chicken tenders are good and the root beer is to die for.

“Given that most of our readers are Wisconsin residents or graduates I don’t feel like I need to describe why I love Culver’s. Insert whatever your reasoning is for Culver’s being incredible here, and I’ll probably agree with it,” J.J. adds.

Now, there is something I need to address right away as I’m sure it’ll be brought up: Wawa isn’t in my top-10 because Wawa isn’t fast food. It is a convenience store/gas station that happens to serve amazing hoagies. I don’t know what handsome genius wrote this tweet, but they are correct. I’d rather starve than eat at Sheetz.

The top sandwich spot on the list has to go to Jersey Mike’s, which J.J. had rated third and I had rated fourth. Ryan wasn’t too keen on sandwiches at all, only including Jimmy John’s at No. 10.

“Mike’s is one of the best quick sandwich places in my homeland of the Garden State, and their cookies are eternally underrated as well. Bonus points if you get it while down the shore, as a good Jersey Mike’s sub eaten on the beach competes for the top spot on this list,” J.J. said. Personally, I’m just excited to see someone say “down the shore” on this website who isn’t me.

I’m a tad bit shocked that neither J.J. nor Ryan included Portillo’s on their list. The chocolate cake shake is outstanding and their Italian beef, while certainly not the best in Chicago, is still delicious. Also, Panchero’s burritos are really good and while nothing else about Iowa is good...those burritos need to be mentioned.

Domino’s was the favorite pizza option as J.J. had them at No. 6, Ryan had them at No. 4 and I had them at No. 10. Wendy’s made everyone’s list too, probably for the fact that dipping their fries into a Frosty is like heaven on earth. Dairy Queen was also a hit among the pollsters, mainly for their ice cream and not necessarily for their food options.

Anyways, I’m sure no one will have thoughts about this in the comments.