This could be the tastiest geography lesson you'll ever sit through.

America's favorite restaurants are now multi-million dollar empires, but many of them had humble beginnings in small towns and along the nation's highways.

The chains' very first locations have become bona fide tourist attractions that draw hungry, road-tripping fans.

Curious to see where fast-food history was made? Here's how you can visit where 10 major franchises were born.


Visit: 10207 Lakewood Blvd., Downey, California

Although the first location was in San Bernardino, California, the oldest operating McDonald’s is 60 miles away in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey. It's a popular tourist spot, with a gift shop and museum.

It was the second store franchised by brothers and co-founders Richard and Maurice McDonald, before Ray Kroc took over.

In the 1990s, the company planned to demolish the building due to damage from an earthquake. But the National Trust for Historic Preservation ran a campaign to save the restaurant — and McDonald’s decided to reopen it.

Pizza Hut

Visit: 3728 Perimeter Rd., Wichita, Kansas

Pizza Hut got its start near Wichita State University’s campus in Kansas. The original was opened in a tiny house in 1958 by two brothers who were students at the school. Within a year, they had five more Pizza Huts.

When the first location closed in 1986, it became a Wichita State landmark. In 2017, it was relocated across campus and turned into an interactive museum.

Hungry to save up for your next adventure? Find out how much you need to save each month to reach your goal.


Visit: 4555 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., Dublin, Ohio

Named for founder Dave Thomas' daughter, the original Wendy’s restaurant opened in 1969 in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and served square homestyle burgers, french fries and milkshakes.

It included displays of Wendy's memorabilia and was something of a tourist draw, but it closed in 2007. The artifacts have since moved to a suburban Wendy's restaurant near the chain's corporate headquarters.

This flagship restaurant is outfitted with luxurious lounge chairs, flat-screen TVs and a fireplace. There's no place you’ll feel more like fast-food royalty!


Visit: 1912 Pike Place, Seattle

Today, Starbucks is the undisputed king of coffee. The first one opened in 1971 in Pike Place Market in Seattle, and sold roasted coffee beans and coffee brewing gadgets. It served brewed coffee only as samples for customers.

The store moved about one block down the street in 1977. Today, it features the cafe’s original name, "Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices."

Starbucks says the design of the store reflects the "warm heritage" of its very first location. It has tables made of salvaged walnut from a nearby farm, burlap coffee bags on the walls, and restroom partitions made of recycled detergent bottles.


Visit: 1644 East Evans Avenue, Denver

Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and honed his burrito-rolling, salsa-slinging craft while operating a food truck in the Mission District of San Francisco.

He moved on to Denver, where he opened his very first Chipotle Mexican Grill in 1993, in a former ice cream shop not far from the University of Denver. The spot quickly became a hit with students and locals.

Chipotle is now a chain of more than 2,000 locations worldwide. The first location underwent a renovation in 2017, but the company has assured fans that the "original charm" was preserved.

Taco Bell

Visit: 1 Glen Bell Way Irvine, California

When Glen Bell opened his original Taco Bell in Downey, California, in 1962, it was a taco stand in a building the size of a two-car garage — surrounded by a market, fire pits and a stage for live mariachi performances and dancers.

Over the years, the original building was used by other taco restaurants, and it was almost torn down.

But it was uprooted and moved 45 miles away to Irvine, California. The Taco Bell company plopped it down across from its headquarters in November 2015 and still hasn’t decided what to do with it. You can see it — but only from the outside.


Visit: 688 US Highway 25 West, Corbin, Kentucky

Colonel Harland Sanders began selling chicken, country ham and steak out of a Shell service station he was living in during the Great Depression. The man who would give us KFC opened a roadside restaurant across the street in 1937.

The Colonel’s chicken became local legend and was featured in a 1939 travel guide. He perfected his recipe, and in 1952 he franchised his pressure-cooked fried chicken concept to a restaurant owner in Utah.

The original Harland Sanders Cafe in Kentucky was turned into a museum with a dining area in 1990. Visitors learn about Sanders' American success story — and can order some of his finger-lickin'-good chicken.

Waffle House

Visit: 2719 East College Ave., Avondale Estates, Georgia

Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner knew that waffles were incredibly popular and weren’t just a breakfast food. In 1955, they opened the first Waffle House, giving the greater Atlanta area access to a 24-hour waffle fix.

Today, the chain is 1,700 stores strong and is a true fixture of Southern cuisine.

The original restaurant was sold, then repurchased by the company in 2008, returned to its original 1950s style and turned into a museum. For this Waffle House, you need a reservation: Tours are by appointment only.

Dunkin Donuts

Visit: 543 Southern Artery, Quincy, Massachusetts

William Rosenburg’s first restaurant was called Open Kettle, but in 1950 he changed the name to Dunkin Donuts.

His coffee and donuts at the shop in Quincy, Massachusetts, were so popular that Rosenburg started franchising Dunkin Donuts restaurants in 1955.

The chain now has over 12,000 stores in 36 countries. The very first location is still a donut shop, but in 2011 it was given a makeover to look as it did in the early days. A plaque notes its place in donut history.


Visit: 461 N. Central Ave., Hapeville, Georgia

The very first of what would eventually become Chick-fil-A restaurants was a diner called the Dwarf Grill that Truett Cathy opened in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Georgia, in 1946.

Over the years, Cathy worked on perfecting a chicken sandwich, and by 1967 he was ready to make it the centerpiece of his new fast-food chain.

The Dwarf Grill is now called Dwarf House, and it serves the Chick-fil-A menu, including Cathy's sandwich creation. But it still operates as a diner, complete with a counter and stools anchored into the floor.

Follow us on Twitter: @moneywisecom

Find article here