Cook Out 17
It’s a lot of food for less than $15. Hollis Johnson

New Yorkers love Shake Shack. The West Coast swears by In-N-Out.

But North Carolinians say that there’s one burger chain that trumps them all.

Cook Out is a North Carolina-based fast-food chain serving up burgers, barbecue, and milkshakes, and it’s renowned in the South for its low prices and high quality.

But if you don’t live in one of the 10 states the chain calls home, you might have never heard of this cult restaurant and its fervent following.

So, we went to Richmond, Virginia, to sample the much-hyped chain and see how it measured up to the coastal titans of the burger business.

While Cook Out is known for its classic drive-thru locations with outdoor seating, the chain has recently been opening more sit-down restaurants.

While Cook Out is known for its classic drive-thru locations with outdoor seating, the chain has recently been opening more sit-down restaurants.
Hollis Johnson

As we walked into the rustic-themed restaurant, gentle strains of Christian rock piped endlessly over the speakers — the kind of songs where you can’t quite tell if the lyrics are describing a romantic love or a more spiritual suitor.

As we walked into the rustic-themed restaurant, gentle strains of Christian rock piped endlessly over the speakers — the kind of songs where you can't quite tell if the lyrics are describing a romantic love or a more spiritual suitor.
Hollis Johnson

The menu is wide-ranging, and the best way to sample it is by ordering a Cook Out Tray. The food is outrageously inexpensive when compared to what we typically see in New York City, and where else can you get a quesadilla and a corn dog as sides in addition to your entree?

The menu is wide-ranging, and the best way to sample it is by ordering a Cook Out Tray. The food is outrageously inexpensive when compared to what we typically see in New York City, and where else can you get a quesadilla and a corn dog as sides in addition to your entree?
Hollis Johnson

And then … there are the milkshakes.

And then ... there are the milkshakes.
Hollis Johnson

There are more than 40 flavors to choose from — picking just one is a Sisyphean task. So, we ordered two: mint chocolate chip and Reese’s Cup.

There are more than 40 flavors to choose from — picking just one is a Sisyphean task. So, we ordered two: mint chocolate chip and Reese's Cup.
Hollis Johnson

Our food order consisted of two combo trays — a lot of food for less than $15.

Our food order consisted of two combo trays — a lot of food for less than $15.
Hollis Johnson

The Double Burger is far from a classic fast-food burger, especially when ordered Cook Out style. The burger is topped with chili, cole slaw, mustard, and onion, which makes for a surprisingly balanced palate.

The Double Burger is far from a classic fast-food burger, especially when ordered Cook Out style. The burger is topped with chili, cole slaw, mustard, and onion, which makes for a surprisingly balanced palate.
Hollis Johnson

The beef and the hearty chili add a satisfying heft despite the burger’s standard size. The cole slaw and mustard add a vinegary kick that cuts through the savory chili, and the cole slaw also adds a unique crunch to the textural tapestry of the burger. This is a burger inspired by unique Carolinian culinary traditions — you can’t get that at any old In-N-Out.

The beef and the hearty chili add a satisfying heft despite the burger's standard size. The cole slaw and mustard add a vinegary kick that cuts through the savory chili, and the cole slaw also adds a unique crunch to the textural tapestry of the burger. This is a burger inspired by unique Carolinian culinary traditions — you can't get that at any old In-N-Out.
Hollis Johnson

Cook Out’s real star…