Fast food is more fuel than fine dining. And the joints that sell it, more often than not, aren’t too memorable. But these seven humble storefronts are a little different. Each one served as the launching pad for a fast-food empire, and several are now museums, stripped of their deep-fryers but full of memorabilia. A walk on a college campus leads to a brick building in which two brothers first slung Pizza Hut pies, and an unofficial shrine to McDonald’s stands on the site of the very first outlet of the burger behemoth. One standout, Mitla Cafe, isn’t a fast-food restaurant at all. Instead, the founder of Taco Bell copied their iconic hard-shell taco recipe when he opened his first restaurant in 1962. But while that first Taco Bell is gone, Mitla still serves hungry customers in its original location, something that can’t be said of all of these fast-food firsts.
Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on January 21, 2021. It was updated, with the addition of more restaurants, on August 1, 2023.