America might be a fast-food nation, but at least it's a rich, greasy tapestry of fast food. In-N-Out Burger is the jewel of the West Coast. Massachusetts seems to breed Dunkin' Donuts franchises the way it used to breed Kennedys. Oklahoma and Wyoming are the only states to have both Hardee's and Carl's Jr. We so strongly associate regional character and fast food offerings that in 2001, The Onion reported, "Mason-Dixon Line Renamed IHOP-Waffle House Line."
To drive this 12-year-old joke into the ground, we calculated the density of all 1,543 IHOP locations (as of this February) and 1,661 Waffle House locations (as of last December) across the United States. The map at the top compares these densities, showing who in America is eating cheap waffles for breakfast, and who's eating cheap pancakes.
There is a pretty ridiculous North-South split, although Maryland, northern Virginia, and southern Florida (which is pretty much the North anyways) fall into pancake territory, while Waffle House has made inroads into Ohio and Indiana. For the record, the Atlanta-based Waffle House costs less and tastes better than California's IHOP. Also, waffles are better than pancakes. Point is, I'm jealous.
Below are maps of all the IHOP and Waffle House locations. Given that these two chains have roughly the same number of franchises, Waffle House's density in the South is pretty astounding.* Greater Atlanta looks like it has a Waffle House every 20 feet, plus 50 IHOPs or so. Greater Atlanta is where it's at.
*Waffle House does so much business in the South that the impact of hurricanes on Waffle House service is actually an informal measure of hurricane intensity.
Franchise data from AggData.com.