There’s something mythical about the way fast-casual restaurants treat their bread. Breadsticks, in particular, are the primo offering at any vaguely Italian chain. The mass-produced dough, stretched and cooked to greasy perfection, is frequently slathered in a combo of garlic, butter, and cheese, garnering accolades from many an eater. Plainly put, there is truly no better way to indulge yourself than with an order (or three) of these ready-to-dip sticks.
While breadsticks are unquestionably a must-order at any restaurant, the sad truth is that not every stick is created equal. In fact, some are simply not worth your time, not to mention the calories. In an effort to save our fellow bread-lovers from unknowingly ordering subpar sticks, we took it upon ourselves to search out the absolute best and worst chain restaurant breadsticks and compile them in this definitive ranking of buttery bread. Read on and go towards the light with your next breadstick order.
11. Little Caesars
If we were ranking based on value alone, Crazy Bread may take the throne. Rarely more than $4 for an entire serving (eight sticks), Little Caesars’ specialty side is often thrown into combo deals. This means that a bundle of sixteen has been known to go for the shocking price of $2, according to Brand Eating.
But unfortunately, crazy cheapness here comes with a different kind of price. These sticks are, first and foremost, simply bland. They come warm and are seemingly made from the standard Little Caesars pizza dough, then dunked in butter and garlic, and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. This might sound promising but, in practice, it’s disappointingly bland. The only respite from the sheer lack of flavor here comes when you dip a stick in the "crazy sauce" — more commonly known as marinara. Not so exciting now, is it? We’re a fan of anything dipped in red sauce, though, so this is less a win for Crazy Bread and more just a fact of life.
Perhaps more concerning than the taste is the unhygienic and downright dangerous way these breadsticks might be prepared, at least in some locations. Some restaurant visitors have even reported that Crazy Bread that has been dropped on the floor have then been simply picked up and placed back into the back by hurried employees. They are also often made with days-old, unrefrigerated imitation "butter". Best to steer clear of these cheap, flavorless add-ons.
10. Chuck E. Cheese
When we were all collectively throwing down for birthday parties here from ages four to six, we didn’t know any better than to chow down on the breadsticks at Chuck E. Cheese. These carby sticks would inevitably make their way to the table, but we were too preoccupied with the somewhat creepy character show and the ball pit to really stop and taste them. The sticks were simply fuel for mad arcade power, not a delicacy to be examined.
Turns out, that was for the best. Because when you do really stop and taste these parmesan-infused bad boys, there is not much to consider. The outside layer is coated in a decently flavorful mix of garlic and butter with melted parmesan bits that have been baked on. And, for another point in Chuck E. Cheese’s favor, the crispiness level here adds some dimension to the stick. But once you bite past the thin outer layer, all is lost. The downfall of Chuck E. Cheese’s Parm Bread is its plain white bread innards. The bread, which one Reddit user confirmed is "just a regular white bread dough", could not be more nondescript. No wonder we never stopped for long at the table on our way to dominating everyone else at Dance Dance Revolution.
9. Chicago’s Pizza
The Top Tens ranked Chicago’s Pizza’s breadsticks as number six in the nation. All we can say to that is that, just like breadsticks themselves, it could very well be that not all rankings are created equally. For us, Chicago’s Pizza’s breadsticks had a few key drawbacks that would bump them further down the list. The first and perhaps most influential? They serve these sticks with nacho cheese.
"Our breadsticks are made fresh every day," says the restaurant’s menu. To be fair, we believe it. More than any other chain on this list, Chicago’s Pizza has locally-owned and operated vibes. They go on to describe their sticks to be "hand-rolled, lightly salted, and baked to a golden brown" — all great — "served with a choice of red sauce, cheddar cheese, nacho cheese or garlic butter." Now, wait a minute. Call us traditionalists, but we generally like to limit our breadstick dip options to marinara or garlic butter — perhaps some Alfredo sauce if we’re feeling adventurous. These cheese substitutions are potentially interesting and definitely divisive, but they aren’t wild enough to rescue the bland sticks.
The one thing Chicago’s Pizza does have going in its favor, though, is also a result of their innovation. They offer "pepperoni sticks," which are basically breadstick-shaped tubes of dough filled with pepperoni and mozzarella. While we might not be down for nacho cheese, we’re down to sample these delicacies any day of the week.
It can be hard to stand out from the shadow of a big brother. Just take a look at Chris and Liam Hemsworth or Nick and Aaron Carter. And this trend remains consistent with American-Italian chain restaurants. Consider Fazoli’s and Olive Garden’s complicated relationship. While Eater reports Olive Garden soaks up the bright lights of Times Square, for better or for worse, Fazoli’s is often relegated to lesser-known locations. This explains what appears to be Fazoli’s rather severe case of a Napoleon Complex, which has infiltrated the breadstick conversation in regards to Olive Garden. Back in 2019, Fazoli’s posted a scathing video on their company YouTube, trashing their competitor’s breadsticks while emphasizing the superiority of their own.
But does the taste match the talk? As far as we are concerned, no.
Let’s be clear: Fazoli’s has some above-average breadsticks. In fact, the flavor of each stick is delicious. The only problem here? Texture. Fazoli’s breadsticks are distinctly soggy and spongy, making for a pretty disappointing experience for most diners. It’s ultimately just not as good as their competition. This is admittedly a close call between Olive Garden and Fazoli’s, but in the end, this is yet another case of a little brother failing to overtake their big bro.
Applebee’s is a true outsider when it comes to the breadstick market. Italian cuisine has been a part of Applebee’s menu for many years, to be certain. However, most folks would associate this neighborhood favorite with wings, burgers, and beer, not pizza and breadsticks.
But, in our opinion, this outsider’s take on breadsticks is working. Applebee’s serves their breadsticks in two ways: they garnish their pasta dishes with a single stick, but also offer a full-fledged designated appetizer version for the table to snack on. Orders come with a special serving of creamy Alfredo sauce, which is perfect for dipping (and an improvement on nacho cheese; take note, Chicago’s Pizza).
The real magic in these breadsticks is the outer texture. Rather than serving up pale orders of doughy bread, Applebee’s has perfected the dark, external layer which is easy on both the eyes and the pallet. These breadsticks are a must-try for carb lovers. The all-American setting of Applebee’s, with all its charm and energy, is an added bonus.
6. Olive Garden
The definition of fame is the state of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements. Good examples of fame include Jackie Robinson, Pablo Picasso, Jane Goodall, and, of course, Olive Garden breadsticks.
That’s not just a joking comparison. Somewhere between 675 and 700 million of these beloved breadsticks are served each year. These breadsticks are ubiquitous to Olive Garden as much as the Whopper is to Burger King, the Bloomin’ Onion is to Outback, the Blizzard is to Dairy Queen, or any other iconic meal is to its restaurant creator.
But why have Olive Garden’s breadsticks grown so beloved? In our opinion, these breadsticks aren’t even the best on the list. The bread can be a bit too doughy at times and the outer layer lacks that delicious crunch seen in other breadsticks. However, there is magic in the topping. After being rubbed with melted butter, Olive Garden uses its own special blend of garlic salt to coat the breadsticks. To be clear, this is not the type of garlic salt you can grab at any old grocery store, but rather a special and secretive blend that has blown the minds of Americans.
Don’t discount notoriety, either. These breadsticks are not the best, but the fame of each stick makes it a bit more delicious, much like tasking a Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia or an everything bagel in Manhattan.
5. Marco’s Pizza
Was Marco’s CheezyBread ranking affected by their blatant misspelling of the word "cheesy?" Who’s to say? All we know is that, beyond the name, Marco’s Pizza CheezyBread brings the breadstick fire. Truly more of a pizza-breadstick hybrid, the CheezyBread comes as a single large pie, inviting hungry eaters to tear away one stick at a time, dip it in either the marinara or ranch that it’s served with, and go to town.
We were pretty convinced this cheesy bread was a serious contender in stick space just by looking at it. The dough is complex and well-cooked, a perfect compliment for the crisped cheese and oil on top. However, if we weren’t sold before, we were absolutely convinced that Marco’s should move up on the list after reading a diner’s review on Trip Advisor. The feedback, which has been upvoted over 500 times, implores travelers to "GET THE CHEESY BREAD!" "If you don’t order anything else, get the cheesy bread," the user writes. "It is fantastic, and comes with 2 dipping sauces."
And yes, despite this eater’s passion for the side, they also refused to lean into its disturbing misspelled name.
4. Pizza Hut
Similar to their attitude about pizza pies, Pizza Hut proudly proclaims that "nobody does breadsticks like the Hut." Since we’ve sampled Pizza Hut’s pies to varying degrees of success and found that, actually, other companies do out-pizza the Hut from time to time, we were curious about the accuracy of this breadstick statement. Ultimately, it held up as medium-true.
These breadsticks are longer and more plain than some of their competition, but they are reminiscent of Pizza Hut’s overall flavor, which is a plus. In fact, when you dip these sticks into their marinara side sauce and start chewing, you may just be fooled that you just took a bite out of your favorite slice. That’s especially true if you opt for the cheese-filled version. However, if you intend on digging into Pizza Hut’s breadsticks, we recommend that you avoid ordering a pie as well. Frankly, you won’t need it. These breadsticks are by far the most massive and filling option on the list.
3. Papa John’s
Papa John’s has very nearly perfected its particular breadstick offering. Our mouths started watering when we read the name of this iconic side — anything that incorporates both garlic and cheese into a title is a bit of a win from the get-go, at least in our book, so "Garlic Parmesan Breadsticks" is about as good as it gets.
The taste was just as good as the title. These sticks are served lined up in a box, and part of the fun of sharing them is that each has its own authentic-looking shape, which also means there is always a definitive "best breadstick" in any given batch.
The outer crust of Papa John’s breadsticks is crispy and textured, while also seamlessly similar to its inside, which is more airy and dynamic than we expected. Even though both garlic and parmesan are the namesake flavors of this side, the aftertaste is strictly garlic. Of course, we’re not complaining about that. Especially when dunked in the "pizza sauce" side, these sticks are among the greatest.
2. Domino’s Pizza
If you’ve had a Domino’s pizza, then surely you know that this chain has perfected the art of crust. Their bread is iconically salty — literally and figuratively mouth-watering.
So it only makes sense, then, that Domino’s would excel at a bread-based dish. They have several options that are in the breadstick realm, from bread bites to bread twists to the most delicious staple of all: stuffed cheesy bread. If you’re anything like us, you became very familiar with the cheesy bread in the wee hours of college-aged mornings.
Much like Marco’s Pizza CheezyBread, Domino’s serves their own, more correctly-spelled bread in a single, tear-away pie. Their success, we think, goes beyond just the bread to the simple amount of ways they find to incorporate cheese into this delicacy. There’s melted cheese crisped up on top, plus there’s gooey cheese oozing out the middle. Even after this cheesy bread has been out at a party for a few hours and cooled, you can’t go wrong with its greasy, salty, lactose-heavy essence.
1. Blaze Pizza
Here’s an underdog story if we’ve ever heard one. Blaze Pizza is a notoriously low-key chain that markets itself as a healthy chain pizza option, a branding move that may or may not have worked against them in the past. During the last year, though, Blaze Pizza used the pandemic to its advantage. As pizza-lovers everywhere were stuck ordering in for their quarantine pods, the California-founded restaurant launched their brand new cheesy bread in December 2020, according to QSR. And it’s nothing short of amazing.
Blaze’s cheesy bread is reminiscent of some of the less-successful competitors in that it comes served as a pie. In Blaze’s case, it is literally made from a pizza round that’s then folded in half and cooked. Like Domino’s and Marco’s, this bread is topped with incredible, well-cooked cheese. The freshness of this dish’s ingredients, though, is what sets it apart. Oregano and oil ooze off the mozzarella and the bread underneath remains thin enough that it doesn’t dare to steal the show from other ingredients. For best results, be sure to dip your breadstick in some marinara source.