back to top
Food

28 Of The Most Underrated Fast Casual Restaurants In The U.S.

Lunch will never be the same.

Posted on

We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about the fast-casual restaurants they'd like to see open all over the country. Here are some of their responses...

1. Media Noche (San Francisco)

@harryyuan / Instagram / Via instagram.com, @letsforkshitup / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Media Noche offers Cuban food by way of the Mission District. Think: Cuban sandwiches, rice and bean bowls, and ceviche all in an Instagram-ready setting.

2. Dizengoff (Philadelphia, New York, Miami)

@dizengoff_philly / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Does this Philly counter-serve boast the best hummus outside of Israel? Now with locations in NYC and Miami, it's a local favorite lunch spot for Middle Eastern cuisine.

3. Gusto! (Atlanta)

@liapicard / Instagram / Via instagram.com

The concept at this Atlanta eatery is simple: Pick between mixed greens, rice, or a wrap, fill it with a protein, and finish it off with one of Gusto's six signature sauces like buffalo buttermilk blue or chile citrus BBQ.

4. Shake Shack (locations in 18 states)

@foodintheair / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This cult-favorite burger chain has locations from coast to coast. After all, what's not to love about burgers, shakes, and bacon cheese fries?

5. Choolaah Indian BBQ (Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio)

@choolaahmosaic / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This popular spot mixes ancient clay cooking methods with modern Indian food like tandoor BBQ salmon over biriyani with fresh naan.

6. Cava (locations in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, North Carolina, and California)

@food.drunk / Instagram / Via instagram.com

What started as a DC-based chain now has locations from California to Connecticut. Think of it as a high-quality Chipotle for Mediterranean food offering build-your-own grain bowls, salads, and pita wraps stuffed with dips, proteins, and veggies. Rather than your basic add-ons, Cava gets creative with ingredients like falafel, spicy lamb meatballs, and cauliflower-quinoa tabouleh.

7. Honeygrow (Chicago, Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey, New York)

This Philly startup has already started expanding across the east coast. The menu is lined with vegetable-forward create-your-own stir-fries and salads.
@honeygrow / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This Philly startup has already started expanding across the east coast. The menu is lined with vegetable-forward create-your-own stir-fries and salads.

8. Souvla (San Francisco)

@souvlasf / Instagram / Via instagram.com, @magnumpr / Instagram / Via instagram.com

With three locations in San Francisco, Souvla is a dependable lunch spot for delicious Greek fare. It's hard to find something disappointing on the menu whether you order souvlaki in a pita or on a salad, a side of harissa fries, or a frozen Greek yogurt topped with baklava crumbles and honey syrup.

9. Taste Unlimited (Virginia)

With locations all around Virginia, Taste is a local favorite for sandwiches, salads, and wraps. The menu changes every season; visit during the fall and you'll find sandwich specials like the "Turkey and Stuffing" to prime your stomach for the holiday season.
@tasteunlimited / Instagram / Via instagram.com

With locations all around Virginia, Taste is a local favorite for sandwiches, salads, and wraps. The menu changes every season; visit during the fall and you'll find sandwich specials like the "Turkey and Stuffing" to prime your stomach for the holiday season.

10. Sweetgreen (locations across the US)

@phoodieur / Instagram / Via instagram.com, @lalibertebody / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Since it opened its first location in DC, this chain — with its focus on delicious salads made from local ingredients — has expanded across the Mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania, New York, Chicago, and California. The menu rotates often to highlight the freshest seasonal ingredients.

11. Made Nice (New York City)

@cathayche / Instagram / Via instagram.com

When the team behind the exclusive, Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park decided to open a fast-casual joint, people sort of lost their minds. The counter-serve spot, destined to be the most popular lunch spot in town, offers nine grain and salad bowls, roast chicken, and a handful of sides and desserts.

12. Bubu (Denver)

@bubu_denver / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Better-for-you Asian fusion bowls made with local ingredients is the name of the game at Bubu. You can build your own bowl, or pick from a handful of preset creations like the OG California, loaded with roasted carrots, quinoa, green chili, avocado, and pumpkin seeds.

13. Martina (New York City)

@h20gony / Instagram / Via instagram.com, @isnomalicious / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This fast-casual thin-crust pizza restaurant comes from Danny Meyer (the brains behind Shake Shack). Everything on the menu, from the funghi pizza to the chicken meatballs, costs less than $13.

14. Native Foods Cafe (California, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois)

@ahueats / Instagram / Via instagram.com

You might not expect dishes like taco salads and Reuben sandwiches to grace the menu of a vegan fast-casual restaurant, but Native Foods Cafe makes just about any indulgent dish meat- and dairy-free.

15. Torchy's Tacos (Texas and Denver)

@paniernyc / Instagram / Via instagram.com

There are a lot of good taco spots in Texas, but Torchy's is one of the best. It began as a food truck and now has locations around Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Denver, where they dish out everything from fried chicken tacos to queso.

16. Xoco (Chicago)

@mattbe_ / Instagram, @nelson_eats / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This Rick Bayless creation is a popular, casual spot for Mexican street food cooking. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll find sandwiches (called tortas), soups, and lots of churros on the menu.

17. Sweetfin Poke (Los Angeles)

@sweetfin / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Sure, poke is from Hawaii, but Los Angeles turned it into the trendiest lunch around...and that has a lot to do with Sweetfin Poke. Build your own bowl or, better yet, choose one of the signature items like Sriracha Tuna with sriracha ponzu sauce, seaweed salad, and avocado.

18. Good Stuff Eatery (Washington, DC)

@courtneywandeloski, @awildfeeling / Via instagram.com

This DC-based chain is the perfect place to get your burger fix for a reasonable price. The Prez Obama Burger, for example, comes with bacon, onion, and Roquefort cheese for just $7.69. There are also plenty of options for vegetarians like the Fried Green Tomato and the 'Shroom Burger.

19. Chi'lantro BBQ (Austin)

@moodangbulae / Instagram / Via instagram.com, @eatsbycat / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Chi'lantro started as a food truck and the owners appeared on Shark Tank with their idea. Now, there are four restaurants cooking up Korean-Mexican fusion. Expect dishes like spicy pork kimchi fries and tacos topped with kimchi and fried egg.

20. The Sosta (New York City)

@cityfoodie / Instagram / Via instagram.com

A newcomer to New York City's flourishing fast-casual scene, The Sosta is an Italian restaurant where quick, quality pastas, focaccias, and antipasto can be ordered for under $15. They serve brunch...and wine, which makes it a viable stop for any time of day.

21. Dig Inn (Boston and New York)

@healthful_radiance / Instagram / Via instagram.com

The menu at this NYC-born chain is veggie-centric...and they have a strange knack for making kale taste really good. Pick a protein like salmon or herb-grilled steak, then load your plate with vegetable side dishes such as charred Brussels sprouts and coconut-roasted carrots, all sourced from local farms.

22. &pizza (Mid-Atlantic and New York City)

@dcnomster / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Part cult and part pizza restaurant, &pizza is all about serving creative ingredients and good-for-you ingredients. You can create your own oblong pizza or order one of the hits like the "American Honey," garnished with spicy tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, arugula, red pepper flakes, goat cheese, and hot honey.

23. Bibibop (California, Ohio, DC, Maryland, and Illinois)

@wellbeingcafes / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Bibibop already has 12 locations around the state. Customers can choose from several twists on classic bimbimbap at this Korean grill.

24. Tacodeli (Texas)

@favor / Instagram, @thefoodtwinz / Instagram / Via instagram.com

With locations in Austin, Houston, and Dallas, Tacodeli boasts a huge selection of beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian tacos. Why settle for your basic al pastor when you can order the "Tacoloco," stuffed with adobo-braised brisket, caramelized onions, mushrooms, guacamole, cilantro, and queso fresco?

25. Unforked (Kansas and Missouri)

@unforked / Instagram / Via instagram.com

The menu at this Midwestern eatery is decadent and loaded with tacos, quesadillas, burgers, and fries, but you can feel good about your meal, which is made with local, seasonal, and fresh ingredients.

26. Piada Italian Street Food (Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania)

@boomtownbites / Instagram / Via instagram.com, @piadaitalianstreetfood / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This growing chain is the place to go for quick and fresh salads, pastas, and piadas: thin-crust, Italian dough baked on the grill and rolled up with cheese, veggies, and meat.

27. Lemonade (California)

@carlyrowena / Instagram / Via instagram.com

Lemonade is pretty much exactly what you'd expect when you think of a quick lunch in Los Angeles. The menu is made up of seasonal Californian comfort food, aka things like kale, quinoa, and avocado, plus a bunch of fresh-squeezed juices and teas.

28. Slim + Husky's (Tennessee)

@nashvillehungry / Instagram / Via instagram.com

This quick and casual Nashville pizza joint already has its eyes on a second Tennessee location. The pizzeria offers a handful of signature pies as well as a build-your-own option.

Top trending videos

Watch more BuzzFeed Video Caret right