Fast-Casual restaurants seem to be the new white table cloth restaurants. How scary would that be if it was actually true! However, in reality, fast-casual restaurants are in fact taking over New York City using Chipotle’s original business model. You can get Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Poké, BBQ, and I have no doubt that it hasn’t even reached it’s peak yet. Sometimes you just want to grab your food and go and pretend you are in fact eating a high class great meal. Luckily, the people are getting what they want which is quality, fresh ingredients made fast. ByChloe for example has even created a loyal following with its cutesy handwriting, logos, and creative names to help people forget that it’s a vegan chain. See below for some of the top fast-casual restaurants where you can still enjoy a meal with friends without having to go to the hottest new restaurant in town. To be clear, my definition of fast-casual is any place where you order at the counter.
- Inday (Nomad)– This is a Indian spot makes you feel like you are almost in a West Elm. With sleek tables, you don’t have to run out of here if you want to stay. It’s all bowls here. Go for the “Not Rice” shredded cauliflower ‘rice’ base, shaved broccoli, raisins, slaw, onions and flaked salmon belly with coconut chutney. It keeps you grounded and not overly full.
- ByChloe (West Village + Flatiron) – If you are indeed following a vegan diet, go for a burger. If you eat meat, just eat a regular burger as it’s probably the same amount of calories. I love the salads here. The Quinoa Taco Salad is somehow better than a regular taco salad with ground beef and they use Spicy Seitan Chorizo. I can also eat The Greek everyday. That dijon vinaigrette is the best.
- Korilla BBQ (East Village)– When Korean plays fire with BBQ. You know the drill: Burrito, Rice Bowl, Noodle Bowl, Salad, Tacos. All the kimchi add ons you could dream of and great veggies.
- Cava Grill (Union Square)– The popular Mediterranean D.C. chain finally made it to the city. All homemade dips (crazy feta is the best), all fresh, local farm ingredients, and homemade proteins and pita.
- Mulberry & Vine (Nomad + Tribeca)– Can’t get enough of their sweet potatoes, spicy broccoli, and endless feel-good protein and vegetable options. The Tofu, Cauliflower Ragout, and Braised Chicken with lemon kill!
- The Little Beet (Midtown + Nomad) – All gluten-free all the time. You have your standard protein (chicken, steak, salmon) and two sides (kale, green beans, soba noodles, lentils) or can go for sushi style rolls and bowls.
- Dizengoff (Chelsea Market)- If you’ve never heard of Zahav, you need to read about my favorite Israeli dining experience in Philly. Lucky for us New Yorker’s, the owner Michael has brought his beloved fast-casual hummus, pita, and all the fixings to NYC. The fluffy pita is everything. (below)
- Mighty Quinn’s BBQ (West + East Village, UES) – The place that made me fall in love with burnt ends. Love their pickled add-ons as well.
- Taqueria Diana (Chelsea + East Village) – Those moments where you just need that stuffed cheesy quesadilla is here for you. They fill it with beans as well which is a surprise, but I don’t mind it. Tacos and nachos do well!
- Glaze Teriyaki (Union Square) – Sometimes you just crave that teriyaki sauce and need a good Asian flavor to-go. The salmon and chicken thigh are the way to go here. The brown rice is hearty and soft as can be.
- Beyond Sushi (Chelsea Market + USQ) – The whole point of sushi is to get that fresh tuna and yellowtail right? Well, somehow, the crew at Beyond Sushi tricked me into liking vegetarian sushi. The black rice really takes it home and anything with mango and sweet potato.
On the look out: Daniel Humm and Will Guidara are opening their first quick service spot this fall. Will be fun to see how the Eleven Madison Park duo elevates food in an affordable way at Made Nice.