The Rise of Fast Casual Restaurants

Fast Casual RestaurantsI’ve been thinking a lot about the presence of fast casual restaurants. I’m really not opposed to them but they have found a niche in America between the fast food hamburger or fried chicken and the sit down meal. It’s almost like fast casual has replaced the diner. Diners solve that ‘I need a quick meal and don’t want to cook’ question.  Now we have fast casual restaurants. These places are defined as not having table service while providing a higher quality meal than fast food with less frozen and packaged products.  I’ll say that sometimes they can be a healthier alternative but others might just be as caloric as those fast food joints of yesteryear. Often times they are foods of an ethic sort or something that most people aren’t likely to cook at home so well.

I remember I was in college when Chipotle came to Columbus, Ohio-it was such a new and exciting option. Columbus is an ideal test market for food for it’s ideal cross section of America. So it certainly got more than it’s fair share of new restaurants.  Chipotle was the perfect solution to the college cafeteria. I fell in love iwth the barbacoa burrito and am still sad that it isn’t a standard on the menu today.  Several years later, Chipotle restaurants popped up wherever I visited. That first Chipotle that I stepped was a seminal moment in food history at the beginning of fast causal dining.

A few decades later, fast casual is the way of the world. Washington, DC seems to be popping up these restaurants by the day. Some are national chains while others are local startups: Nandos, Sweet Green, Shophouse, Good Stuff Eatery, Cave Mezze Grill are just a few around here.  I’m also loving finding out about fast casual restaurants popping up across the country. I’m looking forward to hitting up many when we go on trips.


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