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Best Fast-Casual Places

I'll be in town for a few days and I'd like to try some of LA's best fast casual restaurants. What places are hot right now?

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  1. I really like Tender Greens, Burger Lounge, and Lemonade in the fast-casual space.

    19 Replies
    1. re: PeterCC

      Agree with all three on Peter CC's list
      and would also include
      Veggie Grill
      800 Degrees
      TLT Westwood
      Mendocino Farms
      Fundmental LA
      Malibu Fish Grill
      Papa Cristo's
      & Oleego by Park’s Barbecue

      1. re: wienermobile

        Is Fundamental LA considered fast-casual? Haven't been.

        For some reason I had it in my head that it needed to be a chain (or chain-let) but there's no reason for that. I guess my criteria for fast-casual is ordering at the counter but table service after? If so, then I'd also add Thyme and Huckleberry (grudgingly, for the food--service has been poor in my experience) to the list. Would Amandine count?

        (Can't remember now if Farmshop for breakfast/brunch/lunch did the counter-table service hybrid or just table service. City Bakery before that was counter-table hybrid.)

        Haven't been yet but am interested to try Chipotle's sister restaurant ShopHouse. Got some good reviews including this one: http://midtownlunch.com/los-angeles/2.... Will probably wait until SM location opens to try.

        Didn't love Seasalt Fish Grill, but it's another new player in the fast-casual space, and it's seafood, which is still relatively rare in fast-casual.

        1. re: PeterCC

          At lunch you order & pay at the counter at Fundamental LA and then they bring the food to your table. I think that's fast casual.

          1. re: wienermobile

            Okay, that's my definition too (I edited my comment above to include my own criteria, which matches yours).

          2. re: PeterCC

            I forgot the new Top Round Roast Beef.
            http://eattopround.com

            1. re: wienermobile

              I would Second Top Round

              1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                +1 Top Round. Just ate there last night, it'd be a fun stop, albeit a heavy one. I recommend the cheesy fries.

              2. re: wienermobile

                Eat to Pround? ;-) It's on my must try.

              3. re: PeterCC

                Is Fish Grill the place w/ 2 locations (Brentwood [in the Ross complex] and Beverlywood)? If so, I don't know if it's that new (I think it's been there for at least several yrs, no?). I *want* to love that place, but the salmon is just a wee bit on the bland side....

                Got a coupon for Burger Lounge. How does the burger there compare to Father's Office?

                To the OP, I don't know anything about industry definitions, but I liked Clusi Batsui on Sawtelle. Also like Milo and Olive (or Plan Check) and Huckleberry, but I definitely would NOT consider the former to be fast and the second is only less slow when going on a weekday.... (although the food at all is wonderful).

                1. re: ilysla

                  Had a lamb burger at the new Burger Lounge in Brentwood the other day (with fries). It was very tasty. Not real large. The fries were good but could have been more well done to my liking. Have not been to FO to compare.

                  1. re: ilysla

                    Seasalt Fish Grill is in SM. Related to Jack & Jill. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/902896.

                    I didn't like the burger at FO as much as I thought I would. Burger Lounge's burgers are much less fussy. And like Thor123 said, not too big, unlike the Counter or even Umami. Their turkey burger is decent, and their special burgers of the month are interesting. I liked the lamb one and also the elk one from a while back.

                    1. re: PeterCC

                      Thanks, Thor123 and PeterCC, for the responses. I don't think the FO burger is transcendent, but it's just a damn good burger. =) Although I think I actually liked the meat quality itself is better at Umani (didn't like anything else about Umani, though).

                      I'm actually fine w/ a small burger (how much red meat does one really need???), and the fact that it's almost w/i walking distance will make me feel less guilty about consuming all that fat if I can convince myself to walk there. =) Very intrigued by a lamb burger.

                      Not at all familiar w/ Seasalt Fish Grill. Will have to catch up on that thread....

                      1. re: ilysla

                        Related to this burger-related line of comments, and also to the thread in general, another fast-casual burger place that hasn't been mentioned here is Pono Burger. They're also not massive in size a la Counter/Hole in the Wall, and they've got some interesting special burgers too. If Burger Lounge is almost walking distance (assuming the SM location) the Pono is probably as well. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/900755

                        1. re: PeterCC

                          I guess I may be in the minority, but I've never considered either the Counter's or HITW's burgers to be "massive". I think they're perfectly sized!

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            the Counter serves 1/3 lb burgers.
                            not massive in my book.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              I think when it comes to the Counter people think of them as serving massive burgers because if you want a patty bigger than the 1/3 lb version their menu then jumps up to a 2/3 lb patty and from there to a 1 lb patty. Most other places offer a 1/2 lb patty as their default "bigger" patty. So by comparison to most places the Counter offers what can easily be considered a "massive" patty.

                          2. re: PeterCC

                            No, I'm closer to the Brentwood one. But maybe I can find a BBB that'll take me to Pono. ;)

                  2. re: wienermobile

                    i just ate at veggie grill last week,
                    gotta say, either i've become more picky or it has gone down some.
                    the menu is focused on fake meat.
                    maybe because now fake meat is now widely available at almost any grocery store (gardein brand), i no longer see any reason to drive to veggie grill for a meal that won't even fill me up until dinnertime.

                    1. re: wienermobile

                      PeterCC and wienermobile have all my faves--Tender Greens, Mendocino, Lemonade probably top that list. For tacos, though, I would do either Pinches (the Mexican corn is the best ever) or Loteria. They both serve beer, which is a plus :)

                  3. Zankou Chicken!
                    http://www.zankouchicken.com

                    & The Oinkster
                    http://www.theoinkster.com

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: wienermobile

                      At the Oinkster you have to try their Ube shake. Mmmm.

                    2. Awesome! Thanks so much for the great suggestions. I forget to mention that I especially love Pizza & Mexican so keep the suggestions coming!

                      1. Lemonade
                        Mendocino Farms
                        Le Pain Quatidien
                        Olio -pizza

                        1. Any place in SGV that does *not* have cloth tablecloths, or tablecloths at all.

                          1. I agree with 800 Degrees, TLT Westwood, Zankou Chicken, and Mendocino Farms. I would add Umami Burger/Umamicatessan, Plan Check, Seoul Sausage, Wurstkuche, Cole's, Joan's on Third, and Milo & Olive. Some of those places have table service, but I still would consider them to be fast casual.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: aching

                              Wurstkuche I agree is fast casual but not Umami, Plan Check, or M&O since they are table service. Doesn't mean they're not great. I also wouldn't consider Seoul Sausage, since there's no seating. Otherwise fast-casual becomes completely meaningless.

                              1. re: PeterCC

                                I was just thinking of restaurants that are "fast" and "casual", but I guess "fast-casual" has a more specific definition.

                                There is in fact seating at Seoul Sausage, albeit limited (it's outside).

                                1. re: aching

                                  There is industry definition where there's at least partial table service but not full table service (and not no service either), which usually ends up meaning lining up to order but then sitting down and then staff brings it out to you. Staff will also clear finished plates and refill drinks.

                                  1. re: PeterCC

                                    So I learned from Wikipedia! However, by that definition, I think many of these suggestions don't apply. At Zankou Chicken, for instance, they don't bring you your food or clear finished plates or refill drinks - so I guess it would be fast food, not fast-casual.

                                    I would be interested if the OP was looking for restaurants that specifically fit that definition?

                                    1. re: aching

                                      Let's not be so rigorous about adhering to a definition that we lose sight of the main objective...the food.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        The issue is that the OP specifically asked about fast casual for whatever reason. If we don't try to adhere to some criteria then we're trying to answer a much broader question, like "what are some of LA's hot, non-upscale restaurants?" I agree with Aching--perhaps the OP should clarify more what he's looking for?

                                        1. re: PeterCC

                                          Since we don't know the OP's definition of that term we are left to come up with our own. I err on the side of the food first and the other possible criteria second. YMMV

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            The names of the places are already posted, we don't have that much power that by saying "I don't think that a 'fast-casual' place" that it would be stricken from the thread, so the OP or anyone else has the benefit of both getting the name of a place and the debate about its fast-casual-ness.

                                            1. re: PeterCC

                                              "The names of the places are already posted..."

                                              What does that mean? You lost me there.

                                              (And isn't a "fast casualty" someone who got hurt in a sudden accident?)

                                              For those that are left wondering, Peter seems to have changed "fast casualty" to "fast-casual-ness" after my on purpose, accidental humor...

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                I just mean that, for example, Seoul Sausage was already mentioned, so even though I am arguing that it's not fast-casual, the OP and anyone else can still consider that recommendation. So I don't think it's a bad thing to debate whether a restaurant mentioned in this thread is fast-casual.

                                                Unless you think by trying to hew to the OP's request, people may leave out recommendations, I don't think that's happening specifically because it's not fully clear what the OP's intent was. If I had a place I really wanted to recommend but wasn't sure if it was fast-casual, I'd just post it and ask if it counts (or just post it).

                                                On the edit, yes I changed my mind on going for the joke. Sorry.

                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  Got it now. Thanks. I just wanted to encourage other hounds that might be thinking of chiming in to not worry overly much about any definition of "fast casual" and just go ahead and let fly with their recommendations...especially in light of the OP not giving any indication what-so-ever of what s/he meant by that term.

                            2. Philippe's is fast and very casual. I don't know if it is hot right now. But lines are still forming after 100 years.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: selfportrait93

                                fast?

                                anywhere near conventional meal times and you're waiting. and waiting. and waiting.

                                1. re: linus

                                  And if there is a Dodgers or USC game letting out, don't even bother. Casual, yes. Delicious, definitely. Fast? No. Maybe if it's 3PM.

                              2. Rounds
                                PieOlogy
                                Santouka (not really fast though)
                                Miyabi Tei

                                1. Simpang Asia is fantastic and usually very very fast. Wish there was something like it in the OC

                                  1. Good luck getting thru these lists. Maybe try eating 5 meals a day?

                                    Guisados, try the taco sampler plate
                                    Ricky's Fish Tacos on weekends
                                    Bludso's Bar & Que or the original Bludso's in Compton
                                    Settebello Neapolitan Pizza
                                    Chichen Itza Yucatan Mexican
                                    Tsujita or Tsujita Annex for tsukemen ramen.

                                    1. Dino's. I go to the one on Pico Blvd. but the others may be equally good as well. http://www.dinoschickenandburgers.com/ Get the grilled chicken with fries, tortillas and slaw. $5.50

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        Dino's is my favorite on the whole list for fast and casual.
                                        Huckleberry is neither. IMHO, HB manages to be both slow and fancy, despite being an order-at-the-counter type of "fast casual" place.

                                      2. Tender Greens - great salads etc , several locations
                                        Mendocino Farms - good sandwiches, several locations
                                        Wurstkuche - sausage & great fries, Venice & downtown
                                        Mulberry Street Pizza - B H

                                        Great variety at Original Farmers Market - burgers at Short Order and gumbo at The Gumbo Pot are my favorite.

                                        1. I like Tender Greens, Mendocino Farms, Lemonade, and Fresh Corn Grill

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Ernie

                                            +1 for Fresh Corn Grill.

                                          2. Hole in the Wall burgers
                                            Big Jo's burgers
                                            Tacos por Favor

                                            Don't know if these are hot, just some of my faves and not yet mentioned in this thread :)

                                            1. Gjelina Take Away (GTA) doesn't fit PeterCC's/industry standards but the food is excellent, it's very casual, but time varies depending on what's ordered. Most prepared counter items are quick. Sandwiches are about five minutes, pizzas and entrees are five to eight minutes. The food is to-go but the majority of folks eat off to the side, sitting on milk crates.

                                              Baked goods and desserts here are excellent for the most part. What's offered is highly dependent on what's in season and what fancies the bake chef. Still dreaming about the banana cream pie, coconut macaroons and chocolate avocado pudding that randomly appeared on the counter.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                Ah screw standards. :-)

                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  Nah - you make great points (as always). I just thought I'd push the envelope with this rec because the food is truly remarkable for takeout.

                                              2. Since the OP mentioned pizza requests in a follow up reply, I will mention Vito's Pizza on La Cienega. Great by-the-slice selection. A slice joint where one can actually sit, chew and digest. Pretty fast, pretty casual...

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: silence9

                                                  Joe's Pizza is pretty damn great, too, with locations in Santa Monica, Weho, and Hollywood.

                                                  1. re: schrutefarms

                                                    Hi... I agree about Joe's. I have a very specific ritual every time I visit the Santa Monica location: I order two slices to go, lay the slices on top of each other, then re-create a young John Travolta's opening sequence from Saturday Night Fever, striding down the Promenade wolfing down the layered slices and making goo-goo eyes at the young ladies I pass, with my mouth stuffed full of delicious crust and sauce and cheese. I know I look goofy, but Joe's pizza puts me in such a good mood, I pretend I'm in Brooklyn circa 1977 and hoover down my slices...

                                                    1. re: silence9

                                                      Let me know when you are going next, and I'll follow you with a boom box playing "Stayin' Alive".

                                                  2. re: silence9

                                                    Vito's is still great even with the influx of Neapolitan joints. Pizza and Calzone.

                                                  3. Fish Grill (not Malibu Fish Grill, but Fish Grill IN Malibu!

                                                    We go all the time and really enjoy it. The service is very friendly and fast.
                                                    It also has locations in Brentwood, on Beverly and on Wilshire near Bundy.

                                                    http://www.fishgrill.com/index.html

                                                    The Tacos are WONDERFUL, with mesquite grilled fish, and the dinner plate varieties are also great.

                                                    1. Surati Farsan

                                                      1. 800 Degrees
                                                        Umami Burger (though it might be closer to quick casual dining)
                                                        Freebirds is a solid burrito chain