HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
What have you made lately?

Best Fast-Casual Places

jordanhamons Jul 8, 2013 09:01 AM

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?

  1. w
    whiner Jul 15, 2013 01:10 AM

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

    1. TonyC Jul 12, 2013 04:09 PM

      Surati Farsan

      1. v
        VenusCafe Jul 11, 2013 03:45 PM

        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.


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

        1. s
          silence9 Jul 10, 2013 02:09 PM

          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
            schrutefarms Jul 10, 2013 02:47 PM

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

            1. re: schrutefarms
              silence9 Jul 11, 2013 10:34 AM

              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
                schrutefarms Jul 11, 2013 12:12 PM

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

            2. re: silence9
              Ogawak Jul 10, 2013 03:24 PM

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

            3. b
              bulavinaka Jul 9, 2013 08:12 PM

              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
                PeterCC Jul 9, 2013 08:20 PM

                Ah screw standards. :-)

                1. re: PeterCC
                  bulavinaka Jul 9, 2013 08:24 PM

                  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. d
                Dirtywextraolives Jul 9, 2013 07:38 PM

                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. e
                  Ernie Jul 9, 2013 12:06 PM

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

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ernie
                    jgilbert1000 Jul 9, 2013 12:39 PM

                    +1 for Fresh Corn Grill.

                  2. f
                    flowergirl Jul 9, 2013 07:39 AM

                    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. Servorg Jul 9, 2013 07:31 AM

                      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
                        Ciao Bob Jul 9, 2013 10:20 AM

                        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. o
                        Ogawak Jul 9, 2013 07:22 AM

                        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. b
                          BrewNChow Jul 8, 2013 11:08 PM

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

                          1. A5 KOBE Jul 8, 2013 10:33 PM

                            Santouka (not really fast though)
                            Miyabi Tei

                            1. s
                              selfportrait93 Jul 8, 2013 08:23 PM

                              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
                                linus Jul 8, 2013 10:21 PM


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

                                1. re: linus
                                  schrutefarms Jul 10, 2013 02:45 PM

                                  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. aching Jul 8, 2013 08:12 PM

                                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
                                  PeterCC Jul 8, 2013 08:29 PM

                                  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
                                    aching Jul 8, 2013 08:59 PM

                                    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
                                      PeterCC Jul 8, 2013 09:19 PM

                                      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
                                        aching Jul 9, 2013 08:04 AM

                                        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
                                          Servorg Jul 9, 2013 08:09 AM

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

                                          1. re: Servorg
                                            PeterCC Jul 9, 2013 08:19 AM

                                            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
                                              Servorg Jul 9, 2013 08:24 AM

                                              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
                                                PeterCC Jul 9, 2013 09:11 AM

                                                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
                                                  Servorg Jul 9, 2013 09:18 AM

                                                  "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
                                                    PeterCC Jul 9, 2013 10:01 AM

                                                    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
                                                      Servorg Jul 9, 2013 10:06 AM

                                                      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. ipsedixit Jul 8, 2013 07:07 PM

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

                                  1. t
                                    Thor123 Jul 8, 2013 09:58 AM

                                    Mendocino Farms
                                    Le Pain Quatidien
                                    Olio -pizza

                                    1. j
                                      jordanhamons Jul 8, 2013 09:47 AM

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

                                      1. wienermobile Jul 8, 2013 09:41 AM

                                        Zankou Chicken!

                                        & The Oinkster

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: wienermobile
                                          Savour Jul 10, 2013 09:29 AM

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

                                        2. PeterCC Jul 8, 2013 09:12 AM

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

                                          19 Replies
                                          1. re: PeterCC
                                            wienermobile Jul 8, 2013 09:17 AM

                                            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
                                              PeterCC Jul 8, 2013 09:27 AM

                                              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
                                                wienermobile Jul 8, 2013 09:30 AM

                                                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
                                                  PeterCC Jul 8, 2013 09:34 AM

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

                                                2. re: PeterCC
                                                  wienermobile Jul 8, 2013 09:31 AM

                                                  I forgot the new Top Round Roast Beef.

                                                  1. re: wienermobile
                                                    Mattapoisett in LA Jul 8, 2013 09:32 AM

                                                    I would Second Top Round

                                                    1. re: Mattapoisett in LA
                                                      CLowe Jul 14, 2013 09:53 PM

                                                      +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
                                                      PeterCC Jul 8, 2013 09:36 AM

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

                                                    3. re: PeterCC
                                                      ilysla Jul 11, 2013 11:57 AM

                                                      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
                                                        Thor123 Jul 11, 2013 12:00 PM

                                                        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
                                                          PeterCC Jul 11, 2013 01:14 PM

                                                          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
                                                            ilysla Jul 11, 2013 03:20 PM

                                                            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
                                                              PeterCC Jul 11, 2013 03:31 PM

                                                              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
                                                                Dirtywextraolives Jul 11, 2013 05:06 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  westsidegal Jul 13, 2013 12:53 AM

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

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                                                    Servorg Jul 13, 2013 05:52 AM

                                                                    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
                                                                  ilysla Jul 12, 2013 09:09 AM

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

                                                        2. re: wienermobile
                                                          westsidegal Jul 9, 2013 12:15 PM

                                                          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
                                                            schrutefarms Jul 10, 2013 02:42 PM

                                                            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 :)

                                                        Show Hidden Posts