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Well-Known Chefs Turn to Fast-Casual Dining

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The "Lobster Press" sandwich at Marc Forgione's new restaurant. 

Photo courtesy of Mark Rywelski 

The "Lobster Press" sandwich at Marc Forgione's new restaurant. 

The next level of Chipotle and Shake Shack has arrived.

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The phenomenon of high-quality food served in a fast-paced environment has caught on in recent years, making fine cuisine much more accessible to the masses. Now, big-name chefs like José Andrés, David Chang, and Marc Forgione have gotten into the fast-casual game, opening less-formal restaurants in several cities around the country. See the list of recent openings, along with those getting ready to make their debut. 

Fuku in New York, NY

This past year, Momofuku Group unleashed Fuku—a sandwich shop with a menu focused on fried chicken. In addition to Chef David Chang’s spicy fried chicken sandwich ($8), the restaurant also serves fuku fingers (chicken fingers, $7), koreano (a second spicy chicken sandwich, $9), and fuku salad (the vegetarian option, $6). The concept now has an East Village location, a stall in Madison Square Garden, and a midtown location called Fuku+ with an expanded menu. 

LocoL in Los Angeles, CA
Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson teamed up to create LocoL, working to serve the L.A. community healthier cuisine at affordable prices. “We’re going to build a concept with the ideology, heart, and science of a chef, but relevance of the McDonalds and Burger Kings out there,” says Choi. The menu includes a bbq turkey burger ($4), crushed tofu and veggie stew bowl ($6),  and snack foods like spicy corn chips ($1). 

Porano Pasta in St. Louis, MO
When Chef Gerard Craft visited the small town of Porano, Italy, he was inspired by the place, people, and—last but not least—cuisine. He was so inspired that Craft brought the Italian food back to Missouri with opening this buzzing joint. At Porano Pasta, customers create their own personalized bowl by choosing a base, sauce, main vegetable/protein, and additional toppings, all for under $9. Not only does this fast-paced joint pride itself on Italian eats, but also on local art—seen hanging on the walls and to-go bags.

The Lobster Press in New York, NY
Just last month, Chef Marc Forgione opened his first fast-casual dining spot at The Pennsy, Penn Station’s new culinary hub. Lobster supplier Homarus partnered with the cuisine expert to bring the concept of on-the-go lobster to life. On the menu, Forgione incorporates his popular Chili Lobster dish with the “Lobster Press” panini sandwich ($17)—one of many lobster-focused items available for order. 

Made Nice in New York, NY
Co-owners of the NoMad hotel and bar are making big plans that include a casual atmosphere. Chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara have announced the opening of Made Nice—a counter-service restaurant focusing on seasonal vegetables, grains, starches, and proteins. Slated to open in either the spring or summer, the new joint is located right next to the NoMad Bar and is expected to be a hit.

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Beefsteak in Washington, D.C.
Fresh vegetables are the main focus when it comes to Beefsteak, which recently opened a second location in Dupont Circle. Chef José Andrés uses seasonal and year-round veggie favorites to create fresh bowls, plus a BEETsteak sandwich ($6) made with marinated beets and pickled red onions. All the items are listed on the menu as vegetarian, but diners can add chicken or salt-cured salmon to any item.

The Charter Oak in St. Helena, CA
The Meadowood team is working on The Charter Oak, a restaurant focused around family-styled dining that falls somewhere in between casual and formal. Chef Christopher Kostow and his cuisine is taking over the historic space that formerly housed Tra Vigne. Located in the heart of St. Helena, where fine dining options are around every corner,  guests will pour their own wine and help themselves to the bourbon and dessert cart. 

>> Next: How Hawaii Turns a Local Into a Chef 

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