This past year, we saw a lot of new restaurant chains merging the once-wide gap between fast food and health food—making it that much easier to grab wholesome grub in a jiffy. If you thought your busy schedule perpetuated the McDonald’s habit you resolved to cut, think again.
These up-and-coming, niche crowd-attracting restaurants listed below are infiltrating the mainstream as well as your go-to fast food drive-thrus. Whether they’re serving up seasonal and sustainable fare or offering customer transparency, you’re definitely going to want to pay them a visit. Find out which chains we’re most excited to see grow, and don’t forget to check out The 15 Healthiest Restaurant Meals of 2017.
Founded in 2007, this sustainable salad chain grew to over 70 locations along the East Coast as well as in California and Illinois since its inception. Sweetgreen prides itself on offering wholesome, seasonal food while practicing environmental stewardship and transparency. Wondering what kind of bowls are on its ever-changing menu? SG serves up seasonal bowls such as Curry Cauliflower and staples including the Shroomami.
Somewhat like the Mediterranean version of Chipotle, Cava allows customers to build their own salads and bowls made with healthful favorites such as falafel, spicy lamb meatballs, and cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh. Cava opened doors to about nine locations in 2017, bumping its nationwide stores to over 40. Keep your eyes peeled for a bunch more locations coming soon to Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
Salad and Go
Welcome to the future, where fast food is no longer limited to fattening burger-and-fry options. Salad and Go, which launched circa 2013, offers salads, wraps, soups, and smoothies all conveniently handed to you via drive-thru. The chain has 10 locations in Arizona and plans to expand nationwide by the end of 2018, Business Insider reports.
Finally, both vegan and carnivores can dine on a delicious meal under the same roof. The fully vegan and kosher eatery is based in New York, California, and the U.K. and offers delightful bean-based burgers, air-baked fries (that rival McDonald’s, big time!), and almond butter toast. Despite By Chloe’s recent 2015 debut, Inc. reports that it’s on track to garner an impressive $30 million in revenue by the end of 2017.
Freshii, the Canadian fast-casual that opened its doors in 2005, has expanded both nationally and internationally, boasting about 345 locations! It serves up tasty bowls, salads, burritos, frozen yogurt, and more, and will “likely finish the year with 90 to 95 net new unit openings,” according to Nation’s Restaurant News. What’s even more impressive, Freshii wanted to partner with McDonald’s to help them serve more health-focused food.
After rebranding in early 2017, the salad giant experienced a significant boost in sales. Just Salad currently has upwards of 33 locations in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and Kansas, as well as in Hong Kong and Dubai. “Just Salad keeps prices lower than the competition by minimizing expensive build-outs and large marketing budgets, relying almost exclusively on word-of-mouth to attract customers,” Chief Branding Officer, Rosalin Anderson, told QSR. The chain announced plans to expand both nationally and internationally in the near future.
With hearty grub options like herb-roasted chicken and the best maple-sriracha Brussels sprouts you’ve ever had, Dig Inn is taking New York and Massachusetts by storm. In 2017, the farm-to-table restaurant debuted new locations in both NYC and Boston, with its flagship store nestling itself in the heart of NYC’s SoHo.
Veggie Grill’s plant-based menu currently graces about 30 locations on the West Coast and in Chicago. Following a generous investment, Veggie Grill plans to double in size by 2020. We can’t wait to try its Grilled Quinoa + Veg Burger and the Koreatown Tacos. If you’re all about veggie-centered meals, you may want to try any of our 30 Vegetarian Soups For Weight Loss.