City of fast casual love
QSR will visit Philadelphia on July 18 for a Fast Casual Meet Up, where fast-casual owners, operators, execs, managers, and employees can network with each other and the QSR editors over fresh bites, brews, and conversation at Yards Brewing Company. Click here for more information and to RSVP for this free event.
Philadelphia is famous for its cheesesteaks and hoagies, but there’s a wave of new fast casuals cropping up in the City of Brotherly Love that are worth attention, too. Many of these restaurants feature wholesome, customizable menus that take food back to the basics without skimping on convenience, flavor, or variety, offering customers a plethora of bites and beverages. Fast casuals of all stripes are planting their roots in the city, a scene that’s ripe for expansion. Check out these nine up-and-coming concepts in Philly worth keeping an eye on.
With more than 25 locations popping up in seven states since its inception in 2012, Honeygrow prides itself on high-quality menu options that offer vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters seeking a plant-based meal flavorful lunches, dinners, and desserts. Launched by Justin Rosenberg, a financial analyst who worked in Washington D.C.’s fine-dining scene to prep for opening his own restaurant, Honeygrow stays fresh in the ever-growing plant-forward fast casual scene by giving customers the control, allowing them to create their own salads and stir-fries, choosing from myriad dressings, veggies, and proteins. Guests can also visit the Honeybar, where they can whip up a combination of fresh fruits, honey or maple syrup, and other goodies such as house-made whipped cream and granola for a refreshing sweet treat.
With a highly customizable menu and smoothies and juices blended with purposes such as “weight loss” and “immune boost,” Bryn+Dane’s prides itself on making healthy food convenient and practical. Customers can choose exactly what proteins, sauces, vegetables, and other ingredients they want in their breakfast wraps, salads, quesadillas, hot bowls, and more, or they can choose a pre-picked combination to speed things up. Started by founder and CEO Bryn Davis in 2008 when he was just 22 years old and had $12,000 of start-up capital in his pocket, Bryn+Dane’s has now been making quality food a quick option for over 10 years, and has grown to four locations in the Philadelphia area—including two with drive thru
When Nicole Marquis founded HipCityVeg, she had one goal in mind: create a menu that was vegan but that didn’t skip fast-food classics such as burgers, chicken nuggets, and milkshakes. Now Marquis’ plant-based eatery serves golden chicken nuggets made from grains, crispy portobello sandwiches with a number of toppings, and seasonal soy-based milkshakes in various flavors. The spot is also open for breakfast at its Broad St. location, serving an AM Philly with tofu scramble, tempeh, mushrooms, and organic soy mayo on a long roll.
Farmer’s Keep offers something for everyone. With a menu that caters to gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and shellfish-free diets, the concept creates food that is safe for those with one or more of these six most common allergies. Farmer’s Keep offers fresh salads with a mix-and-match salad bar and two other signature salads; a number of fresh veggie sides, like curried cauliflower and raisins and roasted tomato quinoa; and a variety of proteins (chipotle adobo chicken, salisbury steak, mandarin glazed pork, barbecue ribs, and eggplant caponata). The fast casual is located in the heart of Philadelphia’s business district and also offers a host of craft beverages.
Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook modeled Dizengoff on Israeli hummus stalls, or hummusiyas—restaurants that are clustered throughout Israel and that serve inexpensive and delicious hummus. Their American hummus-stall twist serves fresh, rich hummus, of course, paired with hearth-baked pita, spiced meats, and hydrating beverages like Lemonnana, or frozen mint lemonade. The minds behind this eat-in/take-out spot got their concept off the ground with the goal of offering U.S. consumers a taste of Israel, and a second location inside City Center’s Whole Foods is proof of Dizengoff’s growing success.
Hatch & Coop
Hatch & Coop, a self-branded “chicken and egg joint,” touts a simple, straightforward menu that packs lots of taste punch. The concept offers a trio of egg sandwiches and bowls, a variety of pickle juice–brined crispy chicken sandwiches, an eggplant sandwich, a crunchy fried chicken salad, and a variety of sides, including popcorn chicken and fried pickles, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The restaurant earns points in three crucial fast-casual categories, serving food that’s quick, high quality, and affordably priced—and made to order, to boot.
SNAP Custom Pizza
SNAP Custom Pizza puts a modern twist on its made-from-scratch pizza by allowing customers to be in charge of their pie, selecting either a signature pizza like the Kennett Square with herb butter, arugula, goat cheese, and truffle oil, or tossing it up with their own selections from various sauces, cheeses, and toppings. Those who aren’t in the mood for pizza can choose from signature or custom salads, or can order from a selection of grain bowls. SNAP’s Philadelphia location is open until 3 a.m. on weekends, making it a perfect choice for late-night snacks
Five hospitality professionals (Dizengoff’s Solomonov and Cook, along with Tom Henneman, Felicia D’Ambrosio, and Bob Logue) teamed up to open Federal Donuts, a fast casual with a focus on comfort. Doughnuts, fried chicken, and coffee are the major players on Federal’s menu—specifically Hot Fresh Donuts that are straight from the fryer and rolled in house-blended sugars; Fancy Donuts topped with rotating glazes; twice-fried, crispy chicken; and affordable cups of hot and cold brew coffee. The concept is uncomplicated, with a curated menu of crowd favorites, most of which are served with a housemade honey doughnut. The brand now has seven Philadelphia-area locations.
Real Food Eatery
Real Food Eatery keeps things simple by bringing wholesome ingredients to customers’ plates with minimal adulteration. The fresh concept has spread across Philly with three locations, serving bowls for which the customer can choose a base (spring mix, kale, rice, or quinoa), an entree (like braised beef, salmon fillet, or organic tofu), a sauce, and two warm or cold sides ranging from Asian cabbage slaw to balsamic beets with walnuts and goat cheese. Signature bowls offer customers pre-made options, and the healthy fast casual also offers gluten-free desserts, including triple chocolate brownies.