After years of recognizing the best fine dining establishments, TripAdvisor decided to change up its annual Traveler’s Choice awards last year. Travelers aren’t heading to specific destinations solely for one type of dining experience and the world’s largest travel site recognized that. So it decided to add a “Fast Casual” category to the awards lineup.
The site also added an “Everyday Dining” breakdown that rewards concepts that “provide great meals for any occasions.”
TripAdvisor defines the fast-casual ranking as honoring restaurants that “offer high-quality meals at a great value to diners on the go.” In the second year of the new award category, some of the fast casual chains remained in the top 10 list, while others were replaced by chains that are gaining popularity.
One fact that remains the same is Americans continue to love burgers. Six out of the top 10 fast casuals are known for their burgers.
Find out who knocked Portillo’s Hot Dogs out of first place using the arrows above.
To view the full list of 2019 Travelers' Choice award-winning restaurants, including TripAdvisor diners' favorite restaurants in the world, visit here.
Methodology: As with all categories, TripAdvisor picked the winners using an algorithm that takes into account the quantity and quality of reviews for restaurants over a 12-month period. Note the list applies not to the overall chain, but to a high-performing individual location in the listed cities.
10. Kewpee Hamburgers in Lima, Ohio
With over 100 years of experience in the burger business, Kewpee Hamburgers knows a thing or two about building the perfect burger. The first location opened in Flint, Michigan, however, the brand’s three remaining locations can be found in Lima, Ohio.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "You cannot go wrong when choosing Kewpee for a meal."
9. Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers in Orlando, Florida
While Freddy’s roots are in Wichita, Kansas, it’s been able to grow to over 320 locations across the U.S. since opening in 2002. Most of the expansion is due to the brand’s aggressive franchise strategy. Over the years, Freddy’s has joined brands like Jersey Mike’s Subs and Chicken Salad Chick, on QSR’s roundup of Best Franchise Deals. Most recently, the brand reported some franchisees are surpassing average unit volumes of $1.5 million.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "Every bit as tasty as we expected."
8. Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Honolulu, Hawaii
The Hawaii-based chain opened two decades ago and for a while the burger joint was only available to locals and tourists. In 2016, Teddy’s decided to head to the mainland opening locations in Seattle, Washington and Iowa City, Iowa. Today, the brand continues to grow with locations planned for the U.S. and in other countries.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "These are the kinds of burgers you dream of."
7. Tacos el Gordo in Las Vegas, Nevada
The San Diego-base chain opened in 1998. Over a decade later, the brand expanded into Las Vegas. Specializing in authentic Tijuana tacos, the menu is crafted using fresh produce and ingredients. The corn tortillas are handmade and the salsa and guacamole is made from scratch each day.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "We wanted a place with authentic Mexican street food and we found the perfect place."
6. Five Guys in New York, New York
Five Guys’ straightforward menu of simple, quality burgers and fries is one of the secrets behind its success. Since opening in 1986, the chain has been a favorite around the Washington D.C. area. It wasn’t until 2003 when Five Guys began franchising that its growth really ramped up. Now, the brand operates over 1,350 locations across the U.S. and over a dozen countries around the world.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "Good quality and unbelievably tasty burgers."
5. Portillo’s Hot Dogs in Chicago, Illinois
Portillo’s is a Windy City treasure and a brick-and-mortar ballad to many things Chicagoans hold dear, namely hot dogs and Italian beef. Owner and founder Dick Portillo opened his first hot dog stand in 1963 in Villa Park, Illinois. Private-equity firm Berkshire Partners bought the Oak Brook, Illinois-based brand for close to $1 billion in 2014.
Per The Chicago Tribune, Portillo’s was growing its unit count at a rate of 10–15 percent each year under Keith Kinsey’s leadership, opening its first restaurants in Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Central Illinois. Kinsey retired last year. Today Portillo’s operates 60 locations.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "This is a go-to place to try Chicago cuisine: Italian beef or a Chicago style dog."
4. The Taco Stand in La Jolla, California
San Diegans don’t have to leave town to enjoy Tijuana–style street food. The Taco Stand draws inspiration from the famed taco stands of Tijuana to create menu items. Since opening in 2013 the local spot has grown into a small chain in Southern California with outposts in Miami and a new location set to open in Las Vegas.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "We ate here 3 times in 6 days it was that good."
3. In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, California
The California-based burger chain’s rich history goes all the way back to 1945 when the first location opened in Baldwin Park, California, just east of Los Angeles. As the brand grew and expanded, it picked up a cult following with diners flocking to get an Animal-Style burger.
In 2019, the 338-unit chain ranked No. 34 on QSR’s list of the Top 50 Fast-Food Chains in America. Last December, the chain was named the No. 3 employer of choice in Glassdoor’s annual ranking, beating out the likes of Google and Facebook.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "I make sure I stop here for a burger and fries every time I plan a trip to the West Coast."
2. Shake Shack in Miami Beach, Florida
Shake Shack started out as a hot dog cart in New York City in 2001. Over the past two decades, the chain has become known for its burgers and shakes. The brand now operates 250 locations in 30 U.S. States, along with 85 international locations.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "For me, their burgers are the best in the world."
1. Earl of Sandwich in Orlando, Florida
A quick look at the chain’s history reveals its iconic ties to the creation of the sandwich. Earl of Sandwich was co-founded by the 11th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, a descendent of the man who invented the bread-and-meat meal more than 250 years ago.
It’s been 15 years since Montagu teamed up with his son Orlando Montagu and Planet Hollywood’s Robert Earl to create the now-nationwide chain. The brand has stayed true to itself, continuing to serve up simple sandwiches hot and fast and look for passionate franchisees.
“We are delighted and honored to have been voted the No. 1 top Fast Casual restaurant by TripAdvisor travelers,” Robert Earl, co-founder of Earl of Sandwich, said in a statement. “On behalf of my partner, John Montagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich and myself, I want to thank TripAdvisor travelers for recognizing our commitment to excellence. I also want to thank our amazing EoS team for their hard work and dedication.”
QSR recently spoke with Robert Earl about the last 15 years of Earl of Sandwich, franchising and growth plans moving forward, and, of course, the brand’s storied origins. Read more about the future of the brand here.
What TripAdvisor diners say: "This place is amazing the food is so delicious."
The everyday winners
These restaurants took top honors in TripAdvisor's new everyday dining rankings:
1. Pane & Vino in Miami Beach, Florida
Popular dishes: Spaghetti alla Ruota, cappelletti verdi tartufati
2. Carmine's Italian Restaurant in Times Square – New York City, New York
Popular dishes: Penne alla vodka, stuffed mushrooms
3. 5 Napkin Burger in New York City, New York
Popular dishes: 5 Napkin Burger, wings
4. 11th Street Diner in Miami Beach, Florida
Popular dishes: Burger, pancakes
5. Piccola Cucina Osteria in New York City, New York
Popular dishes: Arancini, octopus
6. Fog Harbor Fish House in San Francisco, California
Popular dishes: Clam chowder, salmon
7. Duke's Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii
Popular dishes: Fish tacos, ribs
8. The Crab Pot Seafood Restaurant in Seattle, Washington
Popular dishes: Clams, Dungeness
9. Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C.
Popular dishes: Oysters, crab cakes
10. Blue Heaven in Key West, Florida
Popular dishes: Lobster benedict, jerk chicken
Where fine dining ranks
These restaurants took top honors in TripAdvisor's new fine dining rankings:
1. Daniel in New York City, New York (also ranked #21 in the world overall)
Popular dishes: Foie gras, amuse bouches
2. Halls Chophouse in Charleston, South Carolina
Popular dishes: Prime rib, crab cakes
3. GW Fins in New Orleans, Louisiana
Popular dishes: Soft shell crab, lobster dumplings
4. Lahaina Grill in Lahaina, Hawaii
Popular dishes: Wagyu beef ravioli, triple berry pie
5. Geronimo in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Popular dishes: Elk tenderloin, sea bass
6. Charleston Grill in Charleston, South Carolina
Popular dishes: Foie gras, crab cakes
7. Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina
Popular dishes: Lobster "3 Way," coconut cake
8. Mama's Fish House in Paia, Hawaii
Popular dishes: Stuffed fish, panang curry
9. Merriman's in Waimea, Hawaii
Popular dishes: Monchong, lamb chops
10. The Bazaar by Jose Andres – Miami Beach, Florida
Popular dishes: Smoked oysters, dragon fruit ceviche