Fast food with a foodie emphasis? What a concept. These eateries dish up quality chow in record time. Fresh ingredients, pleasing presentation, and a lighter-than-Whoppers palate distinguish this brave new “quick casual” breed.
www.chipotle.com; 100 outlets including Austin, Kansas City, Phoenix, and San Diego. Burritos and tacos cooked to please even gourmet tastes. Lime and cilantro spice the rice, cumin boosts the black beans, and adobo marinade dresses the chicken. An open grill for meats backs the burrito assembly line, where servers customize your meal. Don’t miss the tres varieties of salsa. Beer and margaritas complete the adult-friendly feel.
CORNER BAKERY CAFE
www.cornerbakery.com; 58 locations in Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Atlanta, and others. You’ll wish you had one on your corner. Corner Bakery makes 31 varieties of fresh bread, selling them by the loaf and also slicing them into sandwiches as deluxe as roast beef, arugula, balsamic roasted onions, and basil, on olive ciabatta. The extensive menu also includes savory soups and Caesar salads — all served in a handsome, wood-trimmed cafe.
COSI SANDWICH BAR
www.xandocosi.com; 43 outlets, including New York, Boston, Hartford, and Philadelphia. Così interprets Italian panini (sandwiches) with gourmet and ethnic accents. Buffalo chicken, blue cheese celery spread, and caramelized onions put zing between the brawny bread — itself a stand-alone star of the crusty, hearth-fired variety. Do-it-yourself s’mores make for a fun finish. Freshly merged with Xando coffeehouses, some outlets are called Xando Così. The Europeanesque cafes stock a full bar (yes!).