Each year, QSR (a business-to-business magazine for limited-service restaurants) publishes a list of forty restaurants predicted to be the next big thing. These restaurants all have under forty units and fall under the casual of “fast-casual 2.0” category. Fast Casual 2.0 is essentially the middle ground between fast food and casual dining (think Chipotle or Panera Bread), and it is a booming sector of the restaurant industry. Read on for the NYC restaurant concepts that made the cut. 

Luke’s Lobster 

Founded by Maine Native turned investment banker turned restaurateur, Luke’s Lobster aims to bring quality, sustainable, and traceable shellfish to New York City. Luke’s is currently operating twenty-seven units and their shellfish centric menu includes Maine-style sides, natural sodas, local microbrews, and more. 

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Dig Inn

Dig Inn is the self-proclaimed leader of “farm to counter” dining. Their sandwiches, salads, and ever-changing sides are full of local, seasonal fare. Founder, Adam Eskin, has taken farm to table a step further by disrupting the food supply chain. The company has built personal partnerships with farmers and is now in the process of purchasing their own farm in the Hudson Valley. 

Dos Toros

Brothers Leo and Oliver Kremer hoped to bring a taste of Northern California to the streets of New York, and, so far, they have been successful. Since their opening in 2009, they have opened thirteen stores and are working on a new Chicago location. 

Melt Shop 

Melt shop is no one-trick pony. They go beyond the grilled cheese implied in their name to serve up hearty sandwiches, salads, soups, fries, and funky milkshakes. Premium ingredients, especially cheeses, set them apart from competitors and make them next-level comfort foods.

Num Pang

Having been ranked the “#1 Fast Casual” restaurant by Zagat and named “New York’s Quietest Restaurant Empire” by New York Magazine, Num Pang has established itself as an acclaimed Cambodian fast-casual restaurant. Cofounder Ben Daitz says, “We blend the bold flavors of Southeast Asia and urban culture together into an impeccably executed and memorable experience, in a comfortable and vibrant environment,” and, “To date, I don’t see anyone else doing that.”

Mighty Quinn’s

Mighty Quinn’s doesn’t want to force a trendy food category onto a service line. They want real barbeque and they have turned to the fast-casual 2.0 model to deliver. With ten locations throughout New York, New Jersey, and even Asia, this restaurant is bringing an underrepresented food style to an urban market.

The Little Beet 

Developed by “Top Chef Masters” alum and former fine-dining chef, The Little Beet focuses on the healthier side of cooking. In terms of menu, this restaurant is built around plates where guests choose proteins, cold sides, and hot sides to make a meal. This gluten-free fast-casual concept now has six stores, and even has spun off a full-service sister restaurant called The Little Beet Table. 

Mimi Cheng’s 

Sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng quit their day jobs to start a dumpling restaurant that pays its homage to their mother’s secret recipes. The two partners locally source their organic and sustainable ingredients from local farms and butchers. At present, Mimi Cheng’s has two locations, but they are gaining buzz and are expected to grow. 


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