Friday Question of the Day – Favorite Fast Casual for Lunch?

Well all the Wawa excitement has me thinking about fast casual (back in my day we called it fast food grumble grumble) so please indulge me. There are way too many today to do a poll so let’s just give our answer in the comments. I’ll list as many as I can think of here – but if (when I surely) leave some out please do include them in the comments. I’m thinking for lunch. Ok here goes, Sweetgreen, Chopt, Roti, Taylor Gourmet, A. Litteri, Buredo, Chipotle, Wiseguys Pizza, District Taco, Takorean, Cava Grill, Nando’s Peri Peri, Chix, SeoulSpice, Eatsa, Wiseguys NY Pizza, Ben’s Chili Bowl, Sundevich, Chaia, Merzi… God, we really do have a ton of options, anyway you get the idea. Where’s your favorite fast casual lunch spot? And remember today’s the last day for Pedro and Vinny’s Burrito Cart on K Street.

117 Comment

  • Shouk on K – great stuff and vegan (and I’m not vegan)

    • Had heard great things about their burger, so I tried it the other day. I am not at all a picky eater, but I thought it was just awful; blah and pretty mushy with the “caramelized” crust tasting just burnt. The only saving grace was the arugula. They also do not take cash. And the server called me “sweetheart” and “beautiful” while taking my order (I’m a senior citizen and I find that offensive).

    • Have to agree. That place is so good, food so fresh. Always a top option!

  • I eat at Sweetgreen and Roti the most since my office is in a quasi food desert. Sweegreen is my favorite but I think Roti is a better deal. I tried Chaia for the first time over the weekend and the creamy kale and potato taco was amazing. Does anyone have any recommendations for the counters at the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods?

    • Blithe

      Ignore this if they’re different from the menu at the Foggy Bottom store, but some of my favorites at the Friendship Heights Whole Foods are: the pizza — which is surprisingly good. From the food bars: the ribs are decent; the broccoli, bacon, raisin salad is usually very good; the spinach salad with feta, onions, black olives and bacon is also very good; and the french toast is very good. The Whole Foods in Baltimore has excellent shrimp salad. I’m bummed that the stores I’ve been to here don’t have it.

      • That’s my local Whole Foods but I’ve never tried any of those bar options. Thanks! The newish ramen bar isn’t bad but I think it’s overpriced for what it is. I had the worst, driest burger of my life from the burger bar.

      • The ginger carrots are also good, as is the cucumber/strawberry salad. If you like beets and they have Molly’s Beets at the cold bar, they’re delicious (lightly marinated, with fresh tarragon seasoning.) They also do a herb chicken at the hot bar that’s very tasty. I usually go to the Tenleytown WF.

    • I eat at this Whole Foods a lot. Their turkey cheese burgers are delicious and my favorite. I’ve had everything minus the sushi and it’s all good. Their Mexican food is super yummy and it’s cheaper than Chipoltle.
      I also second what Blithe is saying below about the pizza… and they have a 2 slices for $6 deal. Or maybe it’s $7? Whatever, it’s worth it 🙂

      • skj84

        Its 2 for $7 at Whole Foods H Street. Probably the same across the board.

        • Blithe

          I was thinking 2 slices for $6 — although maybe it’s gone up? And 2 large pizzas with up to 4 toppings cost around $22.

          • It definitely was 2 slices for $6 unless it’s gone up in the past couple months at the Foggy Bottom location (which is possible).

      • Ooh turkey cheeseburger. Thanks! I love dosas but wasn’t a fan of DC Dosa and the Paper Horse counter doesn’t have great reviews.

      • The junior cheeseburger at the Friendship Heights location, with a wonderful selection of free toppings.

    • That One Guy

      There’s also the new(ish) GW building near WF in Goggy Bottom that has Chick-Fil-A, Wiseguys Pizza, Sol and GRK.

  • Cafe Ole in Tenleytown (go before 12 or after 1 as it’s an alternative cafeteria for Fannie Mae) – love the food, and a great place to have lunch outside on a beautiful day.

  • Blithe

    Seriously missing ShopHouse, wishing we had Ivar’s. My current picks would be Cava Grill and Chopt, But if I gave ShopHouse a 10, I’d give Cava Grill an 8 and Chopt a 6. And maybe a 6 for Panera Bread. Maybe my responses are lackluster because I haven’t been to A. Litteri? Not sure if this fits the fast casual category, but I’d put Zorba’s Cafe at the top of my list.

    • Also missing Shophouse. Every Friday I would treat myself to a Shophouse dinner, and now I’m struggling to find a new place. Roti is probably my next regular spot, but it isn’t like Shophouse, obviously. I keep on thinking of that Michael Scott line from The Office: “My favorite restaurant closed, and my new favorite restaurant sucks.” Doesn’t quite make sense, but I totally get it!

    • Shophouse was my favorite. 🙁

  • I stopped at a Wawa on my roadtrip today (technically yesterday) and got a hoagie, but it did not live up to the hype from the thread the other day. 🙁 I was disappointed.

    • You must have told them to hold the nostalgia.

      • Yes, this. You just said in 9 words what it took me a whole paragraph to try to convey.

      • Actual LOL. Gumball!

      • Tsar of Truxton

        I think this must be true. All the people I know who “love it,” probably haven’t eaten there since some drunken night 10+ years ago in college. It is just a gas station with decent food that you can order with a touch screen.

        • Most urban Wawas are not gas stations.

        • None of the Wawas near my home in Philly had gas. I thought the gas station ones were the exception.
          I never ate a Wawa hoagie while drunk. (The soft pretzels with sweet cream cheese were my post-bar go-to.)
          I maintain that the price to quality ratio is better than most places. But then, I’ve been in this area for 10+ years, so maybe the quality has declined. The new one is near my office, so I’ll report back.

          • Blithe

            wdc, I think you’ve nailed it: They have decent sandwiches, but the price-to-quality ratio is far better than the other options, and the quality is consistent — a critical factor. I also haven’t eaten there in 10+ years, so, as you’ve suggested, maybe the quality has declined. For me it’s less nostalgia (which I’m saving for ShopHouse, B. Smith’s, and the fish place that used to be in Mt. Pleasant), and more that I don’t know any other places to get consistently good, reasonably priced, made-to-order sandwiches. Which doesn’t matter so much anymore, since I usually stick with salads.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I would eat Potbelly over Wawa any day. So there is one without even thinking about it.

    • I mentioned this in the earlier thread, but the Wawa fascination really befuddles me. It’s fine. It’s more than serviceable on a road trip. It is a better than a Subway hoagie. But that’s it. I can only speculate that the people who idolize it have fond recollections of the time and place they ate it, and that colors their memories. (Drunk in college, in high school tasting the first little bit of freedom, etc. – for me, I know Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House isn’t the pinnacle fine dining, but remembering the many times I had 2 pieces of chicken and all the pancakes you can eat for $2.99 at 2:30 am gives it a special place in my heart.) But growing up in Jersey, virtually any independent sub shop had far better food than Wawa. Hell, in DC there are plenty of better options already.

    • The buzz about Wawa is driven entirely by suburban kids from NJ and PA who overhype everything from their home towns and regions.

      Just ask someone from Eastern PA or NJ about the best pet store, gas station, dish sponge retailer and they’ll tell you that THE BEST is somewhere near them and that every other place, especially in the DC/Bmore region (substitute for Boston, if they transplanted to the Boston area) is utter shit. They’ll usually scream it while wearing an Eagles jersey. Example: “Yous guys in DC dont have sponges like we have back home.
      Theres nothing better than going to see a show at the Electric Factory then walking around the corner to Fit Shtreet and buying a sponge at this little place called Dollar General. Its been in the neighborhood for years.
      The owners came over from the Old Country through Ellis Island, thats how you know its a legit sponge. LEGIT. SPONGES IN DC SUCK!!”

      GTFO. Wawa is completely unremarkable.

      The only area of the country that even comes close to rivaling this nostalgic parochial ignorance masquerading as superiority is Texas.

      I find people from other regions of the country have their favorites and their nostalgic picks for “best”, but its only the Eastern PA and NJ people who actually think everything great ever created exists within 1 hr of their childhood home.

      • You could say something analogous about Sheetz. They’re fine but not really memorable.

      • i am from NJ is this is the brutal truth. love me some electric factory … and don’t start me on pizza and bagels 😀

      • This is the most accurate description of people from Philly/Delco/south Jersey I’ve ever read. And if you disagree, they’ll shove some batteries into a snowball and throw it right in your face.

        • Batteries were not in snowballs because they were thrown at a baseball game. Snowballs were thrown at a football game.

      • That One Guy

        I’m from Central Jersey and the first time I saw a Wawa I knew we were lost and in the middle of nowhere. I suppose that has influenced my bias towards Wawa. HA.

      • +10000 This is an amazing comment. From TX but went to school in PA, and witnessed this on both accounts. haha thank you for your contribution.

      • Texan here. I hear what you are saying about folks parochially stating everything from their hometown is the best, but I don’t think that criticism really works for Texans. There is plenty to pick on us for — our present politicians are terrible, our access to women’s healthcare is under constant threat, and our famous tech and tourism hub has gone full-Luddite and expelled Uber and Lyft out of childish pique — but we’re really just picky about the foods Texan-Americans know better than non-Texan-Americans. We miss decent Tex-Mex because we have yet to find a decent queso or enchiladas here not produced by a chain based in Texas (Chuys, which yes, we drive to Fairfax for). We know the tacos in DC are terrible because we grew up eating perfect tacos from a taco truck decades before Asian-fusion taco trucks became a thing here. (And yes, we know Tex-Mex and Mexican are different cuisines.) We think it’s funny that Californians are distressed that we don’t like In-n-Out as much as we like Whataburger . . . but isn’t that California’s problem? And, sure, we know our brisket and sausage are the best barbecued brisket and sausage out there . . . because other regional barbecues focus on pulled pork, ribs, and chicken. But no Texan is going to tell you that we make better hoagies/sub sandwiches than Philly or better bagels than NYC or better Chicago-style hot dogs than Chicago. We just really want some good tacos and a Shiner Ruby Redbird, okay? (Okay, maybe you’ve got me on the Shiner part. And now I’m really hungry.)

      • Yep, people from my hometown in NYS which is culturally very similar to NJ do this too. It’s called nostalgia folks, the food most everyone in that region grew up on is pretty shitty by today’s standards, Wawa included.

    • Andie302

      I really like their iced tea/lemonade mixture and those frozen drinks are pretty legit too. I agree that the sandwiches are just okay. I think it’s more that they have lots of choices and they are pretty consistent. Every time I get a sandwich at Royal Farms I regret it. Not the case with Wawa!

    • wawa is after bar food. Much like jumbo slices it’s much better when you are drunk.

  • SHOPHOUSE RIP. Otherwise, Buredo is my favorite but all these new poke places could be strong contenders.

    • Thanks Anon! Really appreciate the business. We are gearing up for a few surprises with the new shops coming online.

  • CAVA GRILL! It takes a ton of willpower for me to pass on the side of pita chips with crazy feta dip!!

  • cava has replaced chipotle in my heart

  • Greek Deli
    City Place Cafe (at 17th and L NW)
    China Boy
    Naan and Beyond

    • maxwell smart

      Naan and Beyond is some of the worst Indian Food I have ever had. I’d rather have the remade Indian Food pouches they sell at Trader Joes.

      • That One Guy

        Naan has gone way down in terms of food quality. I remember when their biryanis had veggies. The good old days.

    • China boy? I’ve purchased noodles to cook at home but never eaten there. Do you eat just fresh noodle dishes?

      • No, they have about 4 dishes that you can get there with their chow fun noodles. Beef, chicken, pork, etc. Fun fact: they make the chow fun noodles for all the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown!

  • I was going to say Eatsa before I even saw the picture! Ha!

  • Cava and Shouk!

  • Sweetgreen, I seriously love their salads.

  • jim_ed

    Mangialardo’s for DC specific, Chipotle for big chain.

    • Talk about disappointing–Mangialardo’s is just awful, although cheap. Vace’s is much better. Litteri also is much better although I get concerned given the aged packed goods in the store.

    • I love Italian sandwiches. Mangialardo’s and A. literi are incredible. I am also a big fan of Stachowski’s.

  • I love Bibim Bap on 19th between K and L. Super nice people, great value, delicious food and enough for two meals when I’m not feeling like a pig.

    • Ooo, I’ve been meaning to try this! Glad to hear it’s good. I still miss the bibimbap cart by Vermont and K from when I used to work over there (anyone know if it’s still around?).

  • I like Maso on 19th between L and M, or the Bibimbap place on 19th between K and L.

  • Rice Bar on 15th
    Tonton Chicken on Vermont

  • Emmaleigh504

    Nando’s is my favorite b/c I always go with my sister’s family and have a good time with them. The food is pretty good, too.

  • Andie302

    Thai satay chicken at G St Foods on 15th. If they were open after work I would probably get this on my way home for dinner regularly too!

  • NH Ave Hiker

    Taco Bell

  • Beefsteak. I wish they were conveniently located downtown

  • I have eaten at the Halal Guys three times since it opened a week ago. I kind of hate myself for it but when the craving hits there’s just nothing I can do.

  • Merzi and Grand Trunk!
    Also, rice bar!
    I know it’s unhealthy, but I have to also shout out for &pizza.
    Amsterdam is awesome as long as you partake of lots of sauce.
    Never really got into Cava. I suspect I just haven’t ordered the right ingredient combo yet. Maybe if they had some presets for noobs…

    • Here’s my order at Cava, which I have been going to in CH since it opened and often think about switching it up but then can’t resist my faves:
      pita with crazy feta, red pepper hummus and a smidge of harissa
      chicken, romaine, quinoa, tomato-onion, pita crisps, feta and sriracha greek yogurt

      • I also love Cava (but it’s not near my office). I usually get white rice, 2 scoops of hummus and 1 tzatziki, half chicken/half veggies, olives, feta, pita chips, tomato & cucumber salad, and greek vinaigrette.

        • My standard order at Cava: Greens and grains (arugula, supergreens and brown rice), meatballs or chicken, 2 tzatziki and 1 crazy feta, pickled onions, olives, banana peppers, radishes (a new addition which I love), feta, pita crisps, and tzatziki dressing on the side.

  • RIP juice joint! Rice Bar is pretty good, and Bozzelli’s is ok when I really want Italian. West Wing Cafe is decent and quick if not getting salad. I do feel like we don’t have the best options in my work neighborhood though – would love a SweetGreen or Cava.

  • That One Guy

    CF Folks! (I like me a lunch counter with some character.)

  • Not in DC proper (yet, I hope) but Mezze is friggin delicious. I work in the burbs and love this place.

  • Rolls By U in Rosslyn. There’s one in Foggy Bottom now. It’s like Buredo but you can get it with brown rice AND you can get it in bowl form.

  • binntp

    Reading this thread makes me so depressed my office is in Crystal Sh**ty. I so miss having District Taco, Veloce, Greek Deli, Nooshi and Bibim nearby.

  • Cava and District Taco (a clearly superior choice to Chipotle)… City Place Cafe also makes the list, although it’s been a long time since I’ve been there… and also Greek Deli and Mayur Kabab, neither of which seem to be squarely fast casual, but both of which are excellent…

  • For those who work near the World Bank/EEOB–Breadline on Pennsylvania Ave. is my current favorite. Really good sandwiches and generous salad bowls. And great bread, which I think they bake on site.

    • Oh, and another good one in that area: Alfa Pie House. The menu is mostly really yummy savory Greek pies in a huge range of varieties.

      • I love alfa pie house! But the portions are so huge and make me sleepy afterwards 🙂 And the place is always packed!

      • I LOVED Alfa Pie House when I worked in that area. I loved ordering my food and eating it there, because they serve it to you in nice dishes and real silverware. So civilized! Their soups are amazing too. Roti was my other go-to spot, it’s cheaper than Breadline and they have more variety. I liked the baguettes and salads from Breadline, but found their sandwiches underwhelming. I also liked G Street Foods, I was sad when they closed.

  • My go-tos:
    Pret (although it’s a bit expensive, love the avocado/veggie wrap)
    Potbelly (when I’m feeling strapped for cash)
    Devon & Blakely (for soup when the weather is blah)

    I used to like Breadline’s salad options (a scoops of lentils/feta, tomato salad, chix salad, etc. over greens) when I worked over there – not sure if it’s still good.

  • Sweetgreen and District Taco are definitely my favorites.

  • The lunch options near me suck (smack dab in the middle of Metro Center), but if I had to choose the best, I guess it would be Roti.

  • My favorites include Shouk, Merzi, Cava, Hip City, and Honeygrow

  • I am outrageously fond of Hip City Veg in Gallery Place, when I can take the time to go there. Also, Corner Bakery is pretty good and has some interesting sandwiches.

  • Cava! It’s healthy and delicious. Roti is just a half-assed imitator.

    • Cava, like many other places, CAN be healthy. Their portion sizes are huge – if you load it up and eat it all, it’s not “healthy”….

  • Nobody has yet mentioned Little Sesame (underground on 18th st by Dupont Circle)

  • Honeygrow
    Hip City Veg
    Native Foods Cafe (RIP)

  • What about Triple-B Fresh? I think it is better than Bibim Bap.