As the restaurant industry in general grapples with sluggish sales (millennials, in particular, have even been blamed for killing casual dining), fast-casual spots have been growing in popularity. Over the last five years, visits to fast casual restaurants have grown 6 percent annually over the last five years, according to market research company NPD Group, and have a higher average check size than other fast food restaurants.
But which burger joints, taco spots and sandwich shops are actually the best?
On Tuesday, TripAdvisor announced its 2018 Travelers' Choice Awards for Restaurants, including a new category for fast casual restaurants. The fast casual category includes restaurants that offer high quality meals at an affordable price point that do not have table service or wait staff, TripAdvisor says.
The winners were determined using an algorithm that looked at the quantity and quality of reviews for fast casual restaurants in the U.S. on TripAdvisor, gathered over a 12-month period. (The awards honor that restaurant chain's specific location, not the entire chain.)
These are the top 10 best fast casual restaurants in the United States in 2018, according to TripAdvisor.
Fast casual restaurant Portillo's location on Ontario Street in Chicago, Illinois takes the top spot for TripAdvisor's best fast casual restaurants in the United States. Portillos' most popular items include its Italian beef sandwiches, chocolate cake, and (of course) Chicago hot dogs. Its profile on TripAdvisor boasts 6,210 reviews, with 59 percent of them dubbing the spot "excellent."
Travelers most commonly reference "sandwiches," "tuna melt" and "late night" in their reviews of the Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and rave about its sandwiches, wraps and subs.
The immensely popular burger joint Shake Shack's iconic Madison Square Park location in Manhattan, New York includes over 7,500 reviews on its TripAdvisor profile, with 59 percent rating it as "excellent." The chain is known for its burgers, fries and frozen custard.
Blaze Pizza parlor on Buena Vista Drive in Orlando, Florida, has 864 reviews on its TripAdvisor profile, with 70 percent ranking it as "excellent." Reviewers rave about the wide variety of toppings, fair prices and gluten-free crust option.
In-N-Out on Sepulveda Drive in Los Angeles, California, gets rave reviews. The chain is known for its minimal menu offering just burgers, fries and shakes, but half the fun is checking out its not-so-secret secret menu consisting of creative ways to have your food prepared.
The Taco Stand on Pearl Street in La Jolla, California sells a variety of tacos, burritos and quesadillas, and reviewers rave about its authentic, cheap eats and relaxed atmosphere.
Five Guys on Sand Lake Road in Orlando, Florida boasts 1,353 reviews with 66 percent lauding it as "excellent." Travelers applaud the generous portions of fries and free burger toppings (which range from A1 sauce to grilled mushrooms).
Super Duper Burgers on Market Street in San Francisco, California wins praise for its fresh and juicy burgers, garlic fries and local beer options, all at fair prices.
Out of 1,000 reviews for Tacos el Gordo on East Charleston Boulevard in Las Vegas, 67 percent rate it as "excellent." The food, which includes Mexican fare like tacos and tostadas, is said to be fresh and tasty.
Reviewers applaud Torchy's Tacos on South Congress in Austin, Texas for its numerous taco fillings, which include options like fried avocado, Jamaican jerk chicken and grilled jalapeno sausage.
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