We asked you to weigh in on our first ever fast-casual chains survey focusing on high-quality, counter-service restaurants with between two to 50 locations nationally. From mom and pop's-turned-local empires to food trucks that went brick-and-mortar to health-minded fusion, here are the Bay Area's top picks.
Why it made the list: What started as a tiny shop that churned out huge sandwiches, garnering a cult following, is now a beloved empire, consisting of 16 bustling locations across the Bay Area. The menu is longer than some novels, featuring quirky sandwiches, with names that pay tribute to local celebrities and athletes. Not just full of SF pride and local flavor, Ike's Place unites all tastes and lifestyles with sandwiches that cater to everyone from meat-lovers to vegans.
Must order: Matt Cain (Godfather Sauce, provolone, roast beef, salami, turkey), Backstabber (Caesar, halal chicken, marinated artichoke hearts, provolone), Super Mario (all-beef meatballs, mozzarella sticks, marinara).
Why it made the list: For a town that loves burritos and fusion, this food truck, featuring classic Indian dishes packaged in new ways, was an instant hit. The chicken tikka masala burrito and deconstructed samosa that started it all were pioneers of San Francisco's fast-fusion and food-truck scenes, helping to usher in a new era in which quick meals are anything but basic. Five trucks now roam the Bay Area and Curry Up Now has added three brick-and-mortars while expanding as a catering business.
Must order: Deconstructed samosa, chicken tikka masala burrito, mango lassi drink, sexy fries.
Why it made the list: With Asian street food, made from fresh, healthy ingredients on offer, this small chain is a beloved mainstay of Financial District professionals and tourists in need of quick, delicious sustenance. The Chipotle of Asian food, customers build their own combo meals, choosing white or brown rice, rice noodles or Asian vegetable salad, a protein, such as coconut curry tofu, basil-tossed shrimp or lemongrass marinated pork, and add-ons such as vegetables, fresh herbs, Sriracha, peanut sauce or jalapeños. Vietnamese coffee and fresh spring rolls round out the menu.
Must order: The Hot Box (your choice of protein with brown rice, sauce-tossed veggies, jalapeños, herbs, shallots, lime and pickled veggies, shaken with Hot Box It), The Workout (skinless chicken, brown rice, extra steamed veggies, bean sprouts, pickled veggies, herbs and tamarind vinaigrette).
Why it made the list: Sushirrito set out to "revolutionize sushi culture" with made-to-order burritos in creative Asian and Latin flavors. The lofty goal certainly revolutionized grab-and-go meals by combining the convenient form of the burrito with the healthy, fresh ingredients of sushi, while also uniting the two most beloved cuisines in San Francisco: burritos and sushi.
Must order: Geisha's Kiss (yellowfin tuna, tamago, piquillo peppers, yuzu tobiko, lotus chips, mamasu cucumber, butter lettuce, avocado, sesame white soya), Sumo crunch (shrimp tempura, Surimi crab, shaved cabbage, cucumber, avocado, red tempura flakes, Sriracha aïoli).