McDonald’s might be one of the defining ways of life for Americans, so much so that its empire has conquered entire countries across the globe. Believe it or not though, Mickey D’s has some stiff competition waiting in the wings. Business Insider compiled a list of fast food restaurants that will usher in the revolution—take a look.
1. The Kitchenette
If you follow the happenings of the technology world, then you’re probably familiar with the Musk family. Well, as it turns out, the brother of Tesla and SpaceX giant Elon Musk, Kimbal Musk, has his own creation to be quite proud of in The Kitchenette. Though there’s only a single location to speak of at the moment, inside Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, additional locations are in the works. Well, they will be, at some point, according to Musk’s current goals. Though technically part and parcel of the restaurant chain The Kitchen, The Kitchenette offers much of the same as Panera Bread and other fast-food cafés. The Kitchenette aims to make the most of local food. Oh, and did we mention that everything the Kitchenette sells costs less than $5? We’re not joking. So if you want a change from pricey café fare and you find yourself down south, you might just want to try The Kitchenette.
2. Salad and Go
If you’ll be heading to Arizona anytime soon and the Grand Canyon isn’t enough to satisfy your appetite for southern goodness (it’s stunning, but really, you need something to refuel your energy after a good hike), then you might want to try this chain—a native to the state. True to its name, Salad and Go is the perfect stop for salad enthusiasts who are in a bit of a hurry. What’s more? You get plenty of bang for your buck here where the massive salads are are all sold for under $10 (a rarity if we’ve ever heard of one). By massive, we mean 48-ounces. It sounds like a pretty good investment, right? At the current moment, the chain has six homes, all of which are found in the state of Arizona, though there are supposed to be an additional eight come 2018. If you’re not in Arizona, don’t fret, they might come to your state by 2020! If you like Panera Bread’s Greek Salad, which comes in at 400 calories, try Salad and Go’s Greek Salad, which is only 325 calories with dressing or 170 without. All of their salads can be ordered as a wrap, if that’s more your style.
Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, a pair of renowned chefs in their own right, are responsible for this California-based chain. While it’s not quite as low-calorie as other healthy choices, it takes advantage of its home area, as “everything is made with high-quality, locally sourced, whole ingredients.” If you’re looking for a twist on some meaty classics like chicken nuggets, the LocoL version uses fermented barley as one of its ingredients . Having opened in 2016, LocoL can be found at just two permanent Southern California addresses at the moment, though there are more options when it comes to ordering from one of their many food trucks in the city. This year is going to be a big one for the chain, as they’re striving to add nine more locations around the country by the time 2018 rolls around. If you have trouble when choosing how to treat yourself (pizza vs. burger vs. pizza—an epic battle), you might want to try one of LocoL’s specialty $5 Pizza Burgs.
4. Veggie Grill
Reformed carnivores-turned-vegans can delight in this chain, which might just serve your new favorite “burger.” Although you might have to be a fan of peas to enjoy it. This is because their main ingredient just so happens to be pea protein. Maybe you were more of a chicken fan in your meat-eating past. If so, the pseudo-chicken sandwiches served at Veggie Grill are made up of a combination of pea, soy, and wheat protein that will surprise you with how tasty they are. This chain has a bit more of a range than the others when it comes to pricing, selling items from as low as $3.50 to nearly $12. At the moment, only West Coasters have access to Veggie Grill, as all of its nearly 30 locations are spread across just three states: California, Oregon, and Washington. Its goal is to have double the locations by 2020, and to become a national presence once investors have contributed a modest $22 million. If you like (or used to like) Burger King’s Whopper® Sandwich, which is a whopping (get it?) 630 calories, you could give Veggie Grill’s Grilled Quinoa + Veg Burger a try. It ranges from 560 to 580 calories, based on how you order it.
Eatsa might just be the ultimate food chain of the future, given its method for serving its vegetarian cuisine. While the concept of ordering your fast food from an iPad isn’t entirely uncommon (as seen at Panera, for those who want to participate in their Rapid Pick-Up service), Eatsa takes that one step further. Rather than receiving meals from a waiter or an unmanned shelf, Eatsa customers are greeted by “automated cubbies.” Meals here go for as low as 450 calories to no higher than 700. This chain, which is known for its quinoa bowls, might be small, with only four locations to its name, but it’s powerful, as every restaurant is based in an American metropolis: from San Francisco, to Los Angeles, then to Washington, D.C. as of November 2016, and, most recently, Manhattan. If you’re big on Mexican food but want something that isn’t prohibitive in calorie count, you might want to give Eatsa’s Burrito Bowl (653 calories) or their Tres Chiles (550) bowl a taste.
6. Dig Inn
If you have a secret love of farmer’s markets and your concern for the environment goes further than just keeping your eating clean, then Dig Inn might be the place. This is especially true for those of you planning a trip to Boston or The Big Apple. Dig Inn made its debut back in 2011, and qualifies as a “farm-to-table chain.” There are currently 14 locations, though more are to come. Though it’s a bit more expensive than your run-of-the-mill fast food chains, which are known for their unbeatable prices, Dig Inn’s prices are pretty comparable to that of Panera Bread. Their items typically start around $8 and rarely exceed $11. The affordability is thanks to the chain’s work with farmers from the local area. If you’re a fan of Panera’s 950-calorie Mac & Cheese, Dig Inn offers a side of Seasonal Upstate Mac with Butternut Squash, which just sounds perfect for a cool autumn night.
7. LYFE Kitchen
Ironically, this chain—which is an acronym for the motto “Love Your Food Everyday“—is the brainchild of former McDonald’s big wigs: Mike Roberts and Mike Donahue (in addition to another man, Stephen Sidwell), according to First We Feast. Roberts was the fried food empire’s global president, while Donahue had a role as the chief of corporate communications. Though LYFE has only been around for the last few years (since 2011, to be exact), the California spot is on its way to a nationwide takeover, with 20 Kitchens across the country. They can be found in California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, and Tennessee. If you’re not a fan of artificial food, then this might be the choice for you. You won’t find anything on the menu with butter, cream, or high-fructose corn syrup. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, none of the food has MSG, preservatives, or trans fats. If you’re a fan of Panera’s 640-calorie Classic Grilled Cheese, LYFE Kitchen offers a unique version of the classic comfort food with Faye’s Grilled Cheese, which is only 459 calories.
With its home base in Los Angeles, Everytable is one of the other few good things that came out of 2016, with its food—much of which is vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten-free—coming from local vendors. Instead of following in the footsteps of sheer, unadulterated capitalism, Everytable cares about its customers and price-adjusts based on what those in the area will find affordable. Currently, Everytable can only be found in South L.A., though it will soon open in downtown L.A. as well, with additional Los Angeles locations not far behind and in subsequent American cities down the line. If you enjoy Panera’s Turkey Chili (260 calories), Everytable’s menu, which is “inspired by the cultures & flavors of Los Angeles” and offers Yucatan Chili (490). This spin on the traditional chili includes zucchini, corn, and white mushroom, to name a few. Be sure to put this place on your L.A. bucket list.
Alright, so this one isn’t exactly new, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Freshii hails from our neighbors up north in Canada and has been serving up healthy choices since 2005. Boasting over 300 locations around the globe, Freshii’s menu consists of bowls, salads, and wraps that, for the most part, are less than 700 calories—score! As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, the bulk of what’s served at Freshii only costs $7. Sure, that’s certainly more than you’re likely to pay for a single item at Taco Bell or Burger King, but at least you’re paying for food that’s intended to be good for you, not just your wallet. If you like Panera’s Beet & Citrus Salad or Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken, which are 490 calories and 570 calories respectively, then you might want to try Freshii’s Market Salad. It comes in at 610 calories, though it’s also available as a 785-calorie wrap (both amounts include the calories for the sauces/dressings). If you want to try something a bit different, as far as salads are concerned, Freshii also offers their Pangoa bowl with brown rice, black beans, avocado, and more, though it does come in at 770 calories.