Chain restaurants don't have to be a negative thing. In fact, when they serve fresh, nutritious food, they can be beneficial to our stomachs and our wallets. What's more, chain eateries often provide a level of efficiency and convenience that's particularly useful when you're pressed for time. And though supporting local businesses is integral to our communities, the presence of chains in major cities is inevitable. So if anyone gives us the choice between another Burger King and a place that serves both tasty and healthy fare, we'll pick the latter. Here's hoping these five chains take their talents to South Florida.
5. Pret a Manger
When it comes to grab-and-go, no one does it better than Pret. The UK-based global chain is the destination for affordable and flavorful premade sandwiches, salads, and snacks. But rest assured everything is prepared the morning of and any leftovers are donated to charity. Pret is completely transparent with regards to its recipes and nutritional information, and the menu changes frequently. Customers can also order hot items such as soups and organic coffees at the counter, including the delicious Moroccan lentil soup. Miamians are busy people too, so there's really no reason why the 305 shouldn't have a Pret of its own.
4. Le Pain Quotidien
Miami loves Zak the Baker, but the locally owned kosher bakery/café wouldn't necessarily work well as a chain. And that's probably a good thing, because some eateries have to sacrifice quality in order to grow. That said, Le Pain Quotidien knows a thing or two about scalability. What began as one humble bakery selling rustic-style loaves in Belgium in 1990 has grown to 200 locations wolrdwide. But guess what? Le Pain Quotidien hasn't lost it's je ne sais quoi. The organic house-baked bread is still excellent, as are the pastries, beverages, salads, open-faced sandwiches, and sinfully good Belgian hazelnut spread. The country-chic eatery is perfect for a leisurely lunch or coffee date but is also set up to accommodate on-the-go customers. Considering Le Pain Quotidien has locations in Kuwait and Argentina, we think it's about time we got outposts in the MiMo District, South Beach, Coral Gables, and Aventura.
3. Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Potbelly's story is almost as good as its sandwiches. It all began in 1977 on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago when a young couple decided to serve toasty, warm sandwiches out of their quirky antique shop. Before long, lines started to form outside the store, catching the attention of entrepreneur Bryant Keil, who bought the business in 1996. His goal was to offer the same delicious sandwiches and retain the neighborhood charm of the original beloved shop. Today there are 400 Potbelly Sandwich Shops across the nation, yet sadly, not a single one in Miami. What's so special about these subs? The quality-to-price ratio is unbeatable, the sandwiches are fully customizable, and they come perfectly toasted. Plus, Potbelly offers "skinnys" and "flats" for customers desiring fewer calories or less bread, as well as "bigs" for those who simply like a hearty meal. Miami deserves a great sandwich chain — and Potbelly is the greatest.
2. Dig Inn
Dig Inn's motto isn't to serve fast food, but to serve great food fast and at a fraction of the cost of fine-dining establishments. At Dig Inn, all of the food is displayed in front of you, and by the time you make your way down the line to the cashier, your order is fulfilled. Efficiency is the motto, and the New York-based chain (with one location in Boston) is proudly committed to serving only naturally raised meats and seasonal produce. But the best thing about Dig Inn is the homestyle nature of the cuisine. Here, you can get delicious turkey meatballs over brown rice with roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. It's precisely what you'd want to cook for yourself at home, except this way you don't have to set foot in your kitchen.
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SHOW ME HOW
Make-your-own-salad concepts are nothing new, yet the Magic City is still seriously lacking in this department. It's unclear why, because Miamians are certainly health-conscious. Besides, who wouldn't want a fast, affordable, and nutritious meal that's conveniently packaged so you can enjoy it at home, at your desk, or on a park bench? And though there are many excellent build-your-own-salad places, the best one is undoubtedly Sweetgreen. Everything just tastes better here, particularly the baked falafel, spicy quinoa, and citrus shrimp. Oh, and the miso-sesame ginger vinaigrette is to die for. What's more, depending upon the season, Sweetgreen will add items such as peaches, watermelon, and blue crab to its list of offerings. This rapidly growing chain already has locations in seven states (Illinois will soon make eight), so here's hoping number nine is Miami's lucky number.