When the first-ever Carolina Steak ‘n Shake opened in Charlotte this spring, people literally lost their minds. There were lines around the block. For days. Seriously. The burger chain is just one of several restaurants that are helping shake up the Charlotte food scene as the fast-casual trend hits the fast track. Just in case you’re trying to figure out if fast-casual is a new attire suggestion or a dating style, “fast-casual” is the industry buzzword that describes a restaurant that is somewhere in between fast food and the kind of place where a waiter takes your order. You know – somewhere in between McDonald’s and Macaroni Grill. The idea is that the food and the experience should be just as good as a full-blown restaurant but take a whole lot less time.

“Fast-casual restaurants are on the rise because diners are looking for quick service and affordable food without sacrificing quality,” says Tim Zombek of City Barbeque. “Bridging the gap between fast food and sit-down restaurants, fast-casual dining gives guests that option.”

Toucan Louie’s owner Marc Keiffer adds, “People are busier. They don’t want their time managed by the pace of the restaurant. I think people like the control of actively ordering at a counter or even ahead of time. They like the options of dining in or taking it to go.”

There are so many fast-casual restaurants in Charlotte now that serve up quick deliciousness, we’re running them down so you know where to eat when you want good food – fast.

City Barbeque

1514 Galleria Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28270 • (704) 705-1447
11212 Providence Rd W, Charlotte, NC 28277 • (704) 817-4050
15425 Hodges Cir, Huntersville, NC 28078 • (704) 274-1069
8948 J M Keynes Dr #420 Charlotte, NC 28262 • (704) 278-8015

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

City Barbeque opened its first Charlotte location in Ballantyne in September 2016. They’ve since expanded with locations in Matthews, University Place and Huntersville. But this is not your typical fast food joint. All of the meats – turkey, brisket, chicken and pork – are smoked on-site and sliced or pulled fresh to order. Though the service is quick, City Barbeque is known for its genuine backyard hospitality where employees check on guests to make sure everyone’s enjoying their food.

Fast-Casual in Charlotte — City Barbecue

City Barbeque’s Motherload comes with a little bit of everything — enough food for six! Image: City Barbeque

Chopt

4125 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209 • (980) 321-9034
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

9844 Rea Rd, Charlotte, NC 28277 • (704) 755-5565
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

8022 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC 28277 • (704) 817-8677
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Chopt opened in the Park Road shopping center three years ago and has pretty much been packed ever since. Known as “the creative salad company,” they offer diners suggested salads or the chance to make their own. You can choose everything from the lettuce to the protein, toppings and dressings, and then they chop it right there in front of you.

“We know that people have full schedules, kids to tend to and jobs to manage. We also know that people want to eat well,” says Colin McCabe, the co-founder of Chopt. “The fast-casual trend has filled a void, ensuring busy people have choices too. Chopt offers creative, locally sourced, flavorful options for people who have a sense of urgency but also an appreciation for living healthfully.”

RELATED: Where Charlotte’s Food Bloggers are Eating

Fast-Casual in Charlotte — Chopt

The Mexican Caesar salad from Chopt is a crowd-pleaser. Image: Chopt

Tacos 4 Life Grill

2940 Derita Rd, Concord, NC 28027 • (833) 838-2267
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tacos 4 Life Grill came to Concord this spring offering 14 taco varieties, ranging from more traditional tacos to gourmet and chef-driven choices including Korean BBQ steak with cabbage, wonton strips and yum-yum sauce; Hawaiian shrimp with pineapple; grilled chicken with poblano ranch; and blackened mahi-mahi with tomato aioli. There are two distinct vegetarian filling choices: seared tofu with roasted poblano salsa and crispy eggplant with cilantro pesto sauce and sautéed cherry tomatoes.

SB TIP: The restaurant is on a mission to help end world hunger. When you buy a taco, rice bowl, salad, quesadilla or nachos, you’re providing a meal to a child in need. Each restaurant provides about 1,000 meals a day to kids in need, and all of that wouldn’t be possible without loyal and passionate guests.

Fast-Casual in Charlotte — Tacos 4 Life

Tacos 4 Life has everything you need for a satisfying and delicious Taco Tuesday — or any day! Image: Tacos 4 Life

Toucan Louie’s Café and Roastery

2753 Rozzelles Ferry Rd, Charlotte, NC 28208 • (980) 289-9791
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We still have people who eat with us and then hang around and visit as long as they would in a sit-down, full-service restaurant, but being able to grab and go, or anything in between, is appealing to most people,” says Toucan Louie’s owner Marc Keiffer.

The restaurant is in an old 1950’s gas station on Rozzelles Ferry and offers a mix of fun flavors and more traditional stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At breakfast, they roast their own coffee, squeeze their own juices (orange, apple, beet, kale) and make their own homemade granola. At lunch and dinner, they roast their own turkey, roast beef and pork instead of buying deli meats, but you really want to try their Cuban sandwich, pimento cheesesteak or the popular jerk seasoned chicken salad.

Fast-Casual in Charlotte — Toucan Louie's

Toucan Louie’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you can get a taste of this fast-casual spot any time of day!

Tandur Indian Kitchen

721 Gov Morrison St Unit F-150, Charlotte, NC 28211 • (704) 366-7669
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Diners at Tandur Indian Kitchen in SouthPark love what the owners call their “approachable Indian cuisine.” Two brothers first came up with the idea to make an Indian fast-casual restaurant and started the growing chain in Knoxville, TN, three years ago. Some of the favorites on the menu include chicken tikka masala, spiced okra fries, Tanduri baked wings and “naanchos.” You can also find bottled Indian beers and local beers on tap as well as popular non-alcoholic options like their sparkling lemonades and Lassi (a traditional Indian yogurt-based drink). A second Charlotte location is expected to open later this fall.

RELATED: 5 Hotel Restaurants That Even Locals Love

Fast-Casual in Charlotte — Tandur Indian Kitchen

Tandur’s tikka masala is one of our go-to orders. Image: Tandur Indian Kitchen

Sabor Latin Street Grill

415 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204 • (980) 237-0308
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

3205 N Davidson St #105, Charlotte, NC 28205 • (980) 207-3589
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

3920 Sharon Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210 • (980) 299-0008
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

11112 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28273 • (980) 256-2622
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

See more locations here

Sabor Latin Street Grill, the popular locally owned fast-casual eatery that’s been serving up authentic Latin cuisine since 2013, is getting ready to open an 11th Charlotte area location later this year – in Uptown. The Sabor menu draws on favorites from El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. The scratch-made kitchen creates crave-worthy salsas (including the famous pineapple habañero), empanadas, gorditas, arepas, yuca fries, nachos and tacos. Look for daily specials on everything from burritos to beers.

BONUS … dessert!

Amélie’s

2424 N Davidson St #102, Charlotte, NC 28205 • (704) 376-1781
Hours: Open 24/7

380 S College St, Charlotte, NC 28202 • (704) 899-0088
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Carmel Commons Shopping Center, 7715 Pineville-Matthews Rd #34b, Charlotte, NC 28226 • (704) 376-1782
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

4321 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209 • (704) 405-0570
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight

Amélie’s French Bakery and Café could be considered a fast-casual bakery that was way ahead of its time. The first one opened in NoDa in 2008. There are now locations across Charlotte and in other states, where you can get salted caramel brownies, turkey sandwiches and ice cream sandwich macaroons … in minutes. But you can stay as long as you like and enjoy the great vibe.

Stop into Amélie’s to satisfy your sweet tooth with one of their tempting pastries. Image: provided

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