When dining out there are a lot of options. Most people have a clear sense of the typical fast food or fine restaurant options, but now there is everything in between including “fast casual,” “fast-fine” and “fine-casual” dining. These all vary to some degree and are in no way related to your run-of-the-mill fast-food restaurants.
To clear things up a little: “Fast-casual” can include places we might typically call fast food, whereas “fine-casual” restaurants are more local affairs and even though they serve food quickly, that food is often more than the typical burger and fries and usually locally sourced. Think Xoco in Chicago courtesy of Frontera Grill founder Rick Bayless. Even Shake Shack has been named a “fine-casual” spot. The basic criteria of this designation involves a restaurant to serve quality food in a spot that offers an interesting atmosphere and a little food character as well. Gone are the days in which McDonalds provided that on-the-go treat. Not to knock a stalwart of most childhoods, but, as adults, you might want more from your food, even if it is fast.
One thing to expect from this dining experience is exactly the middle ground the name conjures — it is neither as convenient as a fast-food restaurant nor as leisurely as a fine-dining establishment. Do not expect a drive-thru or the ability to sit for more than 45 minutes to an hour. These restaurants rely on a steady stream of customers to keep their prices down and their quality up while still making a profit.
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Truly immersing yourself in a foreign culture is one of the main reasons to travel, whether you’re learning a local dance or sipping wine with a vineyard owner in Italy. Traveling outside your comfort zone also involves sampling local cuisine, but if you’re visiting a major city like Rome or Paris, eating like a local usually means stepping far out of the city center, where eateries tend to cater to unadventurous tourists. But finding a worthy eatery can hog hours of your trip time as you pore over listings on TripAdvisor or Yelp.