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Fast-Casual Chains to Look Out for in 2018 Gallery

Fast-Casual Chains to Look Out for in 2018 Gallery


These lunchtime destinations are definitely worth knowing

The “fast-casual” industry — think of places like Chipotle or Panera — is booming. According to Technavio, the market for fast-casual fare is expected to hit $66.87 billion by 2020, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of fast-casual concepts that have opened in recent years that are going to be competing for their share of the pie, some as offshoots of major fast food chains and some from big-name fine dining chefs. Though some are bound to fail, these 12 chains are on a path to major success, and you should definitely be on the lookout for them in your neck of the woods.

Fast-Casual Chains to Look Out For In 2018

The “fast-casual” industry — think of places like Chipotle or Panera — is booming. Though some are bound to fail, these 12 chains are on a path to major success, and you should definitely be on the lookout for them in your neck of the woods.

Bobby’s Burger Palace

Bobby’s Burger Palace/Yelp

Chef Bobby Flay might be best known for his Southwest-inspired cooking, but it’s his burgers that might end up being his legacy. At the sleek Bobby’s Burger Palace, which got its start in New Jersey in 2008 and today has 17 locations in nine states and Washington, D.C., burgers come in a wide variety of styles (“crunchifying” them with potato chips on top is the signature move); and the milkshakes, fries, and onion rings are also worthy of high praise. All the recipes were created by Flay, who announced last November that he’s putting a licensing and franchising plan in place that will allow for rapid expansion. First up? A location opening this year in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

By Chloe

By Chloe started out in 2015 on a very strong note — as one of the most popular counter-service restaurants in New York City — and has only grown from there. The chain made headlines last year when co-founder Chloe Coscarelli was forced out of the company after infighting, but owners Samantha Wasser and ESquared Hospitality (which owns more than 20 restaurants worldwide) have stayed true to the mission, serving creative vegan fare that’s so good even carnivores love it (its veggie burger is one of the best you’ll find, anywhere). Smart brand partnerships and a robust social media presence have helped its rise to fame; there are currently five New York locations (with one more on the way), two in Boston, one each in Los Angeles and Providence, and one in London (with another in the works).

Cheba Hut Toasted Subs

Toasted subs are nothing new in the fast-casual world, but Cheba Hut, which is entering its 20th year, has figured out how to crack the code. One, it offers more than 30 signature sandwiches made with fresh ingredients in three sizes; two, most locations also serve local craft beers; and three, its tongue-in-cheek cannabis theme has continued to catch on as marijuana legalization has gone more mainstream (and it’s hilariously unabashed about it — sandwich sizes are “nug,” “pinner,” and “blunt”). The chain’s mellow, low-key vibe has helped it expand out of its native Colorado and into six more states; there are currently 21 locations, and the company plans to capitalize on legalization by opening five to ten more locations annually.

City Barbecue

City Barbecue was founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 1999 by competition pitmaster Rick Malir, and today this award-winning barbecue can be found at 46 locations in seven states. Slow-smoked brisket, two types of pulled pork, turkey breast, pulled chicken with Alabama white sauce, and smoked sausage take inspiration from several different regional styles, and sides include mac and cheese, corn pudding, collards with pork, and gumbo. All meats are smoked in-house and all sides are scratch-made according to exacting specifications. The company is currently in the midst of an expansion that will see eight new locations open by the end of 2018.

Dat Dog

If you live in New Orleans, you know (and love) Dat Dog. This fun and creative 6-year-old hot dog joint offers some unique sausages, more than 30 toppings, a solid bar, and late hours, and its three NOLA locations are just the tip of the iceberg: it announced last year that it’s launching a massive franchise program, with up to 50 new locations expected to open along the Gulf Coast within the next five years.

Dizengoff

James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov is one of Philadelphia’s most renowned (he put his name on the map with his high-end Israeli destination, Zahav), and his fast-casual concept Dizengoff, modeled after the ubiquitous hummus stalls of Israel, has taken off since he first launched it with business partner Steve Cook in 2014. It’s currently up to four locations (including a super-popular one in New York’s Chelsea Market, which opened in 2016), and the chain’s absolutely stunning hummus, ornamented with seasonally-rotating toppings, will go as far as Solomonov wants to take it.

Fuku

You probably know chef David Chang as the brains behind the Momofuku brand and the new Netflix series Ugly Delicious, but he’s also serving what very well might be the best spicy fried chicken sandwich in New York at Fuku’s six locations as well as at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Chang is a master of branding and he’s clearly cracked the chicken sandwich code, and this simple, straightforward concept may be his ticket to fast-casual domination.

MAD Greens

Two classically-trained chefs, Marley Hodgson and Dan Long, launched MAD Greens in 2004 and today there are 34 locations in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Texas. The secret to its success? Keeping the menu small, keeping the concept simple, and using only high-quality ingredients to craft its streamlined, chef-driven menu of salads, grain bowls, wraps, soups, and juices. And 2018 certainly shows promise: It’s exploring drive-thru, and is looking to expand into new markets like Austin.

Mixt

Mixt features a wide variety of salads, grain bowls, and sandwiches, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options as well as creative design-your-own add-ins like marinated Hodo soy tofu, steelhead, roasted leeks, crispy dukkah chickpeas, and seasonal produce. It’s been in business since 2006 and currently has nine locations in San Francisco and two in LA, and the founders completely refreshed the brand a couple years ago, expanding the dinner menu and adding craft beer and wine as well as a kombucha bar. Plans are in motion to expand outside of California.

Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill

Naf Naf Grill/Yelp

Before becoming CEO of Chicago-based Naf Naf last June, Paul Damico was a top executive at Focus Brands (which owns companies including Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, and Moe’s Southwest Grill), and before that he oversaw Moe’s expansion from 200 locations to 700 as its president. So if his past success is any indication, it won’t be long before a Naf Naf opens near you. The company focuses on falafel, shawarma, and steak bowls, served with customizable toppings and sauces, and there are currently 38 locations in seven states and Washington, D.C. (a Delaware location will be opening soon). The chain will soon launch franchising, however, and the fact that there’s already a wait list for potential franchisees is a very good sign.

Roti Modern Mediterranean

Roti Modern Mediterranean/Yelp

This Chicago-based chain is one of America’s fastest-growing, with 10 new locations opened in 2017 and even more expected to open this year. The concept is pretty straightforward: Start with a base of rice, laffe wrap, pita sandwich, or salad; add on proteins including chicken, steak, salmon, and falafel; and choose from a wide variety of Middle Eastern-inspired toppings, sauces, and sides. In 2015, the company changed its name from Roti Mediterranean Grill, overhauled its concept, and launched its current expansion plan, and today it’s up to 33 locations in five states and Washington, D.C.

Salt & Straw

Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw is already renowned on the West Coast for its inspired handmade ice cream flavors, which rotate regularly but might include Meyer lemon meringue pie, chocolate caramel potato chip cupcake, sweet corn and waffle cones, honey lavender, and Beecher’s cheese with peppercorn toffee. There really is no other ice cream shop quite like Salt & Straw, and people are catching on: Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group recently bought a significant minority stake in the company, which allowed it to open new locations in Seattle and San Francisco, build a commercial kitchen in Portland and a production facility in San Francisco, and launch a soft-serve concept called Wiz Bang Bar. It’s currently up to 13 locations, and there are many more to come; we’re just thankful that one of the world’s best ice cream parlors is also a chain.

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This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.


This Is America's Best Fast-Casual Pizza

Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars are dinosaurs. They’re remnants of a previous era in American dining, a time before it was perfectly acceptable to order a coffee by saying: “I’ll take a half-caf oat milk latte with three pumps sugar-free mocha.” Now, ordering food is all about getting exactly the order you want, and that’s never been more apparent in the new wave of fast-casual pizza joints.

At new-school chains like Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza, Pieology, PizzaRev and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, hungry customers order individual-sized pies with whatever toppings they want, and are served a made-to-order pizza within just a few minutes. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which chain is the best? I ate at all the nation’s major fast-casual pizza spots to find out.

How we selected the pizza for this ranking

Because there are thousands of possible combinations of toppings at every chain and one man’s stomach can only fit so much food, I tried the most bare-bones pie listed on the menu at each chain to best judge the quality of the pizza. I only ordered pizzas featured on the menu because it put the onus on the restaurant to determine which type of plain pie best featured their ingredients. For some chains, the plain pie had a basic sauce and two types of cheese. For others, it was a sauceless white pie with basil. Now let’s get to the pizza!

#5: Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

The pizza: Classic Margherita

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Uncle Maddio’s was one of the hottest pizza chains around. But 2019 isn’t working out quite as well, as the operator of the chain filed for bankruptcy protection in April. Despite that, it still operates almost 30 shops in 10 states, making it worthy of inclusion into this ranking of national, fast-casual pizza chains.

The ingredients in the Classic Margherita were encouraging, with a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella, garlic olive oil, Roma tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper: a perfect-sounding option for anyone craving white pies. But the reality wasn’t as enticing. The crust lacked any sort of char. And normally I’m all for plenty of cheese on pizza, but what came out of the oven was a tad too oily and greasy for my liking. One highlight was that every bite of the pie that included the fresh mozzarella was a properly salted delight.

#4: PizzaRev

The pizza: Cheese Pizza

Old school brands like Pizza Hut have been experimenting with beer delivery , but alcohol is generally a no-go when it comes to legacy fast-food pizza places. PizzaRev leaned into the pizza-and-beer pairing by opening up Taprooms around the country. A location in Nashville features pour-your-own brews with plenty of taps to choose from. It’s certainly one way to stand out in the pizza chain game.

Pizza isn’t always the healthiest choice when it comes to mealtime, so it’s nice to see PizzaRev offering options like Daiya vegan cheese, organic tomato sauce, Beyond Meat toppings and Caulipower crust. (Of course, of those options, only the organic sauce is relevant for this ranking because I’m focusing on plain pies.) The pizza I ordered had sauce, mozzarella and a traditional crust.

The good news: The crust is on the thinner side compared to the other fast-casual pizzas, but there’s more than enough pie per serving to fill you up for two meals. The sauce and mozz are serviceable, but neither ingredient particularly stands out. Also good news: It’s not too greasy. PizzaRev fits into the category of restaurants you eat at when it’s convenient, but perhaps won’t go out of your way for.

#3: Blaze Pizza

The pizza: Simple Pie

When LeBron James isn’t busy filming “Space Jam 2,” he’s investing in different business opportunities. Blaze is one investment that’s done very well for the Laker, as the brand is opening locations like crazy . It stands out from the pizza pack by making the dough from scratch in-house each day ― the location I visited featured an employee hard at work stretching and preparing dough in a separate room all to himself.

Here’s a little pizza parlance for you: cornicione. It’s what ’za freaks call the outer edge of the pizza crust, and it’s the secret to what makes Blaze delicious. Unlike other chains, there’s a layer of fine cornmeal dusted onto the crust here, which adds to the textural joy you get when eating it. The char on the crust adds a hint of smokiness to each slice, counterpunching the acidity of the sauce and cheese. The mozzarella cheese feels a little flimsy, and the pie is a tad too greasy for my liking, but the crust and sauce make this something worth seeking out. Prices vary depending on where you live, but I picked this up for $5.50 at a Vegas-area location ― a price point much lower than other chains in this rundown.

#2: Mod Pizza

The pizza: Maddy

If you haven’t heard of Mod Pizza yet, that may change, since the company plans double its number of locations and open another 500 stores in the next five years. Mod offers an array of toppings (30 in all, including offbeat choices like spicy chicken sausage, croutons and romaine), and stands out by featuring finishing sauces. These sauces layer an additional pop of flavor on your pie with options like Mike’s Hot Honey, balsamic fig glaze and sri-rancha sauce.

The simplest pie at Mod is the Maddy, with red sauce and mozz. The first thing I noticed about the pie is the fantastic char on the underside of each slice and the cornicione. The cheese is delicious without overwhelming the pie, but the pizza’s secret weapon appears to be the sauce, which is worth bottling up. The sauce has a mouthwatering kick from red pepper flakes and a blend of spices that turn even the most plain pie into something worth picking up. And because the crust is among the thinnest I tried, eating an entire pie won’t have you feeling sluggish.

#1: Pieology

The pizza: Margherita da Vinci

On Pizza Today ’s list of Top 100 Pizza Companies of 2018, Blaze and Mod ranked higher in gross sales than Pieology. (Uncle Maddio’s and PizzaRev didn’t crack the top 100.) That’s likely in part due to the restructuring Pieology has done over the past year and a half, resulting in the closure of a few locations. But it’s still operating pizza joints in 20 states (and Guam!), and based on the results of my taste test, you should swing by sometime soon. Kevin Durant clearly believes in it (he’s an investor).

Pieology’s Margherita features basil, grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parm and an olive oil blend. I’ll admit that if I had to build my own plain pie, those would not be the ingredients I’d choose. But that’s what the Pieology menu steered me toward, and I’m glad it did. The thin crust has the char any self-respecting pizza lover demands of a slice, and it also has a buttery, airy feel to it. Each bite is supremely satisfying: the overwhelming freshness of the heaps of garlic and tomatoes register instantly. I didn’t miss the sauce one bit. The cheese was perfectly layered, and didn’t overwhelm the other elements of the pie. All the elements combined made for a pizza I couldn’t stop eating. Pieology may not be lagging behind the other fast-casual pizza chains for long.