NewsdayTV's Scott Vogel checked out Paris Baguette in Garden City, a Koren fast casual bakery that started in Seoul in 1988 and now has more than 3,000 locations worldwide. Credit: Randee Daddona

Swinging into a fast-food or “fast-casual” spot for a convenient, relatively inexpensive meal or sweet treat is a guilty pleasure for many. And now, with the arrival of some international chains, it’s gotten a whole lot more interesting. You may, in fact, find yourself driving out of your way to indulge.

Pollo Campero

50 Fulton Ave., Hempstead; 833-226-7376,

Pollo Campero started serving fried chicken in Guatemala in 1971 and spread like wildfire across Central America. It has since expanded to more than 400 restaurants worldwide—Europe to Africa to China—with nearly 80 of them in the United States (5 on Long Island). The restaurants boast bold green, yellow and orange storefronts, but it’s the moist, citrus-marinated fried chicken that evokes a Pavlovian response. The spice blend includes white and black pepper, cumin, curry, cayenne, and a hit of MSG for that umami bomb. Pair the juicy, flavorful meat—also available as nuggets for the littles—with warm tortillas, crunchy yuca fries or sweet plantains. Throw in an empanada (or two for $2) on the side. There’s horchata to drink, flan for dessert and even chicken sandwiches now, because … America. Once initiated, you will understand why the cult-like brand causes such an international stir. (Other locations: Central Islip, Lawrence, Bay Shore and Huntington Station) — Marie Elena Martinez

A selection of food at Pollo Campero in Hempstead.

A selection of food at Pollo Campero in Hempstead. Credit: Linda Rosier

Layers Bakeshop

621 Old Country Rd., Westbury; 516-809-9800,

When Layers Bakeshop opened in Lahore, in eastern Pakistan, in 2020, it was an immediate sensation. Just three short years later, there are Layers in the north—Islamabad, Rawalpindi—and several more Layers in Lahore, for a total of 12. The 13th location is in the west, 7,000 miles west, in West … bury. “Pakistan had cupcakes, but not like this,” said Asad Mayan, owner of the place on Old Country Road. “Ours are very fluffy, soft, light, and they melt in your mouth.” Mayan ascribes some of that lightness to Layers’ avoidance of ingredients like butter and cream, as well as—this being a halal shop—gelatin and animal enzymes. The 30-year-old, a good friend of one of Layers’ founders, became enamored with the shop during a 2020 trip to Pakistan, so he secured the rights to open an American outpost, found a suitable Island location, and opened his own Layers about a year ago. With the help of The Halal Guide, a popular food-centric Facebook group, word has spread quickly. Fans have been lining up for Layers cupcakes and he said, “all of them sell out by the end of the night.” And he means that literally: On Saturdays and Sundays, the place is open until midnight. Layers sells no traditional Pakistani sweets, focusing instead on cakes, brownies and cake cups (here called sundaes). But it’s the cupcakes that earn the biggest raves. At any one time, you may see upward of a dozen flavors, including vanilla cupcakes with Lotus Biscoff–flavored frosting, salted caramel cupcakes, Belgian malt cupcakes and those with Ferrero Rocher frosting and Nutella frosting. — Scott Vogel

A selection of cupcakes at Layers Bakeshop in Westbury.

A selection of cupcakes at Layers Bakeshop in Westbury. Credit: Linda Rosier

Okuz Burgers

348 Great Neck Rd., Great Neck; 516-570-6252,

Hatice Doyuk delivered the white platter of cheeseburgers, then filled up the table with a colorful assortment of Turkish dipping sauces, dried peppers and grilled vegetables. Okuz Burgers is a well-known hamburger chain in Turkey—burgers are iconic in the drinking culture there—and Doyuk, whose brother-in-law Mustafa Uver owns the chain in Turkey, and her son Ali Buyuknisan have put a great deal of care into its first United States location in Great Neck. Yes, there’s counter service, but on this day, members of the family swirled around, assuring patrons that everything was made from scratch and checking how they liked their fries. In addition to burgers, the menu includes chicken sandwiches and wraps; one boasts chicken and roasted eggplant in the form of a creamy, luxurious spread. (Eggplant, an essential ingredient in Turkish cuisine, may also be found topping a burger.) There’s kofte, too, grilled and served as flat little meatballs with grilled peppers, tomatoes and yogurt sauce so you can mix and match the flavors of each bite. But Doyuk insists the original Okuz burger ($13.49) is their pièce de résistance. It comes with caramelized onions and the usual accoutrements (lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, ketchup). It’s compact, almost like a slider, so it’s easy to eat, and the seasoned fries on the side are superb. Don’t skip the homemade desserts—a honey-glazed şekerpare, or almond cake, and baked rice pudding with some cinnamon for sprinkling. And for the final course, a cup of potent Turkish coffee brewed in a long-handled cezve and paired with a couple of nutty squares of Turkish delight. Beats a McFlurry, any day. — Andi Berlin 

The original Okuz Burger with seasoned fries and sauces at...

The original Okuz Burger with seasoned fries and sauces at Okuz Burger in Great Neck. Credit: Linda Rosier

Paris Baguette

924 Old Country Rd., Garden City; 516-222-2324,

At last count, there were more than 4,000 locations of Paris Baguette worldwide, no small achievement when you consider that the chain’s baked goods offer neither an authentic Parisian experience nor a particularly good baguette. Which makes perfect sense when you learn that Paris Baguette is actually a South Korean operation that opened its first shop in Seoul in 1988. Indeed, part of the fun of visiting its newest location, wedged between an eyeglass store and a Mexican restaurant in the Gallery at Westbury Plaza shopping center, comes in watching other patrons try to make sense of what they’ve stumbled upon, whether the spins on boulangerie classics (plain croissants are glazed with something that gives them a blinding sheen or stuffed with strawberries and cream) or a tray of bright-red strawberry mochi doughnuts, which get their chewy yet light texture from glutinous rice flour. Their signature shape—eight little balls of dough arranged in a circle—suggest a teething ring for a giant baby. Elsewhere, you’ll want to check out some hush puppy–esque specimens rolled in sugar and mostly hollow except for a thin spread of sweetened cream cheese, as well as the tall, pillowy loaves of soft cream bread, raisin bread and milk bread. Up at the counter, pride of place is given to beautifully decorated specialty cakes, including a blueberry chiffon cake, pastel-hued rainbow cake and cakes that looked like big cups of cappuccino. (Slices of many are also available.) Packaged creations include madeleines shaped like Teddy bears, and savories include bread pockets drizzled with ketchup and stuffed with ham, cheese and a hash-brown plank that sticks out the sides, curry or crabmeat croquettes and goods in which hot dogs play an outsize role. (American GIs introduced them to locals during the Korean War.) — Scott Vogel 

Strawberry soft cream and rainbow cake slices at Paris Baguette...

Strawberry soft cream and rainbow cake slices at Paris Baguette in Garden City. Credit: Linda Rosier


91 E. Main St., East Islip; 631-228-3500,

This is the first Long Island branch of a Turkish chain specializing in vegan kofte, modeled on the specialty called cig kofte, made from raw meat kneaded with seasonings. Here, bulgur (cracked wheat) and walnuts—two ancient, iconic ingredients in that part of the world—are mixed with smoked pepper, tomato and pepper pastes, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, parsley and more herbs and spices to produce a brick-red paste that staffers squeeze between their fingers to make the distinctive, ridged logs that the diner then wraps up in lettuce leaves with fresh herbs and pickles and, if desired, pomegranate sauce. The mixture can also be served in a superthin flour wrap or crisp taco shells. Beyond kofte, Nefista offers herbed chickpeas in wraps and bowls, hummus in pita and, for dessert, baklava. Almost everything on the menu is less than $10. — Erica Marcus

The vegan kofteh platter at Nefista in East Islip.

The vegan kofteh platter at Nefista in East Islip. Credit: Linda Rosier

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