The days when New York was a bastion of mom-and-pop restaurants are gone, as the city’s dining landscape is being infiltrated by national chains more than ever. But before you curse the chains that feed you, keep in mind that it was their strong fan bases that brought them to our fair city. Here are some cult faves that recently have entered Gotham — we think even the most loyal mom-and-pop lovers will find something they like.
780 Lexington Ave., 212-207-8375
Sprinkles was one of the first spots to cash in on the cupcake craze when it opened in California in 2002. In fact, the popular chain calls itself “the world’s first cupcake bakery.” There are now 10 locations nationwide, including an NYC branch that opened in May. While there are no flavors unique to our location, there are special Yankees, Mets and red apple decorations.
Try: The red velvet cupcake is Sprinkles’ most popular flavor, but there’s also salty caramel, chai latte and key lime for the more adventurous ($3.50 per cupcake, $39 per dozen).
Potbelly Sandwich Works
101 Maiden Lane, 646-289-4201
Look out, Subway — another sandwich chain has entered your territory. The FiDi location is the first of this nationwide chain to open in NYC, but the company plans to launch three more Manhattan locations by the end of the year. The famed chain — which started in Chicago in 1977 and is as commonplace as Subway in some Northeastern cities — lures customers with its warm sandwiches, milkshakes and cookies.
Try: “A Wreck,” made with roast beef, salami, turkey breast, ham and melted Swiss cheese ($5.80).
2486 Broadway, 212-362-5880
This Italian ice and custard chain opened in Bensalem, Pa., in 1984. Since then, it’s become a Jersey Shore staple. It was down the Shore that franchise owner Josh Teitelbaum became familiar with Rita’s, and he and his brother Noah launched the chain’s first Manhattan location on the UWS last year. The brothers hope to open more NYC spots in the future.
Try: Ices ($2.75-$4.25), frozen custard ($3.50-$5) or a blendini (italian ice, custard and a topping whipped together ($5.25).
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
1412 Broadway, 212-575-3854
This L.A.-based celeb favorite is scheduled to open its first NYC location near Times Square in mid-August, the first of three expected to debut in NYC this year. There will be 32 varieties of custom-roasted coffee, 30 types of tea and an array of baked goods.
Try: “Ice Blended” drinks, such as the Ultimate Mocha ($3.50-$5.25), or the English Breakfast latte ($3.50-$4.50).
700 W. 125th St., 212-694-1777
Anyone who has spent time in Syracuse or Rochester is familiar with this chain and its cult status. In 2004, Dinosaur opened its Harlem spot (which recently has relocated to a different building down the street). The restaurant — which inhabits a former meatpacking house — draws crowds of carnivores on a regular basis.
Try: Big Ass Pork Plate ($15.50).
On the way ...
In-N-Out fans eagerly awaiting an NYC location can get some consolation now that another popular L.A.-based burger chain, Umami Burger, is headed to our shores. Founder Adam Fleisch-man told Grub Street that the company should be in the city by late 2012. Expect designer burgers — including a port-and- Stilton burger and a truffle burger prepared with cheese and truffle glaze.
Midwest and Southern burger chain Steak 'n Shake is said to be opening a location in midtown. According to Eater, it will open at 1695 Broadway, right next to the Ed Sullivan Theater, home of "Late Night with David Letterman." Steak 'n Shake is known for the steak burger — made with T-bone, sirloin and round steaks — and for its retro diner feel.
Headed in the other direction ...
Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s burger-and-fries mecca, is all over Manhattan, and now has locations in DC, Miami Beach, Westport, Conn., and Saratoga Springs. A Philly location is also under way. And the signature “concretes” aren’t for Americans only: There’s a location in Dubai and one set to open in Kuwait City.
Bill’s Bar &Burger -- The BR Guest restaurant group’s chainlet (there’s one at Rock Center and one in the Meatpacking District) — is known for its simple burgers and shakes. This summer, a Bill’s opened at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, and according to a spokesperson, there are plans to expand to more locations.