Taylor Gourmet, D.C.'s hoagie-slinging homage to the City of Brotherly Love, took the inaugural Fast Casual Madness title, defeating upstart sushi burritoists Buredo in the championship matchup. Taylor Gourmet took 56 percent of the 2,095 votes that were cast in the final round. Fast Casual Madness began with a list of 45 fast-casual eateries in eight categories, from pizza and burgers to sandwiches and salads. Take a look at how the grub games unfolded below.

Here’s a quick scouting report on the Fast Casual Madness finalists from The Washington Post's $20 Diner columnist Tim Carman.


The founders of Buredo made a wise decision from the outset: The operation wouldn’t be a fast-casual free-for-all, in which customers create their own sushi burritos, potentially concocting some sort of junior-high cafeteria dare rolled up in seaweed. Instead, owners Travis Elton and Mike Haddad have collaborated with two different chefs to develop a carefully curated line of monster maki-sushi rolls, each engineered for maximum flavor. You could argue, of course, that Elton and Haddad didn’t take their chef-driven concept far enough and should insist on tighter portion controls. After all, a bloated Buredo roll, no matter how deliciously conceived, is almost guaranteed to burst at the seams at some point when you bite into it. It makes for a messy experience and, frequently, an out-of-balance one. Still, if this sushi burrito movement is going to last longer than RGIII’s career, it needs a committed upstart like Buredo, which will, I suspect, only get better as the years roll by.
-- Tim Carman

Road to the final: Defeated ShopHouse, &pizza and Sweetgreen.
Most valuable dish: The Sofie, made with shrimp tempura, avocado, pickled cabbage, carrot, sesame seeds, red tobiko and Sriracha mayo.
Dish dimensions: 12 ounces, 7.5 inches long, 2.5 inches diameter.
No. of area locations: 1.
Year opened: 2015.

Taylor Gourmet

Less than a decade old, Taylor Gourmet already has attained D.C. institution status. You might be tempted to chalk that up to Taylor’s ability to reproduce like fruit flies. The hoagie chain has 10 outlets, including one at Reagan National Airport, so you can have one last Italian roast pork sandwich before heading off to some exotic locale. But a concept doesn’t expand without demand, and Washingtonians continue to frequent Taylor for the reasons they always have: Founders Casey Patten and David Mazza focus on fresh ingredients, including the rolls produced daily just for Taylor. Even better, the owners insist on rolling out new items each quarter, adding a little seasonal, chef-driven obsessiveness to a chain that easily could coast on its reputation as the place to introduce high-quality Philly hoagies to the District. Has the brand suffered from its growth spurt? Yes, it can be frustratingly inconsistent. But then again, it’s still good enough that the president has made multiple visits.
-- Tim Carman

Road to the final: Defeated Five Guys, District Taco and Potbelly.
Most valuable dish: The Pattison, a roast pork hoagie with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.
Dish dimensions: 12.7 ounces, 6.25 inches long, 3 inches diameter.
No. of area locations: 10.
Year opened: 2008.

Here's how these two finalists got here: 

The original first-round matchups are below:

Spinfire vs. &pizza

Things you can do in 90 seconds: score a touchdown and make a pizza at SpinFire. Coincidentally, Pierre Garcon has done both. The Washington Redskins wide receiver is a founding partner in this build-your-own pizza spot that started in Ashburn, where the football team trains, and opened a second location in Rosslyn. Choose from 30-plus fresh toppings including Sriracha sausage and banana peppers.

No. of area locations: 2.
Most valuable dish: The Veg Out, topped with red sauce, mozzarella, red onions, roasted red peppers, artichokes and black
Year opened: 2014.

Perhaps this local pizza chain is so adored because it caters to just about every taste, diet and craving. We're talking gluten-free crust, dessert pizzas and salads (although we can't attest to how the latter taste because we can never resist the pies). Build your pizza from the crust up, or opt for one of the signature pies and the occasional special, such as the hamburger-topped pie or the Reuben pizza.

No. of area locations: 14.
Most valuable dish: The Maverick, a meat lover's dream made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage
and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Year opened: 2012.

Buredo vs. Shophouse

Leave your skepticism at home. Buredo's burrito-size sushi rolls (stay with us . . .) are so wrong they're right, and a convenient way to satisfy your hunger for quality fish and fresh vegetables. Equivalent to about two or three normal sushi rolls, a Buredo roll is a perfectly proportioned mix of protein, rice, sauces and other Japanese toppings. One major plus: No chopsticks needed.

No. of area locations: 1.
Most valuable dish: The Sofie, made with shrimp tempura, avocado, pickled cabbage, carrot, sesame seeds, red tobiko and Sriracha
Year opened: 2015.

You know what to do here: Choose your grain base (or a salad), a meat, some vegetables, a sauce and a garnish. Although the process is formulaic, ShopHouse's menu is anything but. Meats pop with Southeast Asian ingredients, including lemongrass, fish sauce and coconut. And such tangy sauces as spicy red curry and tamarind vinaigrette will compete for your attention.

No. of area locations: 7.
Most valuable dish: The steak laab rubbed in dry spices and grilled with fish sauce and lime, which can be added to any combination of rice, vegetables, sauce and garnish.
Year opened: 2011.

Sweetgreen vs. Chopt

This homegrown chain, founded by a trio of Georgetown grads, had humble beginnings when it debuted its straight-from-the-farm salads in a green-roofed shack on M Street. Sweetgreen has blossomed to 40-plus shops across the country, reaching as far as Los Angeles. Bragging that such ingredients as baby spinach, apples and cucumbers are "local" and "seasonal" may induce eye rolls today, but in 2007 the concept was fairly novel.

No. of area locations: 21.
Most valuable dish: Guacamole Greens, a lime delight served with tortilla chips, roasted chicken, avocados and a jalapeno
Year opened: 2007.

Chewing is so overrated. That's why Chopt rocks a blade over all of its produce - chopping it into tiny pieces - before piling it in a bowl and sending you on your way. Founded by two buddies who believed they could make healthy food delicious, Chopt features a menu with such gourmet ingredients as gold and purple beets, millet and panko fried chicken.

No. of area locations: 14.
Most valuable dish: The Mexican Caesar, made with romaine lettuce topped with cotija cheese, jalapeno peppers, tortilla chips and Mexican Caesar dressing.
Year opened: 2001.

Chix vs. Urban Bar-B-Que

You won't find fried chicken at Chix, but you won't miss it, either. With three flavor blends (Chix original, Colombian and Peruvian), this eco-friendly local outlet packs more flavor into its rotisserie chicken than even deep-fried birds dusted with supposedly secret blends of herbs and spices.

No. of area locations: 2.
Most valuable dish: Peruvian half chicken with black beans and rice, noodles and cheese, and curry mustard sauce.
Year opened: 2007.

Urban Bar-B-Que
Come for the 'cue, stay for the artery-arresting specialties such as the Redneck Fondue (three-cheese dip mixed with chili) and Soul Rolls (egg rolls stuffed with meat, onions, cheese and a side of Redneck Fondue for dipping.) When it comes to meats cooked low-and-slow, the pulled pork is the pick here. And don't forget to grab a hunk of corn bread.

No. of area locations: 9.
Most valuable dish: Pulled pork plate with cole slaw, house-cut fries and corn bread.
Year opened: 2003.

Takorean vs. District Taco

TaKorean made the transition from mobile vendor to brick and mortar shop. It fuses Latin American and Korean fare in a build-your-own format: Diners choose a protein (chicken, steak, pork, tofu or a seasonal vegetable) to go in their corn - no flour! - tortillas (or rice or slaw bowls) and then go crazy topping them. Feel free to stick with one slaw (kimchi, romaine or kale), but you'd be foolish not to add all the toppings: salsa roja, Sriracha sauce, lime crema, sesame seeds and cilantro.

No. of area locations: 3.
Most valuable dish: Caramelized tofu tacos with kimchi and all the toppings.
Year opened: 2010.

District Taco
What also started as a modest taco cart has now become a recognizable local chain where you can eat tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tortillas (flour or corn) are customized with such fillings as pork, shredded beef and grilled chicken, as well as toppings including beans, pico de gallo and a variety of salsas. Tacos not your thing? There also are burritos, bowls, salads, quesadillas and nachos.

No. of area locations: 7.
Most valuable dish: Breakfast tacos, served all day, in basic (eggs, cheese, potatoes), healthy (egg whites) or veggie varieties.
Year opened: 2009.

Five Guys vs. Taylor Gourmet

Five Guys
Before this now-ubiquitous burgers-and-fries chain entirely changed our expectations, where else could you order a single-or double-patty bacon cheeseburger with tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, raw onions, jalapenos, lettuce, pickles and hot sauce, without causing a meltdown behind the counter? The Cajun fries are pretty great, too.

No. of area locations: More than 50.
Most valuable dish: Double-cheeseburger "all the way."
Year opened: 1986.

Taylor Gourmet
A robust menu of Philadelphia-inspired hoagies is this sandwich outlet's claim to fame. The menu stretches two-dozen subs deep and is divided by meats and fillings: roast beef, breaded chicken, roast pork, Italian cold cuts, turkey, vegetarian and the relatively recent addition of cheesesteaks, served on either an Italian seeded, multi-grain or soft seedless roll. And don't overlook the risotto balls.

No. of area locations: 10.
Most valuable dish: The Pattison, a roast pork hoagie with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.
Year opened: 2008.

Roti vs. Cava Grill

The build-your-own menu at Roti, a lunch staple downtown, can be served up three ways: as a sandwich, a salad or a rice plate. Diners start with a protein, such as salmon, chicken kabobs or steak roti, then add sauces (like the spicy s'hug or the mild tahini), sides and toppings. The rice plate comes with three of the sides and toppings, which include hummus, couscous and red cabbage slaw. Get a salad and add unlimited sides and toppings to your stomach's delight.

No. of area locations: 10.
Most valuable dish: The B.P.E., or Best Plate Ever: a rice plate with chicken kabob, roasted red pepper sauce, tomato and
cucumber, hummus and fresh vegetables served with warm pita on the side.
Year opened: 2007.

Cava Grill
Founded by a trio of childhood friends as an outgrowth of the sit-down Cava Mezze restaurants, Cava Grill debuted in Bethesda and has expanded to D.C., Virginia and Los Angeles. Cava offers pita sandwiches, salads and bowls. The handmade spreads include the classic hummus and the jalapeno-infused "crazy feta"; proteins include grilled meatballs, falafel and braised lamb. For toppings, choose from such options as tomato and onion salad, cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh and Gordy's Pickle Jar banana peppers.

No. of area locations: 16.
Most valuable dish: A greens and grain bowl with brown rice and spinach, topped with Cava's signature hummus, spicy harissa
and tzatziki, spicy lamb meatballs, all the toppings and Sriracha Greek yogurt dressing.
Year opened: 2011.

Chipotle vs. Potbelly

Chipotle has had a tough year, but it's bound to bounce back. The burrito-slinging behemoth has a customizable menu that begins with your choice of vessel - burrito, bowl, tacos or salad - and ends with proteins ranging from braised pork to shredded tofu and such salsas as fresh tomato and roasted chili-corn. Plus, there's chips and guac.

No. of area locations: More than 50.
Most valuable dish: Barbacoa burrito with rice, fajita veggies, pinto beans, fresh tomato salsa, cheese, guacamole and sour
Year opened: 1993.

Potbelly isn't the place to go in search of the next sushi burrito or Cronut, but it is where to go for classic, unfussy fare - think warm sandwiches stuffed with meatballs and marinara, chicken salad or smoked ham and Swiss cheese. A big perk: It serves milkshakes with a cookie clinging to the straw.

No. of area locations: More than 50.
Most valuable dish: "A Wreck" sandwich, with salami, roast beef, turkey, ham and Swiss cheese.
Year opened: 1977.