Slideshow: Fast Food Chains in London That Should Be in America

EAT
EAT
Pret a Manger has crossed the Atlantic, but when in London, I prefer this close cousin of a chain. Following Pret's model of food that's pre-packaged but made fresh throughout the day, EAT goes beyond the baguette sandwiches and green salads with a menu that includes Moroccan-spiced chicken couscous and tandoori chicken and savory pies; an excellent sweet potato and goat cheese pie, served with a heaping scoop of buttery mashed potatoes and a ladle of gravy, is a more than satisfying meal for five pounds. And anywhere I can get a teeny Banoffee pie to go is a place I'll return to. eat.co.uk
Busaba Eathai
Busaba Eathai
With low-lit, wood-paneled dining rooms, cozy communal tables, and a menu of more-of-less Thai fare, Busaba Eathai, the work of Alan Yau, who started the Wagamama empire, isn't the best Thai fare you'll find in London. But it does take the guesswork out of finding the right place. What you'll find? Quite tasty noodle dishes; excellent ginger-sauced calamari; serviceable, even spicy curries; and a sexy, well-run operation: a great date spot when you don't know where else to go. busaba.com
Wasabi
Wasabi
There's good sushi, for which you choose your venue carefully, budget a decent amount of money, and let the sushi chef work their magic; and then there's everyday sushi, the kind you grab on a 15-minute lunch break without handing over half your wallet. Wasabi does a pretty good job of the latter. As an indecisive person of wildly varying appetites, I love the idea of sushi you can grab by the piece; in my experience, the rice has always been properly cooked and the fish reasonably fresh-tasting, if nothing special. wasabi.uk.com
Starbucks Alternatives
Starbucks Alternatives
Sure, pockets of the United States have their Peet's or their Caribou, but there's not really a national laptop-friendly coffee chain to rival Starbucks. In London, there's Caffe Nero and Costa, just to start. Both have pretty decent prepared food offerings—I'd rather eat a Caffe Nero spicy chicken panino over a stateside Starbucks caprese sandwich any day. I find the coffee at both much easier to drink; nothing remarkable, but a little less crazy-roasted than Starbucks. And while we're at it, why can't a shake of chocolate over a cappuccino be standard in the States, too? costa.co.uk; caffenero.com