5 Restaurants We'd Add to CNBC's '10 Restaurants to Watch' List

Yesterday, CNBC reported on 10 up-and-coming restaurants to watch. The roundup wasn’t hand-selected, but based on predictive social analytics. In the list are concepts that could very well be the next Chipotle or Starbucks; the next Sweetgreen or Smashburger. Some of our personal favorites landed on the list — Tender Greens (#8), Bruxie (#7), and Hopdoddy Burger Bar (#2). Also making the list are Burger Lounge, Nick’s Restaurants, PieOlogy, PizzaRev, Mendocino Farms, Project Pie, and even CineBistro, the movie theater-slash-restaurant hybrid.

While we don’t necessarily disagree with the original list, we’d like to add five up-and-comers CNBC missed that are game changers in their own right, based on our proprietary Restaurant Social Media Index. The RSMI tracks three primary areas: influence, sentiment, and engagement, and is cross-referenced to a weighted scale and an advanced Social Insights algorithm that provides a level playing field for all brands participating, big or small.

In no specific order:

1. Greenleaf 

Ranking in the Top 30 of our Overall Top 250 Brands for Q1, Greenleaf is proving it’s a force to be reckoned with — especially with Gen Y. The chef-driven, L.A.-based “gourmet chopshop” features specialty, seasonal and local ingredients on the menu, and uses gourmet cooking techniques to up the ante while still remaining affordable. Greenleaf offers breakfast, lunch and dinner (with Build-Your-Own options), as well as happy hour. And don’t forget the juice bar!

Various locations throughout Southern California

2. Cava Mezze Grill (#79)

The Cava brand offers both full-service restaurants (Cava Mezze) and fast casuals (Cava Mezze Grill). One of the best parts of the fresh Greek concept? The chef, Dimitri Moshovitis, has a hand in both menus, ensuring similar, chef-driven food quality — even if you can’t afford the time or money to dine at Cava Mezze. The menu takes an organized, Build-Your-Own approach, focusing on base, dips & spreads, proteins — which includes braised lamb, grilled meatballs, and spicy lamb sliders, aside from the usuals — and toppings & dressings (basmati rice! fresh mint! pickled onions!), proving that you can get a damn good meal without sacrificing quality or your wallet.

Various locations

3. Wow Bao

When you hear “hot asian buns,” the first thing that comes to mind may not be food (probably something more NSFW). But rest assured, Wow Bao aims to deliver just that. This Lettuce Entertain You Group concept, run by Geoff Alexander, is fairly simple in scope, but offers a full range of baos, hitting on all flavor profiles: Teriyaki Chicken, Spicy Kung Pao Chicken, Whole Wheat Edamame, Thai Curry Chicken, Spicy Mongolian Beef, BBQ Pork (a personal favorite), and even coconut custard or chocolate for the sweet tooth. The concept also offers breakfast baos and other menu fare, including low-calorie options. But it’s not just the food that puts Wow Bao, which made our Overall List for Q1 at No. 45 — the Chicago-based concept also boasts a food truck, and is willing to constantly push the envelope with technology, including a mobile loyalty program.

Various locations

4. Pitfire Artisan Pizza (#67)

A “modern American pizza parlor,” Pitfire serves up artisan pies and a solid culture. Owner & Founder Paul Hibler tells us that, when expanding to new locations, “We study. We take a lot of care in really vibing out what a neighborhood is, and then we try to inject it,” customizing each brand experience to each location. On the menu are well-thought-out and seasonal ingredients, with pies offering toppings like wild arugula, caramelized onion, hazelnut, roasted mushrooms, thyme, or marinated wild shrimp. To cater to the non-pizza crowd (is there such a thing?), Pitfire’s menu also offers up pasta dishes, paninis, salads, and a section called “Pantry” that features things like Roasted Cauliflower with Chili Mint Butter.

Various locations throughout Southern California

5. Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar (#144)

The name says it all — Zinburger is known for its gourmet burgers and wine selection, but also serves salads and sides, and shakes and desserts. Topped off with an industrial-style decor, Zinburger takes the Better Burger segment up a notch with menu items like its Ahi Sandwich (coleslaw, avocado, Tamari soy glaze & mayo) or its Samburger (Nueske’s maple bacon, American cheese & Thousand Island dressing). Also featured are wine pairings (complement that Ahi sandwich with a glass of Alamos Chardonnay), a Shake of the Month (options are far from basic — Crème Brûlée, Bananas Foster, and “Bars of Zin,” which comes with chocolate ice cream, hazelnut spread and Kit Kat pieces, are all menu options, and a Burger of the Month. So, are you hungry yet?

Various locations