LIMA — An iconic Lima restaurant has been named one of the top fast casual diners in the United States.
TripAdvisor rated Kewpee as the nation’s 10th best fast casual restaurant in the travel agency’s annual travelers’ choice awards, which are based on customer reviews from the last year.
Kewpee is a hometown favorite, but the local, family owned restaurant has gained attention outside Lima in the age of social media. The Kewpee name now has a national audience with TripAdvisor’s list of the best fast casual restaurants in the U.S.
Kewpee is known for its affordable menu and old-fashioned hamburgers, which General Manager Scott Shutt said are made the same way as they were when Kewpee opened in 1928.
“It was probably considered the best way to do it back then,” Shutt said. “We believe it’s still the best way to this day.”
While Kewpee has downsized since its heyday — the family burger chain at one point claimed as many as 400 restaurants prior to World War II — the Kewpee brand is now a regional phenomenon.
The Shutt family acquired the Kewpee trademark in the 1980s and now operates three stores in Lima. The family has licensed the Kewpee name to stores in Lansing, Michigan, and Racine, Wisconsin, as well.
“The way we do our meat is labor intensive, but that’s where the quality is,” Shutt said. “We cut and grind the locally raised beef every morning. Our concern would be — if we try and franchise this out or spread our wings too much — that it would become difficult to maintain those quality standards elsewhere.”
The Kewpee name has gained attention outside Lima in recent years, which Shutt attributes to word of mouth online.
Of the 380 TripAdvisor customer reviews, more than 300 rated Kewpee as “excellent” or “very good” and only 28 gave the restaurant “terrible” or “poor” ratings.
Kewpee was the only Ohio-based restaurant to make the list, which consisted primarily of local and regional hot spots that have gained attention of tourists. But Ohioans also will recognize Five Guys, originally founded in New York City, which was named the sixth best fast casual restaurant in the U.S. by TripAdvisor users.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.