Here Are My Top 10 Restaurant Trends: Poke Is The Trendiest of All!

restaurant trends august

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be in Vegas, LA, Dallas, Louisville and, of course, NYC so expect some firsthand reporting on what’s new on the dining front from around the country.

In the meantime, here’s a roundup of what I’ve been keeping an eye on in the restaurant world. And I absolutely must do a shout-out to my current fave restaurant in NYC: Ducked Up at Ludlow House. Have developed a crazy obsession for their Peking Duck! (And I’m lobbying to get poke bowls on the menu ASAP!!)

Here are 10 trends/openings worth noting:

1. Poke (a Hawaiian raw fish salad, flavorful and spicy). I’ve only had it once in NYC but looking forward to adding poke to my repertoire. Poke spots are popping up around the country – and existing restaurants are adding it to their menus – e.g. Mongers Market + Kitchen and Café No Se in Austin, TX, also hearing a lot about the poke and soft serve window at Seamore’s in Little Italy, and friends in Dallas have been raving about the poke places opening there.

2. Food Halls Still Going Strong/Getting More Specialized: I recently tried Great Northern Food Hall by Claus Meyer, one of the founders of Noma. I loved the herring open-face sandwich but the place was deserted. Not sure if NYC is ready for Danish cuisine. I suspect this one will NOT survive. Other new halls to explore: Bowery Market which has a cool assortment of vendors including Butcher’s Daughter and Sushi on Jones, and the one I really want to hit up soon: Gansevoort Market on 14th street. Everyone is RAVING about their Peruvian ceviche from the Mission Ceviche stand!!!!

3. The Protein Flip: The Culinary Institute of America is calling on chefs to “rethink the ‘protein portfolio’ on their menus. Many chefs around the country are getting on this trend including Dan Barber of Blue Hill, John Fraser of Nix, and Top Chef winner Ilan Hall.

4. Alinea 2.0: One of the great restaurants in the world when it opened in 2005 in Chicago. I went there multiple times. Now, ten 10 years later it has gotten a major reset. From what I’ve seen, it has flipped from being dark and dramatic to a lighter, more restrained white/grey palette. This quote from Grant Achatz to Eater sums it up: “When we opened Alinea, one of our creative roads was to look at a dish on paper or in front of us and ask, ‘What else? What else can we do? What else can we add? What can we add to make this better? Now, I feel like we find ourselves constantly asking, ‘What can we take away?’

5. Elote, the popular street food from Mexico, is starting to become equally popular in the Midwest, e.g. in Wichita, Mexican restaurants, food trucks and paletarias (ice cream shops) are beginning to serve this fresh corn, mayo, lime juice, butter, chili powder and cheese treat! It’s served two different ways: most commonly, on the cob but some places serve it in a cup (the corn is shaved off the ear and mixed with the mayo, lime etc).

Read below for trends 6-10.

6. Sit-down restaurants are adding bakeries, cafes and markets to accommodate the grab and go crowd throughout the day. Notable examples include Ema, a Mediterranean spot from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago which operates a separate Rotisserie Ema. Chain restaurants are also experimenting with the dual model, including Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee’s and Denny’s. Red Robin has been the most successful, spinning off its fast-casual concept, Red Robin Burger Works, in 2011.


Rotisserie Ema

7. Keep en eye on – and learn from – Nashville’s M Street restaurant group — owner of Saint Anejo, Whiskey Kitchen, Virago and Tavern. They have the golden touch when it comes to creating restaurants/bars that millennials love.

8. Taco Bell is renovating restaurants in Orange County, Calif. to reflect four new Taco Bell design schemes that will ultimately be customized and implemented for 2,000 new Taco Bells scheduled to open by 2022. See info on all 4 here.


Taco Bell Modern Explorer

9. Mobile ordering for food will be a $38 billion industry by 2020. The pizza industry is at the forefront of this trend, as spending on the average pizza order is 18% greater online than on the phone . More chains are catching on. In the most recent quarter, Taco Bell reported that orders via mobile were 30% greater on average than in-store orders.

10. LAST EXIT, a retro 50s-style gourmet food truck park opens in Dubai: the quirky destination includes dine-in and drive-through formats from Baja Fresh, Clinton St. Bakery, Operation Falafel, Starbucks, Poco Loco, Il Café di Roma and The Brass. The development will also include retail and convenience stores, a kids play area, parking spaces, restrooms, prayer rooms, charge up boxes (?) and ATMs.


Last Exit

Last Exit, Dubai

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Last Exit





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