111 Ideas for Menu Innovation
Accessorize with sauces and sides:
1. Savory yogurt
Carl Jorgensen, director of thought leadership with Daymon, believes we’ll see savory yogurt take off in sandwich sauces and sides.
2. Romesco Sauce
An orange sauce made with roasted red peppers, romesco is gaining traction. Traditionally served with fish, at Gato in New York City it’s served with eggs and with a pork chop.
Tagged by McCormick as a flavor-leader, tart barberries can be used in sweet and savory dishes, and are recognized in Persian cuisine.
4. Preserved Lemons
Preserved lemons provide a wallop of flavor that chefs are embracing. The linguine at Tulio in Seattle is served with clams, preserved lemon, chili flakes, and garlic breadcrumbs.
Touted as a food superhero, açai is appearing everywhere. The most popular preparation is açai bowls—smoothies containing berries, nuts, grains, oatmeal, and their ilk.
Especially popular in Indonesia and Malaysia, sambal is a sauce with a kick. Its ingredients vary, and so do its uses. Dish it up with noodles, eggs, or as a dip.
This fermented Korean chili paste can be used to add heat and flavor. At MilkWood in Louisville, Kentucky, it’s served, alongside kimchi, with collard greens.
8. Adobo Negro
McCormick pegged adobo negro sauce as a top trend for 2017. This complex Mexican sauce has flavors from adobo, as well as mole, stout beer, black sesame, and chili pepper.
Chefs are buzzing about honey and experimenting with different types. In New York City, The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen serves cocktails and food with honey from bees on its own roof.
10. Freshly Milled Grains
First they made the pasta in-house; then they baked their own bread; now, more chefs are milling their own flour. Chef Kevin Fink at Emmer & Rye in Austin, Texas, is a leading proponent. The restaurant is named after his favorite grain, emmer, and he mills as many as 15 different grains (popping sorghum, red fife, einkorn, etc.) for pastas, breads, and desserts.
The juice of canned garbanzo beans is being put to good use in vegetarian/vegan options. Says Maeve Webster, president of Menu Matters in Arlington, Vermont, “It’s a huge win for operators: no additional cost, relatively easy to use, and requires no additional storage space.” It also has no taste and only a very mild scent. The product also speaks to the no-waste kitchen and menus that are produce-forward, high-protein, and gluten-free. Use it in place of whipped cream and whipped eggs.
Could sorghum become the next quinoa? Once thought of as a syrup or a feed for cattle, this gluten-free grain is growing in popularity. In Charleston, South Carolina, chef/owner Michael Toscano at Le Farfalle uses freshly milled sorghum to give a Southern twist to his hand-rolled pappardelle, topped with crisped pancetta and charred escarole.
Fat is back. Consumers have been increasingly rejecting products like imitation butter in favor of products that are perceived as more natural or clean. It’s even encroached into the quick-serve arena—McDonald’s began swapping out margarine for butter in 2015. The higher-end restaurants are making butter a focal point, adding spices, vegetables, herbs, even marrow for a special touch in dishes or bread baskets. “It’s not just that real butter is considered more natural; there is a growing perception that fats have an important place in a healthy diet,” says Mike Kostyo, senior publications manager with Datassential, a menu-trend firm based in Chicago.
14. Chia Seeds
Go into any lunch place with a millennial following like the Arlo SoHo, which has “bodegas” instead of mini bars, and you’ll see little pots of puddings and custards dotted with omega-3 powerhouse chia seeds. The Aztecs even used chia for currency.
This byproduct of yogurt and cheese-making is finding its way into chefs’ smoothies, cocktails, and sauces, while also getting cubed and put into salads. Iliana Regan at Elizabeth in Chicago uses it for fermenting cabbage, romaine, and eggs. David Levi at Vinland in Portland, Maine, substitutes local whey for lemons.
16. Everything on Everything
This popular mix of poppy and sesame seeds, onion and garlic flakes, and kosher or sea salt is jumping out of the bagel case and landing on garlic knots, chips, pizzas, and more things. The Matzo Project proffers matzo with “everything plus two other things.”
Profiling with spices and flavors:
This Middle Eastern hot sauce is made from peppers, garlic, and spices. It comes in red or green versions and is listed in McCormick’s 2017 Flavor Forecast.
18. Espelette Pepper
McCormick also predicted espelette pepper would take off this year. Les Sablons in Cambridge, Massachusetts, serves this medium-hot smoky pepper with marinated black bass, along with pistachio and basil oil.
19. Baharat Seasoning
This Eastern Mediterranean mix typically includes black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, and paprika. It’s used with proteins or to add flavor and color to rice.
An Indian staple, turmeric has come to the fore for its health benefits. Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, New York, dishes clams in a turmeric broth for a little kick.
Also known as African bird’s eye chili, piri-piri refers to a spicy Portuguese sauce made with peppers, chilies, spices, and vinegar, and is usually served with chicken.
Hailing from North Africa and the Middle East, harissa is another hot condiment, packed with hot chilies and spices like cumin and caraway. Blend it into soups, marinades, or even eggs.
23. Za’atar Spice
Chris Koetke, executive director of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, says za’atar spice is big—and becoming bigger. Mamnoon in Seattle mixes it with olive oil for bread dipping.
24. Ghost Peppers
Ghost peppers are one of the hottest chilies. Seven Steakhouse in Minneapolis offers a Russian Roulette sushi roll, which hides a dollop of ghost pepper sauce in one piece.
According to Datassential, curry is now found on nearly a fifth of all restaurant menus, and 71 percent of consumers are familiar with it, says the menu-trend firm. And, while chicken curry salad tends to be the most common application outside Indian restaurants, curry is now showing up in burritos, burgers, cocktails, desserts, and appetizers.
Chefs have been grilling over mesquite wood since the early days of California cuisine. But who knew you could eat the pods? This ancient food of Southwest desert dwellers is being rediscovered and hailed as the newest superfood. Mesquite is gluten-free and a source of protein, plus just about every mineral from calcium to zinc. It can be used as a sweetener and a flour substitute. Austin, Texas, neuroscientist and baker Sandeep Gyawali is a mesquite missionary preaching a gospel of bringing the ubiquitous Central Texas plant back to the modern diet. He typically uses about 5 percent mesquite flour in the artisanal loaves he bakes in his garage by night and sells by subscription under the name Miche. He also believes the pods could be the next vanilla bean. With the help of some grants, he hopes to be able to harvest and mill enough mesquite to put it on the radar of local chefs and reintroduce mesquite flour as a pantry staple.
Suddenly coconut is the flavor du jour. The Real Coconut restaurant in Tulum, Mexico, features grilled avocado halves marinated with coconut aminos, and a healing bone broth flavored with coconut milk. Hand-squeezed coconut milk turns up on ceviche at E.P. in West Hollywood, California.
28. Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Scoville Scale of Heat (SHU) rates peppers in a range from 1,000 to over 2,000,000. The habanero clocks in at about 150,000, while the The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion comes in at more than 1,200,000 and the hottest, the Carolina Reaper, lands at more than 2,000,000 on the SHU.
29. Bitter Flavors
Perhaps thanks to all those bitters in craft cocktails or the kale craze, Americans are getting used to bitter. Look for more bitter orange, cranberry, green leafy vegetables, broccoli rabe, radicchio, grapefruit, bitter melon, and turmeric.
As more chefs make their own sauerkraut, kimchi, jams, pickled vegetables, and vinegar, health departments are realizing they need to find ways to allow more fermenting to take place. Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones in Chicago enjoys pickling unusual vegetables, like the purple sour bean. Sauerbohnen, as it is called in Germany, features green, wax, or purple beans fermented like sauerkraut. At the restaurant, Jones juliennes the beans and then dresses them with a slurry of rice flour and a little sugar to kick-start the fermentation. Seasoned with ginger, red pepper, and benne seeds, the beans come out really sour, piquant, and fragrant.
Fermenting has also found a new friend in the form of sourdough starters for pizza dough and breads that use natural levain and heritage or ancient grains. Pizzas at Area Four Boston showcase hand-stretched dough made from a 16-year-old sourdough starter that’s been fermented for 36–40 hours prior to use.
31. Aji Peppers
Classically used in Peruvian ceviche and other dishes from that country, aji chilies can be swapped in as a more colorful and flavorful hot pepper. At RUKA in Boston, aji panca chilies are paired with chili oil, black vinegar, cilantro crema, and crispy sweet potato as the garnish for Chao Shou pork wontons. Aside from aji panca, other common variations are aji amarillo (yellow chili), ayucullo, cereza, charapa, limo, mono, and pinguita de mono from Peru.
Boost the beverage menu with...
32. Upscale Lemonade
Soda is out and non-fizzy drinks are in, especially lemonade. Keep it simple or jazz it up; Oak Grill in Newport Beach, California, offers Watermelon Mint Lemonade.
33. Orange wines
Ranging in color from white to tawny brown, orange wines mature with the grape seeds and skin. Waypoint in Cambridge, Massachusetts, categorizes them under its Sleeping Beauties section.
34. Nitro-brew Coffee
Nitro coffees—cold brews infused with nitrogen—are capitalizing on the growth in cold-brew coffee, whose sales grew 115 percent in 2015, according to Mintel.
Made from green tea leaves, matcha is a nutritional powerhouse, including a lot of caffeine. At The Hay Merchant in Houston, the Green Geisha cocktail contains dry gin, lime, and matcha.
In ancient China, kombucha was known as the immortal health elixir, and restaurants are serving it as a non-alcoholic beverage alternative.
The popularity of ginger drinks grew 79 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to Google.
38. Charcoal in Cocktails
Charcoal in capsule form is adding hue to cocktails. Not Kilgore’s Drano at Spoke & Steele in Indianapolis contains Scotch, rye, lemon, thyme agave syrup, saline solution, and charcoal.
39. Egg Creams
Once found only in traditional Jewish delis, this fizzy concoction of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water is making something of a comeback, thanks to new twists from pastry chefs and bartenders.
Believed to be the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip is “what to drink when you’re not drinking.” It’s a little like gin, except it’s non-alcoholic. Creator Ben Branson combines six botanicals—allspice, grapefruit, lemon peel, cardamom, cascarilla bark, American oak—steeps them in grain alcohol, and then distills to remove the alcohol. Bartenders are using it to make craft, non-alcoholic cocktails.
The Italian-inspired cocktail was invented in Italy in 1919 when Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender at the Hotel Baglioni in Florence to fortify his Americano with gin. Dante in New York City’s Greenwich Village has a 12-deep Negroni menu. Le Farfalle in Charleston, South Carolina, offers 10 Negroni variations. Missy Robbins (Lilia, Brooklyn) believes a great Negroni and a classic Aperol spritz are a must for any Italian restaurant.
Wine drinkers are reading lists through rosé-colored glasses. Its versatility with salads, cheeses, pastas, grilled meat, and fish is appealing to restaurateurs and customers alike. It’s also an affordable splurge for breakfast/brunch. Sales are now topping out at $207 million annually, a 50 percent increase over last year.
Apples are the primary source of this fermented alcoholic beverage, which is becoming increasingly popular on restaurant lists. Wassail, a cider-focused restaurant that opened on New York City’s lower east side in 2015, is credited with spurring interest in the beverage and its pairing potential.
Distilled from the agave plant, mescal is tequila’s smoky cousin. Its slow-roasted smoky flavor has made it a hit with bartenders. San Francisco’s La Urbana is opening with 80 varieties. At Leyenda in Brooklyn, a cocktail named Tia Mia is made with mescal, rum, curacao, and almond syrup. And The Palomaesque Cocktail at Comal in Berkeley, California, uses grapefruit soda and Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif.
45. Sorghum Whiskey
Spirits authority Brian Van Flandern and his partners distill from the sorghum stalk to make the distinctive sorghum whiskey James F.C. Hyde Sorgho, which is dry like rye and finishes like aged rum. You’ll find it on the shelf at New York City’s The Dead Rabbit.
46. Artisan Booze
Changing tastes and changing laws made the growth of small distillers possible in states from New York to Texas. Craft distilleries embrace the prevailing ethos and use local, organic, non-GMO grains. The volume of small-batch spirits is predicted to grow from 4.9 million cases in 2015 to more than 25 million by 2020. No doubt there will be eager fans drinking up.
“Italian bitter liqueurs and digestifs cover a whole range of flavor, from Fernet Branca’s bitter bitter to Montenegro’s bitter sweet,” says spirits authority Brian Van Flandern. “Amaros are being used as a modifying spirit in cocktails to add a bitter component and balance it out.” There are some Italian restaurants with extensive Amaro lists, such as Domenica in New Orleans and Locanda and Bar Agricole in San Francisco.
This cousin of the Negroni is made with whiskey instead of gin. It was originally invented in the 1920s.
Demand for sherry is up, thanks largely to experimental bartenders. In the last two decades, sherry sales have quintupled at Taberna de Haro in Brookline, Massachusetts, and the restaurant carries more than 100 different bottles.
This Southern Italian lemon liqueur is making inroads in the States. At Domenica in New Orleans, the house-infused limoncello presented in enormous glass urns is as much décor as drink.
51. Low-alcohol Cocktails
As day-drinking gains steam, consumers have turned to lower-alcohol session beers as a step up from domestics, and now cocktails are also getting lighter. At Boleo in Chicago, Jess Lambert serves Peruvian- and Argentine-inspired low-ABV cocktails such as chilcanos, which has pisco infused with ginger and carbonation, along with cranberry and sage or vanilla bean and orange. She makes her own fernet with blueberry, grape, apple, saffron, and eucalyptus notes for a lower-alcohol spirit, infused with cola, and as a replacement for rum in daiquiris.
Burn, smoke, char: Light up the menu.
52. Smoked Desserts
Named a top trend by the NRA, smoked is here to stay. At Del Campo in Washington, D.C., carrot cake is grilled to make it smoky, then garnished with grilled carrots and fruit.
“Waiter, the Brussels sprouts on this pizza are burned and so are the broccoli spears in the salad!” From P.F. Chang’s wok-charred Brussels sprouts to the blackened avocado at Nix (NYC), veggies are browned, blistered, crisped—in short, burnt—and the public is eating it up. Even finicky children are accepting the blow-torched version of once-shunned green things.
54. Wood-fired Everything
The smell of a campfire, the glow of a hearth; it all entrances customers. Every serious pizza place has a wood-burning oven, which also does double duty for meats and vegetables. There are even wood-fired eggs at Lunetta All Day in Santa Monica.
55. Smoky Drinks
Smoke-filled rooms may have gone out of fashion, but bar flies like the taste in Margaritas and Old Fashions. Some bartenders place a glass upside down over an extinguished flame to capture smoke, or they infuse spirits with smoky ingredients like chipotles. Mescal and peaty Scotches have a naturally smoky flavor. Chef Jared Bennett of Metropole in Cincinnati is working with a local brewer on a smoked grape beer.
Chefs are returning to the elements, using fire, ashes, and smoke. It’s one of the hottest happenings across the industry. For instance, every single thing at ARC Food and Libations in Costa Mesa, California, is cooked by fire.
57. Argentine Grills
Live-fire cooking on expansive grills with adjustable grates that can be raised or lowered are all the rage with chefs. “People love the smell of wood burning,” says Greg Denton, chef/owner of Ox in Portland, Oregon. He was one of the first to have an Argentine-style grill and to take full advantage of the V-shaped troughs designed to catch the juices and fats rather than letting them drip onto the coals. He calls these juices “black gold,” and enhances them by lining the troughs with lemon, garlic, and herbs, then uses the juice to baste the meats and vegetables he grills.
A break from beef, chicken, and pork.
Having exploded in fast casuals, poke is rising in full-service chain settings as well. Yard House offers a poke stack with marinated ahi, crispy wontons, avocado, and wasabi soy sauce.
59. Cellular Agriculture
Chefs are teaming with scientists to discover environmentally friendly forms of meat production. That includes using cell cultures from live animals to grow meat in petri dishes without any animal slaughter necessary. Other food makers are finding ways to produce eggs without chickens and milk without cows.
Sustainable, nutritious, and delicious—and easy to butcher whole—rabbit is hopping onto restaurant menus. SPQR’s Matthew Accarrino (San Francisco) predicts it could become “the other white meat.” He menus a variety of rabbit dishes, such as a prosciutto-wrapped rabbit roulade with braised rabbit shoulder and drumstick.
61. Exotic Game
Thanks to the growth of chef-driven specialty distributors, restaurants have access to a wider variety of game, from domestic game like venison, bison, pheasant, squab, and rabbit to varieties of pigeon and other game birds sourced from overseas, where laws around serving game in commercial settings are more lax than in the U.S. At the Spanish-inspired Salero in Chicago, Chef Ashlee Aubin puts an Iberian take on a grilled venison leg, serving it with dolmas, verjus, bacon, carrots, and cabbage. Marinated in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic, the meat is served medium rare with house-made verjus, a quasi-wine vinegar made from pressed fall fruits and infused with juniper, clove, chicory, and allspice.
62. Sustainable Seafood
More chefs are offering only seafood that can be defined as sustainable. Lantern in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, focuses on “trash” fish, which are low in the food chain and reproduce and grow quickly.
63. Toro—Fish Belly
In recent years, more menus have been spinning fish stories around this ingredient. At Siren in Washington, D.C., flatbread is topped with whipped fish belly poached in olive oil.
64. Freshwater Fish
As operators on the east and west coasts seek out lesser-known seafood to support local fisheries and broaden their menus, others in the middle of the country are doing the same with freshwater fish. Many in the Midwest source things like sustainably caught trout out of Wisconsin rivers, and walleye from the Great Lakes.
Chefs are beginning to make their own soft tofu as a lighter, brighter replacement for cheeses, and are finding other uses for the plant-based protein. The Honey Paw in Portland, Maine, sources Heiwa tofu, a handcrafted ingredient made from Maine-grown soybeans. In place of pork, the restaurant serves tofu in a classic Szechuan Mapo dish with fermented black bean, Szechuan chili, mushrooms, and peanuts.
66. Plant-Based Alternatives
Consumers are eating less meat today: 31 percent believe meat is no longer essential to the human diet (per Datassential) and 23 percent of meat-eaters would prefer to eat less of it. Plant-based protein alternatives can be found in non-dairy milks (cashew, hemp, almond, soy, rice, pea), as well as in foods like tofu, tempeh, coconut “jerky,” egg-free mayonnaise, and more.
Lamb is becoming more popular in ground or sausage form to play off the popularity of North African flavors or to add depth to traditional Italian dishes. Eastern Standard in Boston offers a baked rigatoni with lamb and pork sausage, creamy pink sauce, and ricotta, while merguez takes center stage at Black Cat in San Francisco, atop a flatbread with tahini yogurt and house-made harissa.
Newbies to perk up the plate.
68. Artisan Cheese
Packaged Facts predicts that the specialty cheese market will grow by 3.5 percent annually. At Tres in Tempe, Arizona, diners can build their own cheese board for $5 per cheese.
69. Green Greens
Waste-free restaurants are catching on—to keep up with the trending PC mindset and cut costs. The Perennial in San Francisco uses cauliflower stems, day-old bread, and fava bean shells.
70. Spicy Desserts
The NRA listed savory desserts as a top trend for 2017. At Hello Betty in Oceanside, California, a best-selling dessert is a chocolate brownie spiked with ancho chili.
71. Purple Foods
Purple is the new black. Think purple cauliflower, potatoes, beets, black rice, and açai. Purple also tends to designate health, with these foods usually bursting with antioxidants and nutrients.
According to Datassential, nearly 50 percent of consumers want to try the starchy jackfruit at a restaurant. In Miami, Soul Tavern gastropub serves a jackfruit gyoza for $12.
Can kelp be the next kale? Nutrient-dense seaweeds are now showing up on menus beyond sushi and salads. Sugar kelp, alaria, dulse, Irish moss—these are names to know. Chefs are leading the charge, pickling sugar kelp strips or thickening seaweed panna cotta with Irish moss.
74. Artisan Bread
Blame San Francisco uber-baker Chad Robertson, but artisan loaves are now showing up on restaurant tables across the country. Freshly milled flour and long fermentation are the keys to the crusty, tasty loaves.
75. Little Gem Lettuce
The darling of the lettuce world is a hybrid of romaine and butter lettuce. It’s crisp in salads and sturdy enough to braise or grill. You’d be hard-pressed to find a California menu without it, but it’s making inroads nationally.
76. Grilled Pineapple
The sugar in this tropical fruit caramelizes nicely, creating attractive brown stripes and a slightly butterscotch flavor. Great in pork dishes or as garnishes for mescal cocktails.
77. Cacio e pepe
This traditional Roman spaghetti with Pecorino cheese and black pepper is these days found on pizza, crackers, garlic knots, rice balls, even ice cream. At Momofuku Nishi in New York City, David Chang uses fermented chickpeas in place of Pecorino for his ceci e pepe. At Lilia in Brooklyn, Missy Robbins serves mafaldini sprinkled with pink peppercorns and Parmesan. At Maialino in New York City, Nick Anderer serves cacio e pepe scrambled eggs for breakfast. And John Fraser at Nix (New York City) offers a shiitake cacio e pepe.
78. Overnight Oatmeal
The Swiss have been doing this for years and calling it muesli. But millennials love the no-fuss breakfast of oats, soaked overnight, with various fruits and nuts—and even chia seeds—mixed in. Definitely a winner at hip boutique hotels like the Arlo and Ian Schrager’s Public.
79. Swiss Chard
One of the most nutritious of all leafy vegetables, containing all the usual suspects in minerals and vitamins, it may give kale a run for the money. Sometimes it’s even paired with kale in salads. The whole leaf is an innovative garnish for cocktails at aRoqa restaurant in New York City.
80. Breakfast All Day
In L.A., Eggslut achieved cult status by proclaiming that eggs were good all day every day. At Atla, the more casual sibling of Cosme in New York City, breakfast dishes are drawing crowds until 4 p.m. Showstoppers are upscale versions of chilaquiles with flax seeds and a split pea tlacoyo.
Christopher Columbus called this vitamin-rich Central American delicacy the “fruit of the Angels.” A refreshing summer snack, it’s also used in smoothies and cocktails. Green papaya is a common ingredient in salads at Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. At Pujol in Mexico City, Enrique Olvera serves a nixtamalized papaya dessert with yogurt, honey ice cream, and crystallized lemon.
Is Vietnamese noodle soup the new soup for the soul? Chef/restaurateur Charles Phan of The Slanted Door and Out the Door in San Francisco, says he eats it every day for breakfast—and so do a lot of his customers. It’s showing up in health-centric restaurants, food halls, even at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. Pronounce it “fuh.”
Credit those visionary Vikings. NOMA co-founder Claus Meyer is feeding throngs of commuters at New York City’s Grand Central Station bowls of either sweet or savory porridge. The hearty dishes, beautifully decorated with fruits, herbs, and edible flowers, are at the Grain Bar in his Great Northern Food Hall. Pearl barley, freekah, sprouted wheat, and rye (cracked in his stone mill in Queens) are the foundation for the porridges.
84. Root Vegetables
Beets, ubiquitous in summer salads as well as roasted for winter dishes, lead the roots pack, according to Datassential, with a 47 percent menu frequency in high-end restaurants. Their rainbow hues lend to beautiful presentations. Meanwhile, parsnips are gaining traction, with 16.5 percent frequency, and new kinds of turnips are pushing their popularity to 12.6 percent. Chefs are also buying up sun chokes, celery root, and radishes.
This Middle Eastern spread, traditionally made with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, has gained international popularity. Chefs have started adding puréed beets, and some even leave out the chickpeas. Dizengoff in Philadelphia is dedicated to freshly made hummus, often topped with elaborate proteins like spiced lamb.
Long associated with tropical cuisine, mango is finding its way into other savory pairings and as add-ins for popular condiments. Chef Chris Miracolo of S3 Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, adds a twist on the popular South American chimichurri condiment by using diced ripe mango as the star, paired with red bell pepper, lime, ginger juices, and a mango purée instead of oil. He serves it with coffee-rubbed bavette steaks, yucca fries, and a chipotle vinaigrette. At Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Tennessee, the mango mint chutney is a menu regular, often paired with lamb or chicken kebabs.
They’re everywhere—from food trucks to Alex Stupak’s fine-dining Empellon in midtown Manhattan, where two octopus tacos can set a customer back $20. Of course, Stupak’s tortillas are made from freshly milled heirloom corn. “A tortilla isn’t a background player,” he writes. His book, Tacos: Recipes and Provocations, showed the world that, when it comes to tacos, anything goes—like pastrami with mustard seed salsa or falafel with grasshopper tahini.
Chefs are going beyond green and kalamata olives to experiment with lesser-known types as finishing touches for salads, fish dishes, and more. At Temple Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chef Richmond Edes serves a whole-roasted branzino with romesco sauce and a couscous studded with red-hued Taggiasca olives, which have a fruity, slightly nutty taste. Fig & Olive in Los Angeles and Chicago has a Green Apple Sorbet spiked with an olive oil made from a blend of grassy and spicy green arbequina and manzanilla olives that are meant to balance out the sweetness of the dessert.
Summer and runner beans are becoming the “it” legumes. Branch Line in Watertown, Massachusetts, does a ragout of sweet summer beans paired with cheese grits, grilled green garlic, and mustard jus as the side for a rabbit porchetta. Other chefs are reaching for locally grown cannellini beans, crowder peas, and other shelling legumes as new sources of protein, crunch, creaminess, and flavor.
Launched by the ubiquitous chicken and waffle trend, waffles are now being used as carriers and serving platforms for other foods. When studded with everything from chia seeds to quinoa, waffles can also pack a nutritional punch. At Seaspice in Miami, Executive Chef Angel Leon makes his Power Waffles with quinoa, oats, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and oats for a dose of energy and crunch.
91. Ethnic Breakfasts
Although Mexican breakfasts have been holding their own for some time in the U.S., cuisines from other countries are finally starting to break through. According to Menu Matters’ Maeve Webster, “We are increasingly seeing flavors, ingredients, and influences from cuisines such as Mediterranean, British/ Irish/Scottish, and German, as well as some elements from Korean, Indian, the Caribbean, South America, and Northern Europe.”
Global and ethnic nuances.
This Filipino dish refers to a style of braising meats, vegetables, and seafood in vinegar. Other ingredients are up to the chef’s whims.
93. Classic French
French cuisine is making a comeback in restaurants such as Le Coucou and Majorelle in New York City, and The French Room in the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. Quenelle de brochette sauce Américaine and sole Véronique are reinvented at Le Coucou.
94. Upscale Mexican
Mole, cilantro, mescal, tequila, avocados, queso fresco, epazote, masa, hoja santa, nopales, tacos, heirloom corn, even escamoles (ants). Forget about Tex Mex, with its ground meat and yellow cheese. Sophisticated chefs such as Enrique Olvera at his restaurants in Mexico City and New York (Pujol, Cosme, Atla); Alex Stupak of Empellon, New York City; and pioneer Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago all are showcasing the authentic flavors of Mexico.
The process, developed by the ancient Mayans, is one in which corn kernels are soaked in an alkaline solution, usually culinary lime, in order to remove the hulls and unlock the nutritional value. At authentic Mexican restaurants, it’s then ground into masa dough and rolled into tortillas. Chef Sean Brock of Husk and Minero in Charleston, South Carolina, says the perfect tortilla made with this process “tastes like sunshine.”
This iconic Argentine sauce, made of parsley, garlic, oil, and vinegar, traditionally accompanies steak but also works well with grilled chicken or fish. At Chicago’s El Che Bar, Chef John Manion preps 22-quart batches three to four times a week.
A popular Berlin street food, the döner kebab is making inroads in the U.S. A particularly delicious and healthful version of this sandwich, stuffed with spit-roasted chicken and a slew of fresh vegetables, is drawing crowds at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg outdoor market.
This Israeli egg dish, baked in tomato/pepper sauce, is showing up on menus from New Orleans to New York and is served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch. Credit chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solomonov for putting the cuisine of this tiny country the size of New Jersey on the radar.
Za’atar, preserved lemons, harissa, merguez sausage, and ras el hanout—once only found flavoring couscous and tagines—are making their way into the mainstream. Merguez stands side by side with kielbasa and bratwurst as a sausage choice at The Vanderbilt in Brooklyn, and Moroccan spices flavor the duck breast at Bâtard in New York City. Couscous itself is as ubiquitous as rice.
Now thought of as Turkish, this roasted red pepper/walnut/pomegranate molasses dip originally from Aleppo, Syria, enlivens crudité presentations with its bright crimson color and nutty texture.
Quinoa has eaten the world and ceviche is no longer exotic. Aji amarillo, Pisco, toasted corn kernels, purple potatoes, Peruvian rotisserie chicken, and lomo saltado are easily found. The Nobu empire stretches its fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine worldwide. Can cuy (guinea pig) be far behind?
102. Native American
Indigenous foods are taking center stage as chefs find uses for foods growing right in their own backyards. Chef Sean Sherman, also known as “The Sioux Chef,” has been leading this charge, focusing on indigenous foods from his native Oglala Lakota, Dakota, and Ojibwe tribes in an approach to cooking that’s naturally gluten-free, low-glycemic, sugar-free, lactose-free, and Paleo-friendly. These foods include everything from multi-colored corn and beans to rose hip berries and sunchokes.
Chefs are more emboldened than ever to showcase the foods of Cuba, like slow-roasted pork, spiced rice, black beans, marinated shrimp, tostones, mojo with citrus and garlic, and ropa vieja.
104. Korean BBQ
Marinated beef quick-seared over hot grills is finding its way onto menus around the country. Chef Tatiana Rosana of Outlook Kitchen + Bar at The Envoy Hotel in Boston infuses her native Cuban cooking with elements of Korean BBQ, like gochugaru, a Korean dried chili flake spice and a soy-sugar-ginger-garlic sauce on homemade pork bao braised in a Cuban mojo marinade with citrus, orange, garlic, and pepper.
105. Avocado Toast
From its birthplace in Australia, this appealing version of bruschetta has laid claim to real estate on menus everywhere. There’s even a food-hall stall devoted to nothing but avocados. The Avocaderia is located (where else?) in Brooklyn.
Heavily based on grilled steaks and starchy sides like plantains and yucca, Colombian cuisine could become a globally inspired rendition for American meat-and-potatoes fare. Or perhaps it will be the classic Colombian bunuelo—a savory fritter made with cheese, milk, fine masa, yucca, and tapioca starch—that will make its way into the ongoing global doughnut frenzy.
Nicole Ponseca, owner of Maharlika restaurant and Jeepney Filipino Gastropub in New York City, showcases favorites like chicken adobo, kare kare, lumpia egg rolls, lechon kawali (Filipino-style barbecue pork), and other dishes from her parents’ native Philippines.
108. Eastern European
Ana Ros, now anointed as the world’s best female chef of 2017, has put Slovenia’s cuisine on the map at her remote restaurant Hisa Franko. Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague’s reinvigorated restaurant scenes are putting Eastern European flavors on the radar. Think dill, paprika, goulash, pierogis, roast duck, parsley dumplings, and dark beer.
From Japanese yakitori and Peruvian anticuchos—skewers of marinated meats and seafood grilled over live fire—stick-based options offer an interactive experience for guests.
110. Out of Africa
Cuisine from all parts of Africa continues to gain traction. South African peri-peri sauce is showing up with North African harissa as a new condiment. Chef Marcus Samuelsson continues to lead education about Ethiopian cuisine, expanding his use of the bebere spice blend (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and chile de árbol) as a fiery rub for poultry, fish, and vegetables.
111. Robotic Food Prep
A variety of foodservice-focused robots are moving from the drawing board to the kitchen, from artificially intelligent machines with robotic arms to smart vending machines designed to prepare highly customizable burgers, salads, pizzas, and other foods.