Upscale chefs playing down-scale roles. Fast-fooding of the eclectic palate. What is next for this "No Rules" era of dining? Edison lights, shrunken menus, refreshingly loud music, and shareable plates are de rigueur. So, where are you going?
Breakfast Playing a Part Long After the Work Day Has Begun
Frittatas have long been a lunch staple. Alas, move over for omelettes and even the up-ended breakfast sandwich sliding their way onto lunch menus. Breakfast for dinner? Not just a Western omelette with toast and homefries. Rather, look for craft egg dishes with a shave or two of truffle, a drizzle of herb oil or dollop of the oh-so-on-trend compound butter. Forget not the humble pancake. Built of more bold flavors than all-purpose flour, the pancake plays the role of a gentle canvas. Think buckwheat, herbs, and protein.
Is There No End to This Casualization We Speak Of?
Doughnuts are mainstreaming on upstream menus and moving across portfolios. Biscuit shops are more than emerging as the doughy goodness traversing myriad menu segments. Fried chicken is everywhere, and not just a disruptor at Shake Shack. (Not comfort food, though. All food, if done right, is comforting.)
Artful interpretations of recognizable dishes twisted on, say, a 20-degree angle, stir those aha-moments rather than alienate guests. Not every meal has to be a journey to the outer limits. Rather, a trip across familiar border is enough to make for a tantalizing experience.
Noodles Are Back
Pasta prevails, this time in broths, pan-fried, and otherwise, not just heaped with tomato sauce and a big ball of ground beef. And you won’t find noodles in Italian cuisine alone. Rice noodles satisfy two cravings: an easy alternative for the gluten-free crowd and different enough for the doughy devout to satisfy their hankering. For example, Pho hit big a few years ago and this Vietnamese dish is still popular. As is ramen. New York’s Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop plays to a full audience all day without waning numbers in sight. The same can be said for Terakawa Ramen in Philly’s Center City and Santouka in LA. Not isolated within large cities, Ramen Kumamoto in tiny Newark, Del., is standing-room-only throughout the day.
Dumplings and Rolls
You have seen these steak rolls. Not bread with the classic Philly steak on it. No, no, the other kind of roll. The eggroll variety, wrapped around shaved beef, perhaps cooked with sautéed onions, fried, and served with a sidecar of Sriracha ketchup. Yes, those rolls.
The same treatment for dumplings. The Dump-n-Roll food truck takes their dumpling game on the road with the likes of chipotle, bacon cheeseburger dumplings, mac ‘n cheesey dumplings, and fried pork rolls, among others. Ethnic border crossing no longer requires cultural identity. Rather, the kitchen laboratory has been a free-for-all and continues to be the glowing beacon for diversity.
Middle Eastern Shaking More Than the Falafel Scene
Chickpeas go way beyond hummus. Never would have guessed it, as the last few years have been hummus mayhem. The humble garbanzo bean is only the start. Falafel is doing well as a side dish, but is also being used in dry form as a coating, pulling the little fried meatless-ball out of the pita. The outlandish success and subsequent most recent expansion of The Halal Guys is evidence that this is more than just food court fare, but a serious contender.
The Egyptian dukkah spice blend is the new za’atar. Doner kebabs, tahini, and labneh are all kicking it hard and —again— across multiple borders. Shakshouka is moving at warp speed to roll up the shareable/skillet presentation and Middle East emerging trends with one swing of the cast iron pan.