Menu Trends

Just when you think you’ve tasted it all, along comes new menu trends. A wide range of taste sensations are hitting restaurants across the nation. Some old favorites are taking a new turn, such as the re-emergence of traditional French cuisine and new variations of pasta dishes. Meanwhile, Korean and Filipino cuisines are quickly gaining popularity. In the coming year, you also may find black walnuts have overtaken almonds and pistachios as the ingredient of choice in salads, sauces and desserts.[1]

Each year, the National Restaurant Association surveys its 1,300 professional chefs, and the following are emerging as the top food menu trends in 2017:[2]

  • In-house “charcuterie,” the preparation of meat products such as bacon, salami, ham and sausage, is taking off. New cuts of meat are finding their way onto menus as well, including the oyster steak (cut from the backbone), the Vegas strip steak (cut between the backbone and shoulder blade) and the shoulder tender.
  • The house-made trend is extending to other areas such as pickles, condiments, artisanal cheeses and ice cream. These “chef created” specialties enhance the dining-out experience. Some restaurants are creating savory desserts featuring unusual herbs and other ingredients to provide a unique taste sensation.
  • Street food has come indoors to restaurants and is inspiring new variations. Dishes such as kabobs, dumplings, tempura and crab rangoon are gaining in popularity on restaurant menus.
  • Many restaurants are focused on offering sustainable seafood that is either farmed or caught in a way that considers the long-term viability of the species. This approach supports communities that depend on fisheries for their livelihood by focusing on the varieties of fish that are plentiful and avoiding varieties that are over-fished or scarce.
  • Ethnic-inspired entrees such as coconut milk pancakes and chorizo scrambled eggs are appearing on breakfast menus. Authentic ethnic cuisine is very popular, with African flavors noted as one of the hottest trends. Ethnic spices such as curry, harissa, peri peri and shichimi continue to find their way into new entrees.
  • Ancient grains (spelt, amaranth, kamut and lupin) and protein-rich grains and seeds such as quinoa, flax, hemp and chia mark a return to ancient and traditional food sources. The use of heirloom fruits and vegetables as popular ingredients and side dishes support this trend.
  • Kids’ meals are taking a healthy turn with wholesome entrees, whole grains and gourmet items scaled to smaller appetites.

[1] The items mentioned in the introductory paragraph are discussed in: “8 Dining Trends That Will Define 2017,” by Bill Addison, The Eater blog, Jan. 6, 2017. Available at: http://www.eater.com/2017/1/6/14182230/food-trends-2017-restaurants-dining

[2] “What’s Hot: 2017 Culinary Forecast,” a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, Dec. 8, 2016. Press release and study are available at: http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/Research/What-s-Hot