Trends can be a mixed bag. Remember that time when everyone thought the cabbage soup diet was a good idea? Thankfully, 2016 is looking brighter with the help of chili-oil laced ramen, bangin' bagels and revamps of iconic restaurants. Here's what we'll be eating and talking about this year.
1. Japanese Imports
Photo: Good Mami via Flickr
Japan-based restaurants are crossing the Pacific Ocean in record numbers, opening outposts of popular ramen-yas and high-end sushi counters around the U.S. Look out for bowls of piping-hot ramen from noodle masters like the fastidious folks behind the chili oil-laced ramen at Ichiran, not to mention Ramen Tatsunoya (in New York and L.A., respectively). Meanwhile, udon-focused spot Tsurutontan will take over the much-bereaved original Union Square Cafe location, and acclaimed sushi counter Ginza Onodera will open an outpost in L.A. and another in New York City before the year is out.
2. Get Thee to L.A.
Photo: Todd Jones via Flickr
Great food in Los Angeles is nothing new, but the city is starting to edge out New York in the battle for the most exciting dining scene in the U.S. With French Laundry alum Timothy Hollingsworth opening Otium at the tail end of 2015, plus upcoming projects like a veg-forward Middle Eastern restaurant from the Madcapra and Animal teams, a still-unnamed project from Michael Voltaggio, and something up legendary restaurateur Bill Chait's sleeve, not to mention a takeaway concept that might finally cut down on those pesky lines at Jessica Koslow's Sqirl, L.A. is where we want to eat.
3. Mexico City Wins
Chefs and food writers have been Instagramming tacos, street fruit, meals at Pujol, classic Mexican sweets and mole-smothered meats nonstop lately, so plan on reading a whole lot about D.F.'s killer food scene or hop on a plane and check it out for yourself. (Oh, and airmailed tacos to the TT office? You shouldn't have!)
4. Poke Nation
A recent Hawaiian-inspired dining heat wave (Mud Hen Water, Liholiho Yacht Club, Noreetuh) has brought one of the state's signature dishes into the fore. Poke (it rhymes with OK) at its most classic level is hunks of fresh fish tossed in soy sauce, limu seaweed and scallions, but look out for versions made with coconut and lime, macadamia nuts and pickled jalapeños, and even beets all over Los Angeles, Honolulu and New York.
5. Bubby's Kvelling
Thanks to the mega success of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks and Michael Solomonov's flagship restaurant, Zahav, in Philly, Israeli ingredients and dishes are showing up on menus around the country. Look out for the Madcapra project (see number two on this list) and the long-awaited spot from Bestia's Ori Menashe in L.A.; an outpost of Solomonov's hummus spot, Dizengoff, in New York City; and just-opened hummus spot Little Sesame in the basement of D.C.'s popular DGS deli; among others.
6. Bagels, Baby
Revamped bagels--like the ones that helped make Sadelle's in New York City one of the biggest restaurant openings of 2015--aren't going anywhere. Keep your eyes peeled for more rolling into bakeries around New York (and for the sake of all Californians, hopefully Cali) soon.
7. Cheffy Casual
Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table
Love it or hate it, the chef fast-casual restaurant trend isn't going anywhere. Carla Hall's hot fried chicken spot will land in Brooklyn any day now, vegan hit By Chloe already has two more locations in the works in Manhattan, St. Louis chef Gerard Craft will launch Porano Pasta this month and, perhaps most excitingly, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson's LocoL is finally becoming a reality in L.A. and the Bay Area. (Warning: Not all cheffy casual spots are created equal.)
8. Tipping the Scales
Photo: Dave Dugdale via Flickr
Take a look at your restaurant bill. You might be seeing lines like "hospitality included" or "no tipping, please" on more of them in the coming year. New York restaurant king Danny Meyer shook up the restaurant world in October when he announced that he would phase out tipping at all of his restaurants this year. The move will allow Meyer and other restaurant owners who have signed on to start easing the pay inequity that has long existed between front and back of the house. (The decision is also tied to the rise in the minimum wage in San Francisco, Seattle and New York.) Meyer's move will certainly have a ripple effect.
9. Classic Redux
Photo: Jazz Guy via Flickr
Three iconic restaurants (of different walks of life) are getting makeovers this year. Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe is moving around the corner after a rent hike, Grant Achatz has taken Alinea on the road as the restaurant's space and menu get a revamp 10 years in, and the Torrisi boys have the nothing-short-of-epic task of taking over The Four Seasons ahead of themselves this year.
10. Breakfast, Ya'll
Look, we hate mornings as much as anyone, but getting out of bed is an inevitability that's made slightly more bearable by rock-solid breakfasts coming from chefs like High Street's Eli Kulp, Sadelle's Melissa Weller and Milktooth's Jonathan Brooks. Expect more morning buns, cheffy takes on chilaquiles and breakfast bowls at restaurants this year. (Now, if someone could just hook us up with this stuff in bed, we'd seriously owe you one.)
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