As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look ahead to the coming year. The National Restaurant Association surveyed more than 700 chefs over the past couple of months to identify the most of-the-moment foods and restaurant concepts, and just released its predictions for what’ll be big on restaurant menus in 2018. New York City, as always, seems ahead of the curve, since everything on the list can already be found here.
Here, then, are the National Restaurant Association’s predicted trends for 2018 and, for each, an example of where you can try it in NYC. We’ve left a few items off, such as “locally sourced meats and seafoods,” “uncommon herbs,” and, god help us, “authentic ethnic cuisine,” since they’re near-ubiquitous at the better restaurants in town; there are simply too many options to list. As for the rest, here’s where to find next year’s hottest food trends…now.
New cuts of meat (e.g. shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut)
Quality Eats, a casual, affordable, and trendy steakhouse with locations in the West Village and Upper East Side, includes a bavette steak among its offerings. It’s cut from the bottom sirloin, and is lean yet flavorful.
Street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas)
Honestly, this is a trend that’s been going strong in the city for more than a decade. Babu Ji, a prime example of the city’s trend toward upscale Indian restaurants, has a section of its menu called “From the Street,” featuring items such as yogurt kebabs and gol goppa.
Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
Ignoring the questionable wording—it’s the Restaurant Association’s, not ours—we think Atla is a pretty great example of where to fuel up for the day in non-European style. The best things on the menu there—namely, the split-pea tlacoyos and the chilaquiles—are available only during breakfast.
Gloria, a seafood-centric spot in West Midtown, serves only sustainable seafood. When they’re able to source it, they go a step further and serve seafood such as lionfish, a harmful invasive species for which fishing to remove it from its non-native habitats is actually a good thing.
Vegetable carb substitutes (e.g. cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti)
You’ll see zucchini noodles at plenty of places in town; Adoro Lei, a health-focused restaurant in the Hudson Square area, includes gluten-free cauliflower-crust pizza among its offerings.
Ethnic spices (e.g. harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi)
If it’s North African and Middle Eastern spices you’re after, head to Nur, where the kitchen puts as many as possible in and on each dish; every plate holds a veritable three-ring circus of flavors.
We love Llama Inn, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for its excellent ceviches and tiraditos and its excellent cocktails such as the Llama Del Rey, made with pisco, rum, red wine, and chicha morada, the quintessentially Peruvian corn-based drink.
Housemade pickles are near-ubiquitous in NYC by this point, but if we have to choose a favorite, we’ll go with Ssäm Bar, one of the originators of the trend, where you can get them as a side on the brunch and lunch menus.
Le Coq Rico is entirely based on showcasing heritage chicken breeds; servers will happily describe the flavor and textural nuances between a Brune Landaise and a Plymouth Rock. You order the chickens whole; plan on having leftovers.
Thai rolled ice cream
There are several options in NYC for this frozen treat now; the best-known is probably 10 Below, where the ice-cream rolls come in flavors including key lime pie and mint chocolate madness.
Donuts with non-traditional fillings (e.g. liqueur, Earl Grey cream)
Flavors at The Doughnut Project change constantly, but you might encounter ones filled with peanut butter whip and glazed with blackberry (a take on a PB&J sandwich, obvs), or filled with ricotta whip and glazed with beet icing.
Ancient grains (e.g. kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin)
At vegetarian restaurant abcV, there’s no shortage of grains you may have never heard of: you can get breakfast bowls with amaranth-and-ginger granola, or pancakes made from einkorn, or an ancient-grain pilaf forming the base of a lunch bowl.
Hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items)
Options abound to illustrate this trend, even in the concrete jungle of NYC. We love Olmsted, in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, where you can have a pre-dinner drink in the restaurant’s back garden among the produce growing for use in its dishes.
Chef-driven fast casual concepts
This was such a big trend in 2017 that we recently ran an entire roundup of fast-casual restaurants from fine-dining chefs. Our favorites: Made Nice, from the team behind Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad; Pasta Flyer, from the former executive chef of Del Posto, and Martina, from the Marta team.
Food waste reduction
This is an issue at the forefront of many chefs’ minds right now, as illustrated in Anthony Bourdain’s documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. Restaurants highlighted in it include Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese and Mario Batali and Dave Pasternak’s Esca.
An increasing number of chefs have been turning toward vegetable-centric dishes even at non-vegetarian restaurants. Chef John Fraser was ahead of the curve with Narcissa, where you can still get the carrots Wellington dish that made waves when the restaurant opened a few years ago.