Best of FlavorTop 10 Trends

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Street-level research yields menu standouts.

Street-level research brings fresh ideas and menu strategies

Hello Betty partners with a local tortilleria, making their tortillas an authentic part of the menu’s narrative.

Creativity and contrast mark the modern fish taco

In Washington, D.C., Espita Mezcaleria invites diners to try new flavors—such as a selection of adventurous salsas—and to dive into shareable dishes, a hallmark of the Millennial generation.

The priorities of a generation continue to shape our industry in profound ways

Kombucha gives cocktails a boost, both in health benefits and flavor depth. Light fizziness adds to the overall appeal.

Cocktails go deep with these high-impact ingredients

Tapping into Alfredo’s built-in appeal requires the simplest of touches—perhaps a hint of Gorgonzola or an infusion of spices, like ancho or smoked paprika.

Breathe new life into late-stage trends with creative flavors and forms

Showcasing the potential with this sandwich, Kotti Berliner Döner Kebab in New York serves the Kotti Special: marinated chicken with vegetables, tucked into a Turkish pide, with a choice of herb, lemon, garlic or harissa-style chile sauce.

A dozen ways to reinvigorate this classic category

Today’s pizzas push flavor boundaries with toppings like charcuterie-worthy cuts and alternative spreads, like balsamic-fig.

From flour to flame, see what’s trending in this red-hot category

roasting vegetables in coconut oil further develops flavor.

Commodity boards harness the momentum of the bowl trend

The Hot “Bananas Foster” Butter Cake at Eddie V’s merges comfort and indulgence. Butter is the theme here: butter cake, butter pecan ice cream and butterscotch.

Tap into these menu-ready dessert trends for prime opportunities

From crave-worthy sandwiches to center-of-plate steaks and shareable small plates, ham is happening. Watch UNCUT Making the Cut to see Chef Cosmo Goss of The Publican in Chicago showcase the delicious “umami bomb” – and visit for how-to butchering demos, recipes and more.

Ham is happening. Watch UNCUT Making the Cut to see Chef Cosmo Goss of The Publican in Chicago showcase the delicious “umami bomb”. With the National Pork Board.

A renewed appreciation for crisp lettuce is driving innovation in salads. Midtown Grille in Raleigh, N.C., offers a modern take on a craveable classic in its Iceberg Salad with applewood bacon, deviled egg, blue cheese and buttermilk.

Chefs are staging a coup, toppling the reign of tender greens and bringing back the crunch. Driven by a more intentional approach to salad-building, romaine and iceberg are getting called up, tucking craveability and, yes, innovation, among their crisp leaves.

Craveable and umami-rich, okonomiyaki is primed for menu adoption here. Perfect as a shareable, this savory cabbage pancake often boasts inclusions like spring onion and bacon, and then is topped with an addictive combination of sweet soy glaze and Kewpie mayo.

Thanks to the proliferation of ramen bowls, along with the new izakaya wave, chefs are discovering the flavors of comfort-forward Japanese ingredients and dishes, like karaage, katsu and okonomiyaki, promising craveable, memorable experiences.

Familiar potatoes become modern and flavor-forward at Tava Kitchen, an Indian-inspired fast casual. Oven-baked whole marble potatoes are dusted with Tava spice for a signature, yet approachable side dish.

Small potatoes are making big moves and showing off their skills as a shareable, sociable innovation platform. Minis, marbles, fingerlings—all respond beautifully to flavor techniques like roasting, blistering, smoking and smashing.

A skillet of Tomato-Braised Meatballs with burrata and grits served at Acorn in Denver, relays rustic, homey, hearty, just-for-you cues that resonate with consumers today.

Old-fashioned comfort meets modern flavor innovation in today’s forward-thinking skillet preparations. Rustic and earnest, skillets today host bubbling pasta dishes, shareable dips and caramelized mini platters of veg-centric bar bites.

A conscientious approach means looking at flavor-forward dishes in a holistic way. Modern Market’s “Homestyle Plates” invite diners to pick their protein and two signature sides.

This overarching trend speaks to a menu strategy that appeals to today’s modern diners. Thoughtfulness of intent, transparency in sourcing and a mindfulness around flavor-building all give this trend long legs.

Irresistibly crispy, the chickpea fries at David Burke Fabrick in New York get a dusting of fennel pollen and are served with complementary dips, like harissa mayonnaise or chipotle aïoli.

Propelled by the interest in plant-based proteins, the veg-centric trend and Middle Eastern fare, the chickpea is stealing the spotlight. From bar bites of roasted chickpeas to the next wave of hummus and the explosion of falafel, they promise wholesome adventure.

Brown Bag Seafood Co.’s Curry Fish Cakes with ginger-lime sauce are a big hit on the menu at its new Revival Food Hall location in Chicago. “We sell out faster than we can make them,” says Donna Lee, founder.

This trend sees seafood boldly stepping out of its traditional confines and embracing big flavor combinations and casual presentations. Chefs are menuing seafood in thrilling ways, underpinning the dishes with an approachable, but meaningful message of sustainability.

A medley of heat and comfort, the Braised Pork Cheeks at Motto in Durham, N.C., are nestled in green chile grits and guajillo broth—just one example of the new ways that guajillo is showing up on menus.

Chile varietals are always on trend, giving diners the heat and excitement they yearn for. Guajillo is capturing chefs’ attention because of its depth of character, offering flavorful heat plus a cool regional Mexican hook.

The menu opportunity here comes from fresh, transparent, handcrafted cues that modern non-alcoholic beverages deliver so perfectly.

With the growing interest in soda alternatives plus innovation in the cocktail space, creative non-alcoholic offerings are vying for menu space. Fast casuals are leading the way with fresh-pressed juices; hand-crafted sodas; flavor-forward lemonades and iced teas; iced coffees and more.

Nachos are an ideal platform for introducing new flavor systems. In Nashville, Tenn., they serve as a base for Party Fowl’s signature Hot Chicken, with a topping of white beans, cheese, avocado, jalapeños, green onion, lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream.

America’s favorite shareable is getting a serious makeover from chefs who are mindfully constructing layers of textures and flavors. Speaking to modern flavor trends, today’s nachos extend a restaurant brand’s playfulness and creativity while delivering big time on craveability.

 Incorporating unusual ingredients and combinations

Rethink your salad menu strategy. Go with two to three core salads on your menu that have longevity year-round, then implement a robust salad LTO cycle that features a new seasonal salad offering every two months.

Citrus appetizers, like whipped goat cheese with preserved lemons and Marcona almonds, wake the palate with bright, tart flavors.

A dozen ways to leverage the fresh zing of citrus across the menu

With something as inherently popular as cheesecake, it’s easy to augment the appeal. Anything from a decorative sauce to an unexpected crust generates added interest.

Cheesecake offers a rich canvas for fun, modern flavor innovation

Classic cocktails like the Negroni are celebrated anew. They’re a perfect match for the revival of the steakhouse, like this one served at Diplomat Prime in Hollywood, Fla.

An interesting progression emerges in cocktail trends

Lazy Dog’s customers request more vegetable options, like these shareable Street Corn Wheels with lime-garlic sauce, topped with queso blanco and fresh cilantro.

Savvy menu-makers are front-loading menus with produce-driven bar bites, appetizers and small plates that entice diners

At Tasty n Sons in Portland, Ore., both a pickled egg and a sunny-side-up egg upgrade the Burmese Red Pork Stew.

Leverage the insights and data that commodity boards offer up for strategic menu development

Chef Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture in Richmond, Va., changes up the Reuben with his “Reubenesque,” housemade pork pastrami and Thousand Island dressing spiked with fermented red-chile paste, served on an Asiago roll.

Staplehouse in Atlanta typifies the New American restaurant: honest food, a casual vibe, and a menu that unabashedly pulls from whatever global pantry it fancies—as long as it helps tell a good flavor story.

Chefs are finding new ways to tap into versatile flavor profiles from around the world, applying them to protein, including vadouvan, pho, chicken tikka masala, chile colorado and ragout.

Global protein treatments with on-trend opportunity and complex, craveable flavor

Newk’s Eatery thoroughly tested two new dishes—a Shrimp and Avocado Salad and an Ahi Tuna Salad (pictured)—before debuting them on the menu. Both salads stayed on the menu beyond Lent.

Spreading the excitement well beyond Lent, boosting sales and creating new dining preferences all year long

At Oregon State University, Job’s tears, also known as Chinese pearl barley, are cooked in dashi broth with shoyu pork, pickled mushroom, green chickpeas and poached egg.

Forward-thinking culinary directors are pioneering new landscape and impacting the mindset, sophistication and expectation of younger consumers

It's an art where all five senses take place as one

New Trends Outside the Big Easy

The dramatic presentation combined with umami-laden truffles turns a baked potato into a flavor knockout.

A new take on eggs Benedict, with salmon and crisp fried potato leek cakes.

Maximize the rich, craveable flavor system of French onion soup with a whole baked potato.

Who says a Shepherd's Pie has to be a pie? Why not a savory tart instead.

Achieving a remarkable flavor experience

Crispy Pork Belly rubbed with salt, sugar, cumin and coriander, and roasted until the pork insanely crispy and layered with a Salsa Negra. Blistered guajillo, roasted poblanos, roasted garlic, cumin, coriander, allspice, salt and cider vinegar come together in this salsa.

On-trend menu builds that stand out with rich flavor stories

When we strip every conversation away from our food experiences, it all comes down to Flavor.

Flavor: an indication of the essential character of something

Follow our new weekly column for unique perspectives on flavor

Garam Masala Pork Belly at Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville consists of smaller portions of the rich meat prepared with an intensely flavored dry rub of garam masala and brown sugar.

The shifting plate makeup is putting a renewed emphasis on quality protein with flavor at the forefront

Korean Fried Broccoli at Dirt Candy in New York takes the no-fail appeal of deep-fried, battered broccoli florets and makes them more craveable with a sweet and garlicky Korean barbecue-style sauce.

Extend the flavor stories behind some of the most craveable and successful profiles today

A Chicken Pesto sandwich at Which Wich gets additional texture and freshness from an olive salad, with a range of other vegetable add-ins for customization.

The success of the banh mi has demonstrated the importance of high-impact produce in sandwiches

Parmesan crisps are sheer umami on their own, but sprinkle savory furikake seasoning over top and the flavor effect is exponential.

Chefs are exploring the menu potential of furikake and togarashi, two high-impact finishes

Grilled cheese finds unconventional applications that showcase its texture, such as these bread and cheese kabobs with balsamic dressing. Juustoleipa, a Scandinavian pressed curd cheese, lends itself to grilling or frying.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea added the Coconut Black Tie as a summer LTO, made with coconut-infused simple syrup. Based on the equally successful coffee-based Black Tie (sweetened condensed milk, cold-brew coffee and chicory syrup), the drink was such a hit that the chain plans more seasonal variations.

Thanks to younger consumers—raised with single-varietal coffees, a rainbow of black, green, white and red tea shades, and curious about anything that smacks of the new—innovative methods, like cold-brew have found little customer resistance.

Clockwise from top left: Vegan Carolina “pork” barbecue using green jackfruit; chawanmushi egg custard at Cassia in Santa Monica, Calif.; LocoL’s cheeseburger with Jack-scallion relish and “awesome sauce,” and assorted paratha “tacos” from Goa Taco.


Paella With Chicken, Chorizo, Clams And Shirred Eggs
This paella with shirred eggs is an example of how dinner dishes are showing up at breakfast and egg dishes are growing dramatically on dinner menus.
This Mediterranean-inspired egg strata, with Swiss chard, olives, thyme and fresh mozzarella is ideal for vegetarians looking for a protein-rich meal, or any guest who wants a healthy meal with great flavor.
Pear Shrimp Salad with Cilantro Yogurt Dressing
The cilantro yogurt dressing is really the difference maker in this dish. It’s so creamy, fresh and flavorful, and yet lower in calories thanks to non-fat Greek yogurt.



From crave-worthy sandwiches to center-of-plate steaks and shareable small plates, ham is happening. Watch UNCUT Making the Cut to see Chef Cosmo Goss of The Publican in Chicago showcase the delicious “umami bomb” – and visit for how-to butchering demos, recipes and more.
Ham is happening. Watch UNCUT Making the Cut to see Chef Cosmo Goss of The Publican in Chicago showcase the delicious “umami bomb”. With the National Pork Board.
The dramatic presentation combined with umami-laden truffles turns a baked potato into a flavor knockout.
A new take on eggs Benedict, with salmon and crisp fried potato leek cakes.
Maximize the rich, craveable flavor system of French onion soup with a whole baked potato.


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