Ten Food Trends That Are Hot Right Now
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Dining Bisnow (DC)

Ten Food Trends That Are
Hot Right Now

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DC's dining scene has had a big year (bigger than Brazil, anyway). Hundreds of restaurants opened, new dining destinations emerged, and celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud and Jose Garces set up shop. But what are the driving forces shaping how we eat and drink? Your top 10 dining trends

1) Alternate Eats

Mathew Ramsey

The modern concept of a restaurant isn't going away, but new ways to dine, like supper clubs and pop-ups, are in vogue. Mathew Ramsey, a local food legend for his site, PornBurger.me, recently launched “Bar R” supper club. Four diners visit his home to try one of his between-the-bun creations (like the one pictured) plus other courses. Seatings from now to December sold out immediately. “I'm drawn to the unconventional aspect of supper clubs,” he tells us. “Rules of service and etiquette that apply in restaurants go out the window and are replaced by a more personable, interactive experience.”

Vida (Girl-weights) DINE

2) Whiskey

At least five brown liquor bars have opened in the past year, including Barrel, The Dignitary, The Whiskey Room, Rebellion, and Southern Efficiency. Other bars have stepped up their offerings, and Jack Rose boasts one of the best collections in the country. We chatted about the spirit's popularity with cocktail man Derek Brown, who's behind Southern Efficiency. “It's our patriotic duty to drink whiskey,” he tells us. “There are many American spirits, but none that tell the story of America better than whiskey.” 

3) Charcuterie Craze

You used to be able to order a sexy slab of charcuterie at a handful of European restaurants around town. Now, cured meats are a salty start to any meal. The Partisan hands diners a charcuterie checklist upon sitting down. Thai basil cured bresola anyone? Other standouts include Fiola (pictured) and Lupo Verde. Even Zentan, an Asian small plates and sushi restaurant, is getting in on the craze. Chef Jennifer Nguyen is trying her hand at curry pâté with kimchi mustard, guanciale for her Asian Carbonara and a Vietnamese Nem Chua.


4) Global Street Food

Several new restaurants opened their doors to hawk street food to hungry Washingtonians, including Soi 38 and Compass Rose. Sure, it's gussied up street food, but Compass Rose owner Rose Previte finds cheap global eats quite inspiring. “Street vendors and marketplaces are the main sources of food in many countries around the world,” she tell us. “It's how most people dine out." She hopes her food “invokes memories of an amazing trip to Peru, or that time you fell in love in Rome. It gets everyone at the table talking about their travels.” 

5) Gorgeous Gardens

Many restaurants are green thumbing their way through nurturing chef gardens that go far beyond a planter box of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Union Market's Bidwell sources 60% of its menu from its rooftop garden (pictured). Restaurant Eve's 2,000 SF garden is also impressive. There are even start-ups capitalizing: Love & Carrots installs and helps maintain restaurant gardens. Its clients include The Red Hen, Big Bear Café, and Bacio Pizzeria. “We are glad that growing edibles, native flowers, and perennials is catching on as a way to sustainably beautify and strengthen our local urban foodshed,” Megan Rynne from Love & Carrots tells us.

Malmaison (BYOB2) DINE

6) Mixed-Use Spaces

Restaurants aren't just restaurants. Many of them double as markets like Menu MBK (pictured). The first of the restaurant's three floors offers everything from fresh produce and gourmet cheese to prepared meals. “What's great about having a multi-concept space is that people who wander in to peruse the market may discover there's a restaurant and bar upstairs and vice versa,” chef Frederick de Pue tells us. Black Whiskey in Logan Circle has a downstairs goods and clothing shop, and so will Maketto when it opens. 

7) Latin Steakhouses

DC steak aficionados are eating far more yucca fries next to their slabs of grilled goodness. That's because Latin steakhouses like Toro Toro and Del Campo are in. Peruvian and Argentinian dishes like chimichurri-topped steak (pictured) dominate at Victor Albisu's Del Campo, while men brandishing skewered meat approach your table during the rodizio experience at Toro Toro. Soon, Jose Garces' Rural Society will join the fiesta. 

Toro Toro (Open) DINE

The Wydown

8) So Much Coffee

If Washingtonians have a little more spring in their step, it's probably because they're more caffeinated than ever. New coffee shops have emerged, including former pop-up “The Wydown,” which now has a permanent home on 14th Street. Then there's La Colombe, serving single origin brews and hemp milk, and the soon-to-open Compass Coffee from former Marines. Even bars are jumping on the roasted-bean bandwagon. Mockingbird Hill, a sherry and ham bar by night, serves iced coffee on draft and exotic pour-over coffee by day.

9) Quality Fast Casual

We may not have the numbers to prove that luxurious three-course steak lunches are on the decline, but QSR Magazine named DC the third fastest-growing market for quick service spots. The increased demand for places like Cava Grill, GCDC (Kim-cheese-steak pictured), and Willie T's Lobster Shack that don't sacrifice flavor or finesse for speed is undeniable. Even Top Chefs are cashing in. Bryan Voltaggio's Lunchbox in Chevy Chase launches July 14. 

Cardinal (Maryland3) DINE

10) Small Plates &
Shared Plates

Some rejoice when the waiter arrives to explain that a small plates experience is about to unfold. Others roll their eyes because entrées, yet again, aren't an option. DC hadn't really heard of tapas before the jefe of small plates, José Andrés, started opening restaurants. Now, the trend has reached its peak. You'll find Mediterranean small plates at Agora, Zaytinya, and KapnosJapanese small plates at Daikaya and Izakaya Seki; and Latin small plates at Tico (pictured) and Toro Toro, just to name a few.

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