February 3rd, 2020

All Hail the Gastropub

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Gastro-Pub

2020 Looks to be the Year of the Gastropub

Gastropub

On a previous blog we discussed the Fastest Growing Restaurant Concepts in America, one of which being the gastropub (or brewpub). Here we are now in 2020, and it looks as if gastropubs are still on track to be one of, if not the, fastest growing concepts.

While this is all well and good, I really wanted to know why America has such a fascination with the gastropub. Sure, they offer food and drink, much like most bars and restaurants. They also promote hearty socialization and interaction, but that’s not uncommon in the F&B industry either. So why do we love them so much? The answer, I believe, lies in the menu.

The Best Gastropubs in the U.S.

Recently, USA Today released its list of the Reader’s Choice 10 Best Brewpubs in the U.S. These brewpubs span the country from San Diego to Maine, and Chicago to Colorado. What this gives us is a terrific cross-section of guests voting on what are essentially their favorite foods.

So, I thought it would be prudent to review the menus from all these award-winning gastropubs and see what they have in common (aside from beer). The answer? Quite a bit.

Trends

Gastropub food

All the brewpubs that made the 10 Best list are covering multiple food trends, many of which we’ve covered right here on our blog. From smoke & BBQ, to decadent poutines, and a ubiquitous inclusion of Asian flavors and flatbreads. The trends drive the menus, which in turn bring the guests.

The chef-driven style and flavor impartiality of these establishments showcase a unique ability to change with, and even drive, food trends. Customers of gastropubs tend to be willing to take more risks, try new foods, and be curious about things they haven’t had before. If that wasn’t their nature, they wouldn’t be going to a place brewing their own unique, small-batch brewed beers.

Bold Flavors

So, we see up-to-date trends represented with unapologetic bounty in gastropubs, but as we know, that doesn’t matter if the food is bland or dull. That’s the next common trait for these eateries: big, bold flavors.

Across the menus you’ll find items like Gastropub TrendsFresno chili sauce, beer-based BBQ sauces, bulgogi, gochujang, smoked buffalo, and Nashville hot sauce. These come in a variety of applications such as flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, wraps, wings, fries, vegetables, and others.

The point is this, brewpubs are using powerful flavors, often by way of sauces, to deliver unique and captivating dishes to their guests. It seems to be working, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this steady rise in popularity.

Personally, I’m dying to try the beer-brined house-smoked wings slathered in beer BBQ sauce at 18th Street Brewery.

Kids Menus

Gastropub food

Image courtesy of ptaourchildren.org

Yes, I know this seems out of left field, but actually, I think it’s quite telling. While gastropubs may be craft beer-driven, they’re also positioning themselves as family-focused eateries.

This recognition of the younger crowd certainly allows more flexibility for patrons. The destruction of the brewpub’s “bar” stigma means they have become acceptable for family-dining. This opens access to a broader demographic of parents with children to patronize the gastropub without needing a babysitter.

Also, these kids’ menus are not just afterthoughts. They are well-thought out with familiar items like grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken tenders, and quesadillas, but elevated with items like pulled pork, brioche buns, and house-made mustard. Even kids are getting a it more experimental these days, but let’s hold off on the heirloom tomato aspic for now.

Gastropubs, the New Home of Innovation

There’s no doubt in my mind gastropubs will continue to rise in popularity over 2020. Their creativity, trend-focused execution, and welcoming atmosphere make them a perfect venue for guests of all ages and backgrounds.

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August 12th, 2019

BBQ is King on Summer Menus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Between LTO’s and Menu Updates, BBQ Reigns

BBQ is King

Summer is in full swing and according to menus nationwide, BBQ is king!

Aside all the frozen cocktails, fruit-focused summer salads, and swimsuit friendly bites, you’ll find smoky barbecue options hitting the mark. This trend isn’t simply relegated to full-service restaurants, it’s occurring across all market segments. Just check the menus…

BBQ on Summer Menus

Fast Food

BBQ Trends

Photo courtesy of chikfila.com

It looks like the fast food segment is all for the push to savory BBQ flavors. Chick-fil-A recently launched their Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich, while KFC has re-released their Smoky Mountain BBQ and Georgia Gold options. Across the board, burger staples like McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Jack in the Box are all featuring a seasonal BBQ option. Even Arby’s is on board with their Bourbon BBQ Sandwich selection.

Quick Service

BBQ Flavors

Photo courtesy of chewboom.com

QSR businesses are known for their trend forward ways and menu flexibility. It’s part of what makes them special. So, it’s no surprise to see BBQ options on these menus as well. Starbucks is taking their chance on a Honey BBQ Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, while Boston Market is going with a re-release of the Bourbon Bacon Rotisserie Chicken. MOD Pizza is blending pineapple with BBQ on their limited edition “Fred Pizza,” featuring Canadian bacon, roasted pineapple, red onion, and a sweet BBQ sauce swirl.

Full Service

BBQ on Menus

Photo courtesy of Chilis.com

Ruby Tuesdays, known for their epic salad bar, is upping their game with a Hickory Bourbon Bacon Sirloin. Chili’s has gone even further, pushing their BBQ options onto a new Smokehouse Combo menu, where you can mix and match choices of smoked brisket, cheesy bacon BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, and smoked sausages. Outback Steakhouse has found legs in the BBQ trend with options like the Aussie Twisted Ribs and the BBQ Pork Porterhouse.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire!

And these flavor trends are hot! It’s no coincidence that BBQ is King on national menus. We saw massive growth with BBQ flavors last year, and 2019 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. So, don’t fall behind, give the people what they want with unique new BBQ flavors and pairings.

Cheers!

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October 1st, 2018

2018 Chicken Wing Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Trends

What’s Trending in Flavor and Texture

Chicken wings are a ubiquitous fan favorite among Americans. Whether as an appetizer, a meal all itself, or, as the focus an event or celebration, chicken wings have not lost their popularity.

 

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In fact, according to the National Chicken Council, an estimated 1.35 billion chicken wings would be consumed during Super Bowl 52 alone! That shows an increase of almost 20 million chicken wings since 2017.

It’s no surprise then, given their popularity, restaurants continue to experiment with chicken wings in flavor and texture.

Flavor Trends

Asian

Asian flavors are pushing the envelope in almost all categories, and while wings are no stranger to Eastern flavors, they’re starting to get funkier, err, fishier.

garlicgingerwings3

That’s right, fish sauce is boosting wings to another level of umami. Pok Pok Restaurants, based in Portland, OR, lead the way with the aptly named “Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.” These crispy morsels are marinated in fish sauce and sugar, then tossed in a sauce of fish sauce and caramelized garlic.

MOPHO of New Orleans is no stranger to nam pla either. Their eponymous wings are coated in a caramel made from fish sauce, sugar, garlic, Thai chilies, ginger, and lime.

On the Korean side of things, Chi’Lantro Korean BBQ Inspired Restaurants serve their chicken wings in a house “Gangnam” sauce that features spicy gochujang paste. A fermented chili and bean paste, gochujang serves as the base for many Korean BBQ sauce recipes.

Smoke

Smoked flavors continue to drift into the mainstream, and wings offer a great medium to play with different types.

pexels-photo-106343

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill amps up its classic Buffalo wings by smoking, chilling, then flash frying for service. Chili’s has entered the game as well with their pecan wood smoked wings glazed in zesty BBQ sauce.

Momofuku Noodle Bar of New York combines both the Asian inspired and smoked trends with their smoked chicken wings made with garlic, Thai chile, and scallions. Wingzup of Austin, TX, doubles down on the char by smoking their wings for 4.5 hours over hickory then grilling them over an open flame.

Texture

Along with flavor, chefs are starting to add different textures to their wings, elevating the simple dish and driving interest.

pexels-photo-1059943

At Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen they are serving up Thai Sticky Wings garnished with crushed peanuts and crispy spring-roll wrapper strips for added crunch. Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken Restaurant goes deep on the crunch by using cornstarch in the breading and twice frying their wings giving them a thin, ultra-crispy skin and immensely satisfying crispiness.

Finally, at Haisous in Chicago you can find chicken wings basted in a caramelized fish sauce and topped with crispy fried garlic and shallots. My mouth is watering just thinking about that depth of flavor.

Keep an eye out for other fun textures like potato chips, panko, and puffed grains as they start to make headway into the mainstream market.

Until next time, cheers everybody!

 

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March 27th, 2017

Food Trend Series: Free the Fire

Posted in Consumer Trends, Fire, Food Trends, Smoke

Research chefs

The Flavors of Fire Reign Supreme

It would seem that the love of smoke and fire have finally been accepted by the mainstream. Need proof? Check out Little Caesars latest release of the Smokehouse Pizza, topped with brisket, pulled pork, and smoked bacon along with a smokehouse seasoned crust.  Arby’s serves a similar Smokehouse sandwich made with brisket and smoked Gouda cheese. Even Applebee’s has jumped into the mix with the roll out of their wood fired grills in select locations.

Menu development

Image courtesy of Restaurant Facility Business

Tracking menu insights from 3rd quarter 2015 and 2016 the market research firm Mintel placed smoked flavors atop their list of rising flavor trends(1).

Empirical evidence backs up these statements as well. Think of how common smoked salts, fire roasted tomatoes or chilies, and charred citrus have become. Menus show items like smoked butterscotch coffee, fire roasted vegetables, and charred artichokes. Heck, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever drunk was served to me last weekend and included freshly burnt rosemary and mescal.

We can also see these fiery flavors showing up in condiments. Chipotle ketchup, pecan wood smoked maple syrup, smoked onion marmalade, and smoked black pepper pickles to name a few. I have no doubt a simple Google query would bring up a slew of other products I haven’t thought of. 

Fine dining restaurants nationwide have long been pushing the flaming trend forward with the use of wood burning stoves. Local to Austin you can enjoy foods slow roasted over wood fires at the likes of Odd Duck or Dai Due, the latter using beautiful customized elevator grills. Nationally, you can find wood fire kitchens from coast to coast, but for our New York friends a stand out would be Lilia in Brooklyn.

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

As chefs, we are stoked (get it?) by the fired and smoked food trend, as it hearkens back to the origins of cooking food with only wood and a spark. I feel a beard growing just thinking about it.

We would love to hear what you’re seeing out there in your culinary travels. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

 

Cheers!

-Chris

1. Weisberg, Karen. "Flavor Advances: Top Trends for 2017." Culinology. December 2016: 10-17. 6 Mar., 2017.
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December 26th, 2016

Food Trends: Izakayas

Posted in Food Trends, Gastro-Pub, Japanese, Trends

Izakayas: The Japanese Gastropub

Izakayas

Takoyaki – Kome

Don’t know what izakayas are? You’re about to.

Japanese cuisine provides us with a large variety of foods that continue to engage our imaginations and our palates. The prevalence of sushi and ramen has paved the way for more unfamiliar Japanese fare to make inroads into the American diet.

Such fare often comes by way of izakayas, the Japanese Gastropub. These diners focus on small plates served in a casual atmosphere, usually paired with sake or beer. A commonplace for an after work drink and a bite to eat in Japan, izakayas can be likened to an Irish pub. As Susan Malovany writes in the June edition of Culinology Magazine, izakayas are all about “small plates and portion control, healthy options, global foods, umami and variety.”

Over the last decade, izakayas have begun to flourish in the United States. As with most Asian food trends, they began showing up on the west coast and in New York, but have spread inward and can now be found in most major cities. Izakayas run the gamut from fine to casual dining and mirror the trend of taking simple comfort foods and elevating them to new heights with influences of different cultures. This can be seen in the utilization of continental ingredients such as beets and Brussels sprouts.

Austin Izakayas

Oyster – Otoko

You can find staples such as edamame and seaweed salad mixed in with less familiar dishes like takoyaki (octopus dumplings), uni, and chicken hearts. Varieties of sushi, sashimi, and noodle soups are also served at izakayas, offering options to even the pickiest of food adventurers. This variety displays the true beauty of the izakaya.

Izakaya Austin

Courtesy of Gallivant.com

Izakaya Den in Denver, for instance, is a local favorite and sister restaurant to Sushi Den. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan for sushi and specials, and their menu is diversified with a range of foods from steamed duck buns to roasted beet salad.

Chef Consultants

Jellyfish – Otoko

Austin also proves a great city for izakaya dining. Tyson Cole has given us the likes of Uchi, Uchiko, and Paul Qui gives us the more highbrow Otoko. Chef Kazu Fukumoto chose to go more casual with Fukumoto just east of downtown. Komé offers those on the north side of the city a fantastic menu of small plates along with a great ambiance.

There are plenty of great izakayas across the country, all worth a visit. From Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya in New York to Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya in San Francisco, there is always great food and innovation to experience. Whenever visiting a new city, I recommend looking at the local izakayas and always asking what the house special is and trying that, regardless of how strange it might seem. You never know where you might find your next favorite dish.

So, explore and eat my friends, and let us know what you find!

 

Cheers!

 

Izakayas to Try:

Izakaya Den
1487-A South Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80210
Website

Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya
187 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
Website

Shizen Vegan Sushi & Izakaya
370 14th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Website

Fukumoto
514 Medina St.
Austin, TX 78702
Website

Uchi / Uchiko
801 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
4200 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78756
Uchi Website
Uchiko Website

Komé
4917 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
Website

Update:

Since the initial writing of this blog Austin got news of a new izakaya concept from the co-owners and executive chefs of Ramen Tatsu-ya. Opening in what was the location of Live Oak BBQ, the new restaurant called Kemuri Tatsu-ya, will feature Texas inspired izakaya dishes intended to be shared.

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