Localization, Novelty Lead New Dining Trends

You’ll be eating local, gluten-free, vegetarian and environmentally in the months ahead, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Professional chefs gave their opinions on the food, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes that will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2014. Heading the list of top 20 trends are locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, environmental sustainability, healthful kids’ meals and gluten-free cuisine.

The top hottest dining trends are healthy and environmentally friendly foods, the association’s recent survey finds.

Also trending: unusual and ethnic fare. Expect to see street food-inspired appetizers (tempura, taquitos and kabobs) and dips. Imported breakfast menu items will bring Asian-flavored syrups, Chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes.

Other hot trends include nose-to-tail or root-to-stalk cooking, which uses the entire animal or vegetable to reduce food waste; ancient grains such as kamut, spelt and amaranth; and grazing (small-plate sharing or snacking instead of eating traditional meals.

The hottest international cuisines are Peruvian, Korean, Southeast Asian and fusion.

Most popular by menu category:

  • Appetizers: House-cured meats and charcuterie; vegetarian fare; bite-sized hors d’oeuvres.
  • Main dishes: Locally sourced meats and seafood; sustainable seafood; new cuts of meat such as Denver steak, pork flat iron or tri-tip; non-traditional fish such as branzino, Arctic char or barramundi; half-portions or smaller portions for a smaller price.
  • Starches and side items: Non-wheat noodles and pasta such as quinoa, rice or buckwheat; black rice; forbidden rice; red rice; pickled vegetables.
  • Desserts: Hybrids such as the cronut (the croissant-doughnut), the townie (a brownie inside a tart shell) or ice cream cupcakes; house-made/artisan ice cream; bite-size and mini desserts; deconstructed classic desserts.
  • Beverages: House-made soft drinks; gourmet lemonade; coconut water; specialty iced tea such as Thai-style, Southern/sweet or flavored; dairy-free milk.
  • Alcoholic beverages: Drinks barrel-aged onsite; regional signature cocktails; edible cocktails; micro-distilled/artisan spirits; locally produced beer, wine and spirits; “New Make” whiskey; gluten-free beer; food and drink pairings.
  • Breakfast/brunch: Ethnic-inspired items such as Asian-flavored syrups, Chorizo scrambled eggs; coconut milk pancakes; traditional ethnic dishes such as huevos rancheros, shakshuka (an Israeli or Tunisian dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce) and ashta (Lebanese pastry cream); fresh fruit; egg white omelets and sandwiches; yogurt and Greek yogurt parfaits.
  • Kids’ meals: Whole grain items; fruit or vegetable sides; ethnic-inspired dishes; oven-baked items such as chicken fingers or fries.