‘Tis the season to take a look back at 2013 — the best and the worst of what we ate, and where we ate it. What were the biggest food trends of the year, for better or for worse? Here’s what we think.
THE BEST …
1. Ever-better markets. Smorgasburg has been around for a few seasons now and gets better every year. The Brooklyn Night Bazaar not only brings food vendors together under a year-round roof, but has music and entertainment to boot. Gotham West Market brings some of the city’s foremost restaurant talent into one welcoming venue. There have never been so many one-stop destinations in New York City for truly awesome eating.
2. Large-format meals. A chicken Parmesan the size of a pizza at Quality Italian. Whole roast chickens on every other menu — and large-format steaks just as often. Forget shareable small plates, which really aren’t much fun to share at all; 2013 was the year of the large plate.
3. Southeast Asia eats. Uncle Boons and Somtum Der added new energy to New York’s Thai scene; Nightingale 9 and Bun-Ker both offered slightly modernized takes on Vietnamese. Even Laos got its moment in the sun, with Khe-Yo in TriBeCa. We say, keep them coming.
4. Out-of-towners. Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette’s Toro, one of this fall’s biggest hits, brought that Spanish restaurant down from Boston. Danny Bowien, whose Mission Chinese Food got its start in San Francisco, is doubling down with Mission Cantina. Sweetgreen, from D.C., is a salad chain actually worth getting excited about; Umami Burger, in from Southern California, had three-hour waits when it opened. As far as we’re concerned, New York is a big town, and the more talented chefs working here, the better.
5. Food mashups. 2013 was the year of the Cronut — Dominique Ansel‘s croissant-doughnut hybrid that launched a thousand imitators — and yes, it’s every bit as tasty as you’ve heard. The Ramen Burger, launched at Smorgasburg, made a similar splash.
… AND THE WORST
1. Food mashup mania. Okay, we said so above: we’re fans of the Cronut. But lining up at 5am to get one? Scalping them on Craigslist? The knockoffs and the trend pieces? After the fifth straight week of cronut mania, we were ready to never hear that word again.
2. Food festival fails. While the 2012 version of GoogaMooga got pretty gnarly, 2013 was an even bigger disappointment when the second day was canceled, leaving restaurants in the lurch. Food festivals can be a great time, but some can get too big to succeed.
3. Ever-escalating cocktail prices. Five years ago, decent cocktails in Manhattan were going for around $10. I remember wincing the first time I paid $12, at some point in 2008. This year, I paid $20 for a cocktail on more than one occasion. We’ve got nothing but respect for talented bartenders and mixologists around town, but with drink prices rising faster than college tuition, something’s gotta give.
4. Over-truffling. When used correctly, truffles (particularly the rarer white variety) are one of the most sublime foods on the planet. But shaving truffles onto an otherwise unremarkable dish doesn’t necessarily make it better; it’s just a waste of a beautiful truffle. The Gallery at Villard Michel Richard is just one spot that didn’t use truffles to their full potential.
5. Single-item restaurants. OK, everyone loved S’Mac’s mac-and-cheese when it first opened. And the Meatball Shop has certainly found its niche. But a takeout spot serving only potatoes? The Nugget Spot, “New York City’s first single-focus specialty nugget restaurant”? We shudder to think of what’s next.
Read more of our 2013 year-end wrap-ups here.