5 Food Trends to Watch For in Houston

Eater ran a list yesterday of 10 food trends that are -- at least in New York City -- officially dead. Among them included the obvious (the gastropub), the non-events (pie as the new cupcakes, which still hasn't happened) and the debatable (I'm pretty sure Houstonians will continue to eat banh mi like nobody's business).

What was more interesting was viewing the list through the lens of a Houston diner. Two trends on the DOA list -- American comfort food and gastropubs -- are alive and well at establishments such as BRC and Hearsay. And Tiki anything is just starting to make its way here; will the Tiki trend in Houston die on the vine? It's hard to tell.

Just as difficult to predict are the food trends that will filter down to Houston from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the world over. Houstonians are a finicky bunch, as Mai Pham just noted earlier today. And trends that might bowl crowds over elsewhere -- the emergence of Nordic cuisine, for example -- might never be more than a blip on the radar here.

Here are five food trends, in increasing order of likeliness, that we think might have a shot at making a splash in the Bayou City.

5. African food

As recently noted in our post about brunch at Peppersoup Cafe, Houston has a massive African population. Although it's predominately West African, we also have a handful of excellent Ethiopian restaurants as well, which are finally becoming more and more mainstream as people discover the rich, full flavors of African cooking -- and discover that it's not as frighteningly "exotic" as they may have thought. Marcus Samuelsson is busy bringing upscale, haute African cuisine to New York City, much in the same way Anita Jaisinghani has successfully done here with Indian food. What Houston needs is someone to bridge the gap between our small-scale African restaurants and a big, powerful, creative yet accessible restaurant that could showcase Nigerian or Ghanian or Ethiopian food to the masses.

4. Gourmet donuts

This trend sounds stupid, and that's because it sort of is. It's just as faddish as the whole cupcake trend. But that doesn't mean it won't find some traction here. They're portable and inexpensive, like cupcakes should be. And gourmet donuts -- like the tres leches and peanut butter with blackberry jelly flavors at Doughnut Plant in New York -- are an even more expressive medium than cupcakes, as it's somewhat easier to accept a savory donut than it is a savory cupcake. It also gives our pastry chefs room to expand their offerings at restaurants and bakeries; I'd love to see a lentil flour donut with a samosa-type filling or a light lavender donut filled with lemon curd for the summer. And considering that Houston is already a focal point for kolaches of all types -- boudin-stuffed kolache, anyone? -- gourmet donuts aren't that much of a stretch.

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Katharine Shilcutt