Pop Culture

Are These the Top Dining Trends of 2017?

Seaside Poke turns out trendy, but tasty poke bowls.
Seaside Poke turns out trendy, but tasty poke bowls. Photo by Kimberly Park
Last week the 12th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress, a three-day, industry-only symposium and trade show landed in Brooklyn, hosting more than 170 of the hospitality industry's top professionals, including Houston native and chef Danielle Soto Innes, Jose Andres and more huge names.  Chefs gave presentations on trends, techniques, and products to around 1,500 attendees, according to a press release.

One presentation, given by Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor-In-Chief of StarChefs, addressed the biggest trends of the hospitality industry in 2017.  These are what she believes will be known as the biggest trends of the year:

  • Fun foods
  • Soft serve
  • Doughnuts
  • Sophisticated, tech integrated, and brand savvy concepts
  • Koji
  • Bowls
  • Granny chic
  • The end of plastic straws
  • Vegetables gone glam
  • Margaritas
  • Fun wine programs
  • All day service
  • Food halls
  • Poke
  • Korean
Bruno actually told the crowd that in terms of fun foods, in "no place was this more evident than in Texas."  It makes us think of Nobie's Old Fashioned chicken liver mousse, Xochi's Cacao dessert, and The Hay Merchant's TV dinners.  And margaritas? In Houston, that's not a trend. It's a way of life.

A few of these seem to speak closely to the year in Houston dining.

Poke, for one, has been the biggest trend Houston has seen this year. When Ono Poke opened in early 2017, there were no other standalone brick and mortar poke operations in Houston. Now there are well over a dozen, including local favorites such as Seaside Poke, Moku Bar, Pokeology, and Laki Fish.

Meanwhile, the new wave of ice cream shops, are actually combining the soft serve and doughnut trends together.  Red Circle Ice Cream offers soft serve with a heart shaped fried-to-order hot churro placed in the cup, or you can also order a doughnut ice cream sandwich, which is also the name of the game at Milk & Cream and Stacked. Or take it next level with The Doughcone, which swirls soft serve into a doughnut cone.

Conservatory, Houston's first food hall, is underground. - PHOTO BY CHUCK COOK
Conservatory, Houston's first food hall, is underground.
Photo by Chuck Cook
While Houston already has its first food hall, the Conservatory, two more downtown food halls are coming in 2018 — Finn Hall, previously known as Food Hall at Main and Rusk, and Bravery Food Hall, marketed as the world's first "chef hall"  — and a developer has plans to turn longstanding Caninos Market into a "destination retail experience" with the potential additions of a brewery, a bakery and a butcher shop.

Houston, which is one of the most exciting wine markets in the country, has numerous sommeliers taking risks with fun wine programs, with Justin Vann's lists at Theodore Rex and Better Luck Tomorrow pretty much being as cool as you can get.

A few of StarChefs' trends don't seem to have come to fruition in Houston, though. Granny chic, for instance, meaning restaurants named after grandmas or using granny-type flatware or decorated like Grandma's house, is not really trending here. The demise of plastic straws might be happening as part of a sustainability movement among the craft cocktail industry, but we haven't heard much about it in town. And koji, a mold that can quicken the aging process for charcuterie or add funky flavors to dishes, has hit Austin but doesn't really seem to be taking off in Houston. 

What are some other trends you've noticed this year in Houston? ’Tis the season for trend lists after all. Share your thoughts with us in the comments or send them to [email protected].

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.