I was happy to read Katharine's Shilcutt's piece on the single-dish restaurant trend for several reasons. First, I generally love the idea of specialty shops and sometimes long for the days when grocery shopping meant going to the butcher, then the cheese-monger, then the bakery, etc., etc., rather than just the all-inclusive supermarket. Second, my perpetually indecisive self always benefits from a limited menu, and a one-dish joint (provided I like the one thing they serve) would save me some time and stress. Here are five single-dish restaurant concepts I hope to see in 2012:
5. JELL-O. Not the pudding, just the gelatin, which is long overdue for a comeback. There's so much more to JELL-O than just cherry jigglers; frequently overlooked flavors include apricot, margarita, and island pineapple. The flagship location (I'm assuming, of course, popularity would necessitate a multi-city franchise) would be staffed by Bill Cosby impersonators.
4. Milkshakes. We have establishments devoted solely to smoothies and coffee and juice, respectively, so why not the milkshake? My dream milkshake spot would offer all the classic flavors, plus a rotating menu of seasonal options and your choice of milk (cow, goat, yak, coconut, etc.). Grownup options like Brooklyn Bowl's bourbon shake would be available after 4 p.m.
3. Grits. I'm just beginning to explore the world of grits, having never tasted the stuff growing up in Pennsylvania. When it comes to burger accompaniments, I now if possible eschew fries in favor of cheese grits, and I'm beginning to taste some sweet varieties for breakfast (oatmeal, you are on notice). I also insist this restaurant be named "TRUE GRITS" and decorated in the style of the nineteenth-century American West.
2. Pumpkin. Fine, so this is more "single ingredient" than "single dish" but what do you expect from the blogger who spent the past two years counting down the top pumpkin dishes to try in Houston. Rather than running all over town for my squash fix, I could go to one place and stuff my gills with pumpkin risotto, pumpkin martinis, pumpkin donuts....
1. Bread and Butter. When asked what his favorite dish to make was, Jacques Pepin once replied: "If I have really good bread, and really good butter, then bread and butter." Word. I envision an endless selection of slice-able breads (white, wheat, French, rye, egg, potato) and a butter bar with options infused with garlic, cinnamon, pepper, etc. as well as an international section with varieties from Ireland, New Zealand, France and Denmark.