Food & Drink Trends for 2013

From staying on track with the newest food truck craze to the latest pastry served on a stick or the hottest featured ingredients, it can be exhausting – not to mention filling! I’ve asked some of my favorite Chicagoans to weigh in on what they think will be the most popular food trends in 2013. *Please note, some quotes have been taken directly from my interviews for Today’s Chicago Woman .

“We’re predicting German food to hit it big in 2013. The trend has already started to show up a little bit at places like Table, Donkey, Stick and Himmel’s. It’ll be good wintertime food!” -David Tamarkin, food editor, Time Out Chicago

“We’ll start to see people going back to basics – no more test/molecular cuisine – old school cooking will be back. This is the reason charcuterie is so popular right now. Diners are sick of food looking good and not tasting amazing. We all just want to eat what tastes good. I also think healthier cuisine will come into play – more vegetables and less meat.” -Lee Wolen, chef de cuisine, The Lobby at The Peninsula Hotel Chicago

“Mexican food. I said this two years ago when I was in Mexico! High-end Mexican food that’s ultra refined. When Rick Bayless and then Brian Inyer were at Topolobombo, what they were doing there would blow you away. I’m telling you, one of the best meals I’ve ever had was there. Brian was the chef de cuisine. Because everybody’s mindset is that it’s low end, but it’s not what you think it is. When they refine that, the flavors really come through, and it will kick your ass.” – Curtis Duffy, chef/owner, Grace

“Staying away from prix fixe – giving more control to guests. Food not so ‘dressed up.’ Incorporating more beer into dinners through pairings and more options. And the next grape? Syrah.” – Craig Sindelar, sommelier, Alinea

“People will continue to look for local and also exotic ingredients from far away. Take some fermented garlic from southeast Asia and put it on rapini that is grown 20 miles from Chicago. I also hope we see less of a desire for pork-centric menus and a greater desire for what I would call diversified cookery.” – Michael Kornick, chef/owner MK, Ada Street, Fish Bar

“Multi-opportunity spaces. Restaurants and bar spots combined together in one place.” – Mark Levy (aka Dad), CEO, Mastro’s Steakhouse

“Everything will be pickled; the best restaurant will allow their customers to choose which cow they want (like they do with lobsters now); and a popular trend will be restaurants where you have to solve a puzzle to get your food.” – Jon Baskin, graduate student

“Small plates – and even smaller, more concentrated bites of food – representing whole dishes. The best thing about them is that you still kinda want more”. – Zoe Schor, executive chef, Ada Street

“Meals. For us it’s not about the product, it’s about the meals. Customers think about, ‘Where do I go to eat?’ So it’s different than 15-20 years ago, where I come and buy all of my ingredients”. – Bob Mariano, owner, Mariano’s Fresh Market

Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan, director of special projects for Rachael Ray, shared the following predictions with us:

“We started to see it a bit in late 2012 at places like The Aviary, but incorporating the flavors of Chai into cocktails will be seen more and more in 2013,” he says. “I’m a Chai fan and I think the flavors that make it up are fantastic, so I look forward to this. It’s just a matter of HOW people are incorporating it- infused, syrups, powder, et cetera.”

‘The Moscow Mule was popular in the U.S. in the ‘50s and then died down,” observes Mr. Kaplan. “I’m happy it’s once again gracing cocktail menus everywhere…sometimes with a twist. I’ve already seen mixologists create the Wicker Park Mule and the Bucktown Mule, so only time will tell when the Manhattan Mule, Gold Coast Mule or San Francisco Mule will pop up. One thing, I wish people would use the actual copper mug in which this drink was originally served.”

Hot sauce! While Frank’s Red Hot, Crystal, and Piri Piri are all A-OK, I think we’ll start to see some of the country’s great chefs make their own blends of hot sauce using peppers or other ingredients they grew in their own garden. Sweet, spicy, tangy, herbs, spices… so much variation and room to play… I’m excited for this. Not catching my drift? Check out Carriage House’s Sweet Potato Hot Sauce and THEN tell me I’m crazy.”

Shredded hash browns! What happened to these? Why did cooks get lazy and start just dicing up potatoes for home fries? Don’t they know a super crispy and old (yea, I said old) plate of shredded hash browns is a good thing?! And then add melted cheese on top! I hope Stephanie Izard’s Shredded Hash Browns with Grumpy Goat Cheese at Little Goat is inspiration for griddles across the city.”

Dark meat! Back in the day, big chicken purveyors basically gave away dark meat chicken. Now you see chicken thighs popping up on menus all over. It will keep popping up, but I only hope a chef replaces those braised short ribs with braised chicken thighs (although, I do love short ribs). And you wondered how that empty Chinese place on the corner stayed in business… because they use dark meat chicken, which is a cost-effective item to serve.”
My thoughts on the next trend? I predict simple, rustic cooking being big, whether it’s Italian handmade pasta, delicious burgers or wood-fired pizza made from scratch. I remember a talented chef, Paul Bartalota, telling me as a kid, “A truly talented chef can make the simplest dishes taste incredible – like spaghetti with marinara.” What do you think will make it big in 2013? Please share your top picks for the next food trends below!

Sarah Levy

About Sarah Levy Imberman

Sarah Levy delighted millions as the owner and proprietor of Sarah's Pastries & Candies, one of Chicago's most popular confectionaries since its opening in 2004. A graduate of Northwestern University and the French Pastry School, Ms. Levy is the author of Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion and the winner of the Food Network Challenge. She’s been featured in USA TodayBetter Homes and Gardens and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. Ms. Levy's now doing business as S. Levy Foods, and is a leader in the airport food concession business.