At the start of a new year, most people look to resolutions as a source of guidance for the 12 months ahead. But, for all us food lovers out there, yearly food trend predictions tend to fill this role instead. While this annual roll out of hot, must-try dishes is always rooted in excitement, so often it can quickly cross over toward overwhelming, leaving many of us wondering where do we even begin? Rest assured all you eager epicureans out there because we have you covered with a list of some of this year’s most anticipated food trends and, most importantly, where you can taste them.
Cauliflower is having a kale moment right now and in a big way. Over the past few months, this humble, cruciferous vegetable has gone from a lowly side dish staple to the star of the plate at countless Chicago restaurants. Take the Gobi Manchurian at Wicker Park’s Pub Royale that features deep-fried cauliflower florets dressed in a sweet and spicy Manchurian sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped cashews. In its final form, the dish is a spot-on impersonation of Sesame Chicken and equally as satisfying as its meaty counterpart. 2049 W. Division St., Chicago, 773-661-6874
For many of us, the word porridge so often connotes a sweetened bowl of cooked rolled oats. According to Food Network though, 2017 is about to change all of that. Chefs from around the country have already begun exploring the realms of porridge possibilities, utilizing alternative grains and savory toppings to add new dimension to the old standby. A great example of this spin on porridge can be found at River North’s Bohemian House with their Warm Cultured Barley dish, which pairs a barley porridge base with a poached farm egg, baby spinach, ham hock and a truffle vinaigrette. 11 W. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-955-0439
To qualify pasta as a food trend seems frivolous given its popularity and longevity in American restaurants. However, as many of you have probably seen, pasta is starting to get a bit of a facelift these days with chefs using the medium itself to feature different types of flours, grains, vegetables and spices. One such notable dish in this category is the Carrot Agnolotti at Edgewater’s newly opened wine bar Income Tax. This ravioli style pasta incorporates carrot juice into the dough itself, giving it an enticing orange hue and earthy flavor. The pasta then receives a stuffing of oyster mushroom and carrot puree before being topping off with sliced baby carrots and fried veal sweetbreads. 5959 Broadway St., Chicago, 773-897-9165
People truly never seem to tire of handheld foods, especially when they’re meat filled (think burritos, meat pies and Korean buns). So it’s no real surprise that a dish like empanadas (a traditional South American stuffed savory pastry) has risen to stardom over the past few months and shows no sign of slowing down. The list of Chicago spots currently specializing in empanadas is astounding, and one of the most notable is Lito’s Empanadas of Lincoln Park and Little Italy. Lito’s’ menu highlights a notable blend of both traditional flavors like beef and spinach and more unconventional versions like the Hawaiian with ham, pineapple and mozzarella or Choco Banana with nutella and sliced bananas. 2566 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-857-1337; 1437 W. Clark St., Chicago, 773-857-1337
The process of fermentation is a time-held preservation tradition that is experiencing quite the renaissance right now. Its hard to dine anywhere without seeing words like “pickled,” “cured” and “sour,” which all represent the process of converting sugar into acids, gases or alcohol. This conversion process not only helps to preserve the shelf life of the product but also adds distinct flavors to the ingredient itself (think milk being turned into yogurt, cabbage into Kimchi or raw pork into prosciutto). For a real taste of fermented goodness, try the Kimchi fries at bopNgrill, which tops everybody’s favorite shoestring French fries with a heaping scoop of caramelized Kimchi, bacon, cheese sauce, scallions and sesame seeds. 6604 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, 773-654-3224
If 2017 food trends had to award one ingredient as MVP, Poke would surely take the prize. Hawaii’s beloved raw seafood and rice bowls have officially arrived, especially here in Chicago. One of the more notable Poke dishes to pop up around town as of lately is the Ahi Tuna Poke at Arbella in River North. This particular version uses a trio of soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil to flavor the fish before topping it off with a raw egg yolk for an added dose of decadence. 112 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-846-6654
A fairly new player in the world of food trends, shakshuka, a traditional Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce, is beginning to make its presence known on brunch menus across the city. Chicago favorite Avec puts their own modern spin on this preparation by baking eggs in a smoked tomato broth studded with pocha beans, Serrano ham and caper aioli. A great dish to help break you out of your run-of-the-mill eggs and toast breakfast rut. 615 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-377-2002
Just as meat filled pastries never seem to go out of style, neither do meat dishes served on a stick. Insert doner kebab, a Turkish kebab made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. One of the best spots to sample authentic doner kebab is the recently opened DMen Tap in Avondale, an expansion of the kebab-centric DonerMen food truck. Despite expanding their menu, their doner kebab is still the must-try item and features spit roasted chicken with cucumber yogurt goat tzatziki, harissa, lettuce, red cabbage, tomato, cucumber, onion and wild pickle before getting wrapped up in a traditional Turkish flatbread. 2849 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, 773-961-8757
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