The food and dining world looks much different in 2022. As consumers, we are changing how we eat, when we eat, and where we eat. Old classics are getting a fresh look, while up-and-coming chefs are blazing their own trails. From smaller cities growing their dining scenes to early birds getting the reservation worm, here are the seven food trends our editors saw in 2022.
Take a look at these food trends of 2022 that dominated culinary scenes
‘Sleeper’ food cities served up the nation’s best eats
It’s an exciting time for food in America. The culinary landscape in small cities around the country has matured exponentially in the past two decades, a shift that has been thrilling to experience and taste. The immense challenges of the last two years in particular have seen many chefs, restaurateurs, and makers leave bigger urban centres and return to their smaller home cities. This returning talent, plus a new generation of entrepreneurs, are spurring a burst of creativity, innovation, and deliciousness in under-the-radar destinations all over the country (here are F&W’s picks for America’s Next Great Food Cities). F&W restaurant editor Khushbu Shah picked the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis as her sleeper food destination of the year, where it was home to more of her Best Bites of 2022 than any other metropolitan area – you will find everything from a “mindblowing” apple pie at Myriel to Mushroom Birria Tacos at Sooki and Mimi. And don’t miss out on the Bucatini Talay at Laotian-Italian Khâluna which showcases a ragu made from tom yum paste.
Sustainable meat picked up steam
With so many new alt-meats at the markets (including new koji-based deli “meats” from Prime Roots) and on menus it is easy to think that faux-meat is the only way to help the environment. Sustainable eating isn’t just for vegetarians. That’s why it is on the food trends 2022 list. From Patagonia Provisions Bison Jerky (which promotes the husbandry of bison, which are key to soil conservation on the prairie) to Maui Naui (which preserves Maui’s fragile ecosystem by turning invasive Axis deer into direct-to-consumer venison products), to the Regenerative Organic Certified label (which certifies that meat or poultry is raised according to farming practices aimed at removing carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil) sustainable meat is on the rise. Did you know that eating the whole animal is the most sustainable way to eat meat? Restaurants like Lord’s in NYC or 100 Mahaseth in Bangkok feature exquisite nose-to-tail eating.
South Asian chefs rocked the restaurant world
South Asian chef-led restaurants are having a huge movement. Guests and critics love Indian restaurants like Masalawala and Sons or the newly Michelin-anointed Semma, helmed by chef Vijay Kumar. Filipino restaurants like chefs Genie Kwon and Tim Flores’ Kasama and chefs Tom Cunanan and Paolo Dungca’s Pogiboy enjoyed the spotlight, while Philadelphia experienced a Vietnamese restaurant surge with chef Thanh Nguyen’s Gabriella’s Vietnam and Jacob Trinh’s Câphé Roasters. South Asian cuisine is showing out with exceptional eateries that are all ready to tantalise your palate.
Menus kept getting smaller
Between labour shortages and rising food costs, restaurant menus are sizing down. Supply chain issues are creating a scarcity of most ingredients — even basics like oils and spices can be challenging to source. This factor, combined with fewer workers, means restaurant owners have to be mindful of not only what is affordable to the restaurant and diner but also what can be easily executed with a pared-down staff.
Pop-ups took dining out to the next level
Some of the best food we’ve eaten in the last year has been from pop-ups. This food trend that gained momentum during the pandemic has only increased in popularity in 2022. Pop-ups are a great way for chefs to showcase their talent outside of the confines (and without the financial requirements) of a traditional restaurant. Has Dac Biet served up some of our favourite food of the year but you could only get it for two nights in Brooklyn, When Krueng Cambodia popped up at The Fly, the line went out the door and down the block. The king of the hot-ticket pop-up, Rene Redzepi, will be hosting his next 10-week pop-up series in Kyoto in spring 2023. So next time you see a pop-up that appeals to you, go and support it. It could be the best meal you’ve had in a while and will feel special, knowing you might not be able to get it again in the near future.
Martinis dominated the drink space
2022 bore witness to a Martini renaissance filled with creative takes on the classic, iconic cocktail. What makes the Martini distinct from other drinks can also make it intimidating to order: there are so many ways to customise the cocktail and the specificity of one’s order can feel like an extension of your personality. Restaurants and bars, though, are taking the intimidation out of ordering a Martini through creative signature Martinis listed on cocktail menus. At Genever in Los Angeles’ Filipinotown, bartenders mix a Filipino staple, cane sugar-based Datu Puti vinegar, into their signature Datu Datu Martini for added depth. Other out-of-the-box standouts include the March Martini from Houston’s March restaurant which features three types of gin, Bonnie’s MSG Martini which is ultra-savoury and delicious, and the House Martini from Brooklyn’s Bar Americano, which features nutty fino sherry and bay leaf oil. (Read more about the Martini, F&W’s Drink of The Year.)
Everyone embraced the early bird reservation
A food trend we saw happening in 2021 that has continued to thrive in 2022 is the popularity of early dinner reservations. There are a few reasons behind this shift: Many people are working from home and opting for an earlier dinner and the people who are going to the office are grabbing dinner right after work. The reservation site OpenTable shared that dining between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. increased by 27%, while dining between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. increased by 7%, and dining between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. decreased by 4%.
“Our 2022 data shows a shift in diner behaviour, with earlier dining times becoming more popular,” notes Debby Soo, CEO of OpenTable. “We surmise this is largely due to diners having a new relationship with work post-pandemic, whether they’re making a conscious effort to strike work-life balance, or craving socialisation after a day at home. We’ve also seen other shifts that support this. For instance, Mondays saw the biggest increase in dining compared to last year (+27%), suggesting that diners are looking to indulge. They’re no longer willing to wait for the weekend or even ‘prime’ dinner time to enjoy a meal with loved ones.”
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