Part of what helps a restaurant earn Top 100 status, along with its excellence, is its sense of here and now. Staying up on trends is one of the reasons people like to eat out. Extra points go to restaurants offering ingredients and dishes that feel inventive and new.
Here are 10 hot trends in dining, with 10 restaurants from our Top 100 leading the charge:
Toast, Stock & Barrel
Toast is a new trend that's still hatching in Dallas. So gird yourself, as there will be much toast in your future. Imagine, if you will, a piece of bread toasted and topped with mashed avocado. And there you have your toast. There are those who would say that toasts are merely a repackaged bruschetta. There are those who would say that the idea of toast being a trend at all is beyond silly. We will just say that Stock & Barrel was among the first to bring us toast, and has a pretty keen version with crushed avocado, Spanish chorizo, and balsamic gastrique.
Caulifower, Resident Taqueria
Once an ugly ducking, cauliflower has become one of the hottest, sexiest ingredients to feature on a restaurant menu. A lot of it has to do with the whole vegan thing. Cauliflower has a firm, almost meaty texture. Restaurants like 18th & Vine, Rapscallion, and Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth can treat it like it's meat, whether that's smoking a whole head like it's a brisket, or grilling it and call it "steak." Lake Highlands' chef-driven Resident Taqueria spotlights cauliflower as the star of a taco that has become its most famous dish. The cauliflower is roasted until caramelized, paired with kale — trendy in its own right — sprinkled pumpkin seeds, and dressed with a lemon-epazote aioli.
Fried chicken, Sissy's Southern Kitchen & Bar
Fried chicken is hardly a new food group; just ask Babe's. But we are talking about elevated fried chicken. Fried chicken served with champagne, a la Max's Wine Dive. Fried chicken by chefs, à la Jeffery Hobbs at Slow Bone. Fried chicken that comes from special birds, à la Street's Fine Chicken. But the first in town to glam up fried chicken and transform it into a foodie pick was Lisa Garza at Sissy's Southern Kitchen, where it gets pressure-fried — pressure-cooked in oil — achieving a desirable result that's both tender and crisp.
Beet salad, Cafe Momentum
In the world of salads, we're on the tail end of a kale salad trend so dominant, you can even find it at Chick-fil-A. That clears the way for the comeback of one of the trendiest salads in foodie history: that '00-era classic, the beet salad. Beet salads became so popular that they began to symbolize a lack of creativity. But beets are back at restaurants such as Cafe Momentum where they're reunited with their old friend goat cheese, then primped with basil, olive oil, and pumpkin seeds, or at Stock + Barrel, where they're smoked and accompanied by creamy chevre, pickled shallots, black currants, and crispy garlic.
Ramen, Ten Ramen
Ramen has been simmering as a trend in Dallas, with fun new spots bubbling up across town, from Ramen Hakata in North Dallas to Tanoshii Ramen in Deep Ellum to Wabi House on Greenville Avenue, serving ramen and Japanese small plates. But the spot that feels most authentic is Ten Ramen, from Teiichi Sakurai, owner of Tei An restaurant at One Arts Plaza. The setup mimics spots in Japan, where you stand at the counter while you eat your soup, quick and easy. There are usually four to five ramen options, such as basic tonkotsu, veggie, and the popular spicy mazemen ramen, where you hold the broth.
Bowls, HG Sply Co.
For any restaurant with aspirations to be cool and hip, the menu must have a "bowls" category. It's the hottest trend in 2016. In the world of bowls, aka power bowls, you mix-and-match ingredients from categories such as grains, proteins, and vegetables. This might sound like a prototypical meal you'd get on a plate, but bowls are supposed to be healthier. That's surely the message conveyed by HG Sply Co., among the first in Dallas to offer bowls, with a broad menu of options ranging from sweet potato hash to quinoa to bacon.
Lobster roll, 20 Feet Seafood Joint
In Maine, lobster is tourist food. When there's some left over, you chop it up, toss it in mayonnaise, and stick it in a hot dog bun. It is not a dish of glory — until you leave New England, where it acquires an upscale, exotic tint. Dallas has been on a lobster roll kick for a couple of years, popular at reasonably priced spots such as East Hampton Sandwich Co. and TJ's Seafood, where it's presented as an affordable indulgence. It's a best-seller at 20 Feet Seafood Joint, the East Dallas seafood spot from chef Marc Cassel, where he solves the problem of getting the correct split-top bun by baking it in-house.
Long dry-aged meat, Knife
Letting food sit around before you eat it might seem counterintuitive to basic hygienic practices. But some steak spots around the country are pushing the envelope by aging meat for weeks and even months. This includes Knife, the steakhouse at Highland Dallas hotel, where an in-house meat locker ages rib-eyes and other cuts for 240 days or more. That's darn near a year — far beyond the 21- to 28-day industry standard found at classic steakhouses such as Pappas Bros. The process makes the beef taste almost gamey. It's edgy stuff — no surprise, it's chef John Tesar.
Craft beer, Malai Kitchen
The craft beer trend in Dallas-Fort Worth has been ablaze for five-plus years and shows no slack. Breweries keep coming. Bars trade out the old Bud-Miller taps for locally made beer. More restaurants put beer on the menu; some host dinners pairing courses with beer. Brewpubs like Braindead Brewing brew beer and have a chef-driven kitchen to match. Vietnamese-Thai restaurant Malai Kitchen takes the next step. It's a restaurant first that branched out into brewing, with a lineup that includes rice lager and IPA, and what fine beers they are.
Cured meat tasting, Proof + Pantry
The meat tasting is really just a subset of your standard charcuterie plate, which truthfully deserves its own spot on this list. Charcuterie is like kale; who isn't doing it these days? For the next generation of meating, look to the tasting, featuring an assortment of different meats drawn from the same category. Knife Dallas got the ball rolling with its tasting of bacon. One Arts Plaza restaurant Proof + Pantry picks up the baton with its tasting of hams. For $21, you get a slice of serrano, a slice of speck, some toasts, and pickled cauliflower. Precious? Yes. And so trendy.