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Austin's Most Overrated and Underrated Food Trends

By Megan Giller
November 4, 2013

You know how these things happen. A restaurant makes an amazing dish using an underused vegetable or protein, and suddenly it’s on every menu across the city. But sometimes too much of a good thing can sour it. Then there are those ingredients and dishes that you crave but can’t find anywhere. We asked you whether trends like cupcakes and craft cocktails are the best thing since sliced bread or as stale as a week-old baguette, and here’s what you had to say. Did we miss your favorite or most-hated food item? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter

  • Meat

    Overrated: Pork Belly
    Yes, it’s delicious. But we couldn’t agree with our readers more that it’s “overplayed.” Enough already! We don’t expect pork belly and bacon to go away anytime soon, but if restaurants do choose to keep it on the menu, heed the words of The Carillon’s chef Josh Watkins, and treat it with “the respect and the time that it needs.”

    Underrated: Goat
    For a long time in Texas, the only place where you’d find cabrito was in Mexican dishes, like stews with tough chunks. But thanks to the talents of goat farmer Ty Wolosin of Windy Hill Organics, the goat we’re getting here in town is now tender and delicious. “Many chefs are intimidated by it but shouldn't be,” Carla Williams of the Escoffier School told us. Places like Lenoir, Trace and Swift’s Attic are using it to great effect, and we hope to see more of it around town soon.

  • Photo by: Flickr/lamantin

    Sweets

    Overrated: Cupcakes
    When it first came on the scene, a certain South Congress cupcake trailer was all the rage. But now cupcakes are everywhere, and our readers have asked, “Can we please be over cupcakes?” As one reader said, “The very nature of a cupcake makes them prone to being dry.” In other words, more often than not they look prettier than they taste.

    Underrated: Dessert Bars
    Pastry chefs like Plinio Sandalio of The Carillon have pointed out that it’s hard to find a spot that does both plated desserts and craft cocktails well. Luckily two places are opening soon that fill that need: Bribery, from former Foreign & Domestic pastry chef Jodi Elliott, and dessert lounge Nightcap, from Kenichi’s Christin Rowan and pastry chef Josh Matlock.

  • Dining Experience

    Overrated: Trailers
    An enormous number of food trailers call our city home, and up until recently Austinites were happy to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it seems the tables have turned, since many of them are mediocre at best. In the words of one of our readers, “The trailers can go now too.”

    Underrated: Prix Fixe Menus
    The coolest under-the-radar spots don’t offer menu items à la carte. Rather, they either have a set menu of three to four courses or offer you a choice between two to three options for each course. Lenoir has long been ahead of the trend, and chef Jesse Griffiths plans to run his highly anticipated Dai Due brick-and-mortar spot that way as well.

  • Photo by: Flickr user sk8geek1

    Cruciferous Vegetable

    Overrated: Brussels Sprouts and Kale
    Fried Brussels sprouts and kale salad are practically a must at every hip restaurant around town. And while we would never mess with the masterpieces at Uchi, Uchiko and East Side King, we’re all feeling a little tired of the bombardment.

    Underrated: Broccoli
    Recently, The Carillon’s Josh Watkins told us the next “it” vegetable is broccoli. It’s not as overplayed as Brussels but will still give you a healthy boost of vitamin C. Plus it’s perfect grilled on a cool winter night.

  • Grains

    Overrated: Quinoa
    Our reader’s exact words were, “If I hear one more granolahead give me a 10-minute lecture about the wonders of quinoa, I might just jump off a bridge.” We’ve always had a soft spot for this particular South American non-grain (technically it’s a protein), but we hear him. Because of its health benefits and its gluten-free status, quinoa has appeared on every menu from Oak Hill to Round Rock. We’re not saying it’s time to give it a rest, but we’d like to see some other alternative grains get some play.

    Underrated: Amaranth
    We’re digging the crunchy, toasty flavor of amaranth, especially in fall dishes. So far we’ve spotted it at places around town like Uchiko, and we predict we’ll see more of it soon. Like quinoa, it’s gluten-free, and beyond that, it’s a great way to load up on vitamins like magnesium and calcium.

  • Cocktail Accouterments

    Overrated: Housemade Bitters
    They sound delicious and sometimes might even single-handedly convince you to order a drink (we’re always taken in by the apricot variety). But while they add to craft cocktails around town, we’re over bars loading every single drink with two or three varieties. Sometimes simple really is sweetest.

    Underrated: Cocktails in Copper Mugs
    Beyond lending your cocktail that hip metallic look, the copper serves another purpose. As Indy Week wrote earlier this year, “The copper transmit[s] the cold to the hand and lips better than any glass could.” While it’s traditional to find the mugs served with Moscow Mules, upscale bars are branching out: Mettle serves a mean version with vodka, lime juice, angostura bitters and ginger beer. And always-wild Midnight Cowboy goes full force in the Joe Buck, with corn whiskey, Dijon mustard syrup and ginger beer.

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Places Mentioned

Midnight Cowboy

Bar • Downtown

Atmo.25 Decor24 Service23 CostE
 
 
 
East Side King

Thai • East Austin

Food27 Decor18 Service21 Cost$14
 
 
 
Uchiko

Japanese • Rosedale

Food28 Decor27 Service27 Cost$78
 
 
 
Mettle - East Austin Bistro

New American • East Austin

Food18 Decor23 Service21 Cost$38
 
 
 
LENOIR Restaurant

French • Bouldin Creek

Food26 Decor24 Service25 Cost$63
 
 
 
East Side King

East Austin

Food27 Decor18 Service21 Cost$14
 
 
 
Uchi Restaurant

Sushi • Bouldin Creek

Food29 Decor27 Service27 Cost$73
 
 
 
The Carillon

American • Campus

Food24 Decor21 Service22 Cost$68
 
 
 
TRACE Austin

New American • Austin

Food- Decor- Service- Cost$45
 
 
 
 
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