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Best Thing We Ate

Boston's Most Overrated and Underrated Food Trends

By Scott Kearnan
November 4, 2013

Trends come and go. And our opinions on them? Well, they change by the day. But we wanted a snapshot of what Bostonians are saying right now about the most over- and underrated trends in the dining scene. So we tapped a handful of industry experts and solicited feedback via social media to gauge how foodies feel - you might be surprised by the findings.

  • Photo by: Flickr

    Overrated Pork Cut: Bacon

    Yes, it's a controversial statement. But there was a strong sentiment that "bacon everything" needs to stop because it "doesn't need to go on everything!" Even if you're still hankering for some, it's hard to deny that the bacon bandwagon has adopted the air of how-bro-can-you-go one-upmanship (bacon-wrapped bacon with a bacon-grease glaze served on a rocket ship of bacon!) that is getting a little tired.

    Underrated Pork Cut: Tail

    If the frat-pack bacon obsession has been keeping you from more honestly exploring the whole-animal movement, skip to the chewier pig's tail. You'll find it on the menu at Coppa and Craigie on Main, where it's fried and crispy with peanuts and cilantro. 

  • Overrated Look: Rustic-Chic Gastropub

    Reclaimed barnwood with steel accents. Industrial lighting fixtures. Mason jars repurposed as candle holders. At this point we could basically write a press release using a word jumble of the same decor descriptors, and Bostonians are getting fatigued. "I am over exposed-filament bulbs and Restoration Hardware furnishings," tweeted one Zagat reader. The look is usually aligned with a "gastropub," itself a word some want to stick a fork in. "It's used to describe everything, and it sounds like a medical condition." 

    Underrated Look: Bohemian Hideaway

    We get it. You open a restaurant in Boston, you think communal farm tables and a Mayflower replica are the way to go. But honestly? We'd love to see great dining in more louche hangouts, in the vein of The Beehive and Beat Hotel (pictured). Urbane decor with eclectic bric-a-brac and bold, colorful art deserves greater play. 

  • Overrated Vegetable: Brussels Sprouts

    "Whoever is doing PR for Brussels sprouts deserves a raise," joked one industry vet. Point taken. Somewhere along the way, the leafy little sprouts became the side du jour. We turned our nose up at them in the elementary school cafeteria, but now the tiny roasted greens are turning up everywhere. We're glad we came to appreciate them, we'd just rather they not overstay their welcome. 

    Underrated Vegetable: Turnip

    On the other hand, Brussels sprouts' cabbage-family cousin, the turnip, merits a few more meals. Another maligned veggie in childhood dinner days, the in-season pick has popped up in a new soup at Metropolis, with meatballs and parsnip cheese at Ribelle, and with turkey thigh scallopini at Local 149

  • Overrated at the Bar: Canned Beer

    "So it's in a can. So what?" shrug some. Look, there was a time and place to get excited by this. Canned selections were long considered "lawnmower beers," aligned with unsophisticated styles. Then the craft beer movement encouraged us to crack open a can by our dinner with pride. But now some hipster bars continue to brag about their number of selections like notches on a belt. We get it. They're in cans, and some are good, but let's not overdo it.

    Underrated at the Bar: Bottled Cocktails

    Now that's a beverage trend we're curious about and would like to see pop up more often. It seems to be starting, with the just-opened Fairsted Kitchen offering bottled cocktails (and a rotating cocktail on draft). 

  • Overrated Diet: Gluten-Free (for the Sake of It) 

    Naturally, those with celiac disease and other sensitivities will want to steer clear, so we're heartened by the ever-increasing number of restaurants rolling out gluten-free menus and alternatives. But somewhere along the way, going gluten-free became conflated with faddish diets like Atkins and South Beach. And there may not be much sense in eliminating gluten while maintaining "open season" on processed foods filled with plenty other stuff you'd be wiser to avoid. 

    Underrated Diet: Paleo

    The increasingly popular paleo diet is gluten- and dairy-free, but only as part of a much larger, encompassing philosophy about what humans are best adapted to eat - taking after the diets of our ancestors. "I feel so much better, I don't get sick, and my system just feels in better balance," said jm Curley chef Sam Monsour, describing his experience on the diet while prepping an upcoming paleo lifestyle app. That app highlights one of the diet's most underrated attributes: how innovative and delicious it can be (as with Monsour's blueberry breakfast porridge, shown).

  • Overrated Approach: Molecular Gastronomy

    The whole chef-turned-mad-scientist thing may have already peaked, and people are not shy about airing their grievances over the gratuitous inclusion of gelatinous pearls and frothy foams. They're "disgusting visually, as if the cat got sick," according to one reader, who also notes their "weird mouthfeel."

    Underrated Approach: Stripped-Down and Simple

    Great ingredients, fine preparation and a lack of fussiness - that's a trend we want to see grow, and it seems that one of the city's top chefs, Tony Maws of just-opened Kirkland Tap and Trotter, does too. For a taste of the possibilities, check out his grilled seaweed and fennel-crusted chicken.

  • Overrated Buzz Phrase: "Farm to Table"

    Color us surprised, but some of the strongest feedback we received was that Bostonians are sick of hearing "farm to table" attached to every restaurant. And while they're not sick of what it's about - eating fresh, locally sourced food - they could do without the airs that accompany spots touting their close-to-home sourcing methods. According to one tweet, what the phrase advertises is by this point "expected for restaurants of a certain caliber."

    Underrated Buzz Phrase: Not Using One

    Some of the best restaurants in Boston fly under the radar and have sourced directly from farmers since long before it became press-release fodder (one of the longtime favorites is Centre Street Cafe, shown). Which goes to the heart of what's really underrated: leaving trends behind and simply doing what you do well. 

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Places Mentioned

THE BEEHIVE

South End

Food21 Decor24 Service21 Cost$34
 
 
 
Craigie On Main

French • Cambridge

Food28 Decor24 Service26 Cost$72
 
 
 
Metropolis Cafe

Mediterranean • South End

Food25 Decor21 Service23 Cost$33
 
 
 
Coppa

Italian • South End

Food28 Decor21 Service24 Cost$40
 
 
 
jm Curley

American • Downtown

Food23 Decor21 Service23 Cost$31
 
 
 
Local 149

New American • South Boston

Food22 Decor21 Service21 Cost$28
 
 
 
 
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