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10 Overrated and Underrated Food Trends Around LA

By Lesley Balla
November 4, 2013

Cupcakes will never really go out of style, no matter how tired you are of seeing them. And bacon - well, it’s bacon. It's always good. But there are a lot of trends people are tired of right now, like kale and foams. Others we're just starting to see or hear about, like chia and Georgian dumplings called kinkhali. What's hot and not hot on the dining and drinking scene right now? We weigh in on 10 underrated and overrated trends.

  • Photo by: Forage

    Overrated: Cronut Knock-Offs

    Dominique Ansel’s deep-fried croissant made to look like a donut moved swiftly from New York across the country. As the lines grew longer in Manhattan, every pastry chef and donut maker tried to copy it. Most of the time, however, the clever names they came up with - the name Cronut is trademarked - were better than the end result. Done right, they’re delicious. Done just because someone jumped on the bandwagon? Not so much.

  • Photo by: Lesley Balla

    Underrated: Fried Clams

    Yes, this was the year of the lobster roll. But one other East Coast seafood specialty we are happy to see, and really wish to see more often, are fried clams. We don’t mean frozen clam strips fried to a chewy rubber consistency. We mean fresh whole clams, preferably with the bellies. Connie & Ted’s has them, so does the Roll’n Lobster food truck. You’ll sometimes see a fried clam roll on the menu at The Hungry Cat, and if you do, get it. For the bargain hunters, the best deal is at Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub in Santa Monica, which is probably still celebrating the Red Sox win. The Boston-friendly bar serves up a whole plate of whole-bellied Ipswich clams for only $14.

  • Photo by: Pressed Juicery

    Overrated: Juice Bars

    The way juice bars are proliferating around LA - Pressed Juicery, Moon Juice, Blue Print, Kreation, Nektar, Earth Bar, Clover and so many more have expanded exponentially over the last year - reminds us of the Great Froyo Race several years ago. Don't get us wrong: we like a good kale-apple-cucumber-ginger-turmeric-celery tonic as much as the next health nut. But it seems like every day another juice bar pops up; some neighborhoods have more juiceries than Starbucks. While juice cleanses will probably always be an LA staple, like the Great Froyo Melt, we're pretty sure only a few will remain after the cold presses stop.

  • Photo by: Top Round

    Underrated: Frozen Custard

    We've completely fallen for the Concretes at Top Round Roast Beef, a super-thick frozen custard treat with candies, toppings, nuts and syrups mixed in. Frozen custard is like soft serve in that it is soft and creamy due to the butterfat content, egg yolks and denser texture (there’s less air in it). It’s a Midwestern staple that’s made its way west, now served at places like Short Order and Top Round. There was a place in the Beverly Center a few years ago that served it, but it went out of business. Frozen custard is too good for that to happen again.

  • Overrated: Truffle Fries

    French fries smothered in anything are usually pretty good, but a lot of chefs think that adding a bit of truffle oil makes them better. One Twitter follower nails it: “If I see any more truffle fries on a restaurant menu... what a lazy way to make patrons pay more for fried potatoes!”

  • Photo by: Red Medicine

    Underrated: Foraging

    Local chefs are taking the Rene Redzepi/Noma track and finding their herbs, lettuces and other edibles out in the wild, even if "the wild" is in the concrete jungle. Jordan Kahn is known for finding herbs, moss and even bark for Red Medicine; CJ Jacobson uses mustards and fennels he found around the wild at Girasol; and at Forage, people bring fruits, vegetables, herbs and more from their own trees and gardens. It's more than just going to the farmer's market and buying local goods, it's searching for it yourself. Foraging is a great way to connect with nature and find some freebie ingredients, just don’t piss off the landowners like these chefs did in Portland (aannnd...cue the Portlandia skit).

  • Photo by: Osteria Mozza

    Uni: Overrated or Underrated?

    “Time to stop the uni madness,” says @Trippyfood via Twitter. Kamikaze Kitchen’s Valentino Herrera put it more eloquently in a comment here. “As much as I enjoy uni (sea urchin), the practice of putting it on or in everything from donuts to tacos is getting as crazy as the last days of foie gras. Excess is the best way to ruin a delicacy that is best enjoyed occasionally and in moderation.” The thing is: we personally love, love, love uni in its many forms (but mostly at sushi bars). So what say you - overrated or underrated?

  • Overrated: Hand-Chipped Ice

    Of course good ice cubes are important to a really good cocktail - not only does it properly chill a beverage, but it also dilutes it. And any serious bartender will tell you how different ice is used and why: cubes, balls, chunks and crushed all have their purposes. But if we get hit in the eye with one more ice chunk from the bartender smacking it with a spoon or other type of tool, we might just lose it.

  • Overrated: Pumpkin Everything

    While everyone's Halloween jack-o'-lanterns will wilt on the doorsteps after a warm holiday, we know the pumpkin madness won't stop. Obsessed friends have been talking about their pumpkin-spiced whatever for weeks now. Of course we'll be eating pumpkin pie well into the winter - pumpkin pie is a necessity this time of year. But for the love of all things autumnal, please stop. Not sure if Starbucks is to blame for the introduction of the pumpkin latte, but do we really need to eat, drink and smell pumpkin in everything for months on end? Look up the hilarious Saturday Night Live skit from a couple of weekends ago, and you’ll understand.

  • Photo by: Pork Belly's

    Pork Belly: Overrated or Underrated?

    It’s the new bacon. Well, it IS bacon. The belly is where bacon comes from before it’s cured, and it’s delicious wherever it shows up. In soups. In banh mi. Served in chunks on the plate. But via Facebook, reader Danny says, “Maybe pork belly is one of those dishes/ingredients that's straddling the overrated/underrated line… still I'd say it's "hot" in the way short ribs were a few years ago.” We love pork belly in all its many forms, so we can’t really say it’s overrated. Yet. But it’s getting a little too ubiquitous for its own good. There's even a restaurant named Pork Belly's. We’re on the fence. And you?

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