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The 10 Biggest Viral Food Trends of 2016 (So Far)

Love 'em or hate 'em, they're dominating your social feeds
May 17, 2016
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by Zagat Staff

Every year, a whole host of foods come out of the woodwork and earn the “viral food trends” designation. It’s hard to pinpoint when it all began, but Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes and Dominique Ansel’s Cronut were definitely pioneers. To reach peak Internet-viral status, a food needs to receive its fair share of social media love; attracting hoards of customers on the regular doesn’t hurt, either. Below, 2016’s hottest food trends — get to know them now, because they don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. 

Crazy Milkshakes

Black Tap Burger Bar in NYC nearly broke the Internet when it introduced its mile-high milkshakes late last year, which come adorned with toppings like cotton candy, cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, lollipops and the occasional donut. Such sugar-high-inducing shakes aren’t limited to New York though — Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner in Chicago has an out-of-the-ordinary selection as well, like the sweet-and-savory smoked pork and toffee crunch milkshake.

Where to get it: Black Tap Burger Bar in NYC; Little Goat Diner in Chicago

Rainbow Bagels

Scot Rossillo has been making rainbow bagels since the 1990s, but it wasn’t until Business Insider released a video earlier this year of Rossillo making the world’s most beautiful bagel that the breakfast basic went viral. It tastes like a plain bagel, but the dough gets its Play-Doh-like coloring from a splash of neon food dye, making it one of the most insane-looking dishes the country has to offer right now, from NYC to San Diego. 

Where to get it: The Bagel Store in NYC; D.Z. Akin's in San Diego

Poke

Poke is the latest bowl craze to take the food world by storm. The Hawaiian staple is typically made with ahi tuna marinated in soy sauce or sesame oil, then served over rice with a variety of toppings like avocado, sesame seeds, seaweed, onions and cucumber. Mainland Poke Shop in LA and Wisefish Poke in NYC are two of many spots across the country giving the raw fish salad the customizable, fast-casual treatment, where you choose your fish, base, sauce and toppings.

Where to get itMainland Poke Shop in LA; Wisefish Poke and Pokeworks in NYC; Sweetfin Poke in Santa Monica

Luxury Donuts

Over-the-top donuts were first put on the map by eclectic doughnutteries like Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut, but the latest yeast-raised trend is far more elaborate than a simple maple bacon bar. The first so-called luxury donut to pop up this year was the $100 golden ube donut from Brooklyn’s Manila Social Club, which is dusted with 24K pure gold dust. Most recently, The Doughnut Project and butcher shop Hudson & Charles, both in NYC, introduced a bone marrow chocolate donut. At a more affordable $5.25, the donut is filled with chocolate pastry cream whipped with bone marrow, then topped with clementine glaze and orange-infused chocolate shavings.

Where to get it: Manila Social Club and The Doughnut Project in NYC

Bacon, Egg and Cheese

Bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches aren’t what they used to be — the eggs are runnier, the bacon crispier, the cheese gooier. The bodega staple is taking a next-level turn in 2016, popping up at BEC-specific restaurants (like the namesake BEC in NYC) and on brunch menus all over the country. Free Range, a fried chicken food truck in LA, doles out porn-worthy BECs on homemade biscuits, while Home Grown in Atlanta serves it between two slices of French toast.

Where to get it: BEC in NYC; Free Range in LA; Home Grown in Atlanta

Golden Milk

The latest superfood to catch the eye of the juice-cleansing crowd is turmeric, a yellow spice commonly found in Indian cooking. The good-for-you root supposedly possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help digestion and ease pain. Health-conscious chefs, like Amanda Bacon of Moon Juice in LA, are whipping it with nondairy milk to create Golden Milk, a juice-meets-smoothie concoction, whose deep color is particularly appealing in social media photos. 

Where to get it: Moon Juice in LA and Cafe Gratitude in San Diego

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches

Every year, a new iteration of the classic ice cream sandwich gets its viral moment. Last year, OddFellows in NYC rebranded its East Village outpost into The Sandwich Shop, where the menu is devoted entirely to ice cream sandwiches, either made with brioche bread or with cookie varieties such as spiced ginger and oatmeal. The latest viral ice cream sandwich? Churro. Playa Betty’s in NYC shapes its churros into cinnamon sugar–dipped swirls, then tops them with two scoops of vanilla gelato. Meanwhile, small-batch ice cream purveyor Churro Borough doles out a to-go version in Los Feliz.

Where to get it: Playa Betty's in NY; Churro Borough in LA

Matcha

Matcha is a good-for-you, caffeine-rich version of green tea that becomes more of a trend every year. Essentially powdered tea, the Japanese drink has been repurposed in everything from lattes and chai to cocktails and cheesecake, and can be found on menus in trendy cities across the country, including Austin.

Where to get it: Gracias Madre in West Hollywood; Imagine Tea Leaf in Austin; MatchaBar in NYC

Chocolate Banana Pudding

Expect pudding to come back in a big way this year, thanks to Magnolia Bakery. Though pop culture knows the NYC-based chain best for its buttercream-frosted cupcakes (and guest-starring role on the dear-departed Sex and the City), the bakery’s real signature dish is banana pudding. In March, Magnolia released a bigger and better version, with chocolate. The mousselike dessert is a whipped confection of chocolate pudding, chocolate wafers and sliced banana.

Where to get it: Magnolia Bakery in NYC

Ube

Ube is a sweet, dark-purple yam that’s been popping up in ice cream, donuts and milkshakes all over the country (and Instagram) as one part of the popularization of Filipino cuisine. The aforementioned golden donut at Manila Social Club is filled with ube mousse, while Cafe 86 in Pasadena offers purple truffles, cupcakes, madeleines and mini bundt cakes.

Where to get it: Cafe 86 in Pasadena, Manila Social Club in NYC, Nomad Donuts in San Diego

milkshakes
donuts
ice cream sandwiches
food trends
bagels
churros
filipino food
poke
pudding
matcha
bec