Trendy Dishes: 8 Hot Items on Menus Around the U.S. This Fall

Octopus, crispy pig's ear and rotisserie chicken
November 4, 2014
by Megan Giller

Last year around this time you couldn’t pop a shishito pepper without also running into giant turkey legs, pricey carrots, hay-roasted meats and pink peppercorn desserts. But from coast to coast (and even on the third coast), those days are gone, and eight new ingredients reign supreme. Check out their 15 minutes of fame below.


Set aside that memory of a chewy yet bland seafood salad from your childhood and sidle up to the succulent octopus that has made its way from Japanese and Greek eateries into the mainstream. So why’s it so popular? Well, the exotic-looking cephalopod challenges a more-progressive foodie population, and easy access keeps the ingredient’s price down.

Where to try: In New York, Claudette serves it with harissa and a chickpea-parsley salad. Meanwhile Westward, in Seattle, braises and then grills the tentacles and sides it with celery, fennel and green olive salad with Greek yogurt, chile and tangerine oil.


Forget Sriracha. The spicy sauce du jour is gochujang, a fermented Korean chile paste that isn't just found in Korean spots anymore. Asian-fusion still reigns supreme: it’s a key ingredient in Momofuku’s spicy Korean BBQ chicken wings, and Masaharu Morimoto even suggests using it in an aïoli for shrimp nachos.

Where to try: Go for the grilled pork neck with gochujang and ajiaco de papas at the Peruvian-inspired Paiche in Los Angeles or the prickly pear barbecue beef with lobster-oxtail dumplings, served with bok choy with gochujang and XO sauce, at Brennan’s of Houston. For a sweet-spicy treat, hit up Umai Mi in San Antonio for a Nutella flourless torte with fortune-cookie crumble and sweet gochujang syrup.

Rotisserie Chicken

"There’s something inherently Neolithic about seeing your dinner cooked in front of you over the open flame," says famed chef Clark Frasier. He just installed an enormous 40-inch spit in his new M.C. Spiedo in Boston. Whether we want to return to our cavemanlike ways or just want to keep it simple, pit-turned meats are definitely back on the map, and on your plate.

Where to try: In Los Angeles, Republique’s juicy bird comes with braised kale and fingerling potatoes doused in jus. Meanwhile, find chicken two ways at Denver’s Work & Class, either with Jamaican jerk spices or a simple rosemary version. Last but not least, in Austin, French restaurant laV serves their signature dish with Tuscan kale, acorn squash, apples and toasted bread.

Pig’s Ears

Think of them as the new chicharrones: crispy, crunchy and as addictive as potato chips. Since roasted pig’s head has already made its way onto menus across the country, it’s only natural that the ear would come along as well. 

Where to try: At Radiator Whiskey in Seattle, you'll find deep-fried ears, and at the Partisan in Washington, DC, they even serve a pig’s-ear salad with the whole roasted head. San Diego appears to be a pig’s-ear hot spot, with Juniper and Ivy, Spicy City Chinese and Avant all using the unusual ingredient.

Malaysian Food

First it was Korean, then it was Filipino and now it’s Malaysian. If you haven’t jumped on the Southeast Asian trend, now’s your chance. Spicy, sweet and often coconut-y, the cuisine tastes like a Thai-Indian dream mash-up. There are familiar dishes like chicken curry and satay as well as tongue-stumpers like ikan bakar (fish marinated in turmeric, chiles, galangal and other spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf).

Where to try: Lime Tree Southeast Asian Kitchen in San Francisco’s corn fritters still make our mouth water, and Nyonya in New York reminds us that some of the best restaurants really are no-frills.

Seafood Charcuterie

Heavy duck-liver pâté and terrines, step aside. Charcuterie will never go out of style, but the new wave is lighter, featuring ingredients from the sea. As chefs like Jeremiah Bacon, in Charleston, move toward high-end fish dishes, they want to use the trimmings leftover in creative ways. On Bacon’s menu at the Macintosh, find smoked fish rilletes, tilefish terrine and more.

Where to try: Nostrana, in Portland, serves a pâté out of tuna, butter, cream, capers and lemon. In Chicago, find lobster-meat pâté and, to combine two hot trends, octopus “mosaic” (above) at Travelle.

Draft and Bottled Cocktails

A solid old fashioned is a thing of beauty, but it’s even more beautiful when it’s been barrel-aged and served out of a tap. Mixologists are raising the stakes (and lowering wait times) by aging their craft cocktails in kegs or bottling the blends for easy and adorable access.

Where to try: Go for the on-tap Dr. Dave’s ‘Scrip Pad (rye, yuzu juice, amaro, smoked maple syrup) at Alder in New York or the cute bottles of Americano (Campari, Italian vermouth, water, orange oil) at Clyde Common in Portland.

Food Halls

This isn't exactly a dish or a menu item, but it's a massive trend that points to a whole new kind of eating experience. What started with food trailers has now morphed into food halls. But forget the stale slices of pizza and day-old pastries of the food courts of yore. These days, top restaurants are opening outposts in hip halls like Hudson Eats in New York, Chicago French Market in Chicago and the Source in Denver.

Where to try: L.A.’s Grand Central Market has offered food and wares for over a century, but it’s livened up with new places like Horse Thief BBQ and Eggslut. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Central Table Food Hall features different cuisines and cooking styles, all from chef Cary Neff.

masaharu morimoto
clark frasier
food trend
cary neff
jeremiah bacon