photo credit: Nate Watters

5 Restaurant Trends We Like (And Some We Sorta Hate) image


5 Restaurant Trends We Like (And Some We Sorta Hate)

The return of the high-low dive bar, smashburgers working overtime,and more of the dining patterns our writers and editors can’t stop talking about.

Having full-time writers in cities across the country means The Infatuation staff is always swapping stories about what we’re seeing at restaurants and bars. There are the trends you already know about: the fill-in-the-blank martini variations and QR code menus that won’t seem to die. Then there are the patterns we hope you don’t encounter in the wild, like media-trained servers offering ring light service like it’s still or sparkling.

But more interesting is the stuff that works in some cities but not others. Smashburgers are overplayed and overpriced in Austin, while they’re alive and well in Seattle. San Francisco’s water cups are getting smaller and smaller, while Miami is seeing sporks. Change is always good. Except when it’s not.


smashburger wrapped in red and white checkerboard paper alongside a metal tray of shoestring fries

photo credit: Nate Watters

The Good: Endless Options | Just because a restaurant calls their burger “smashed,” that doesn't mean it is, hence some barely-seared clunkers that could prop open a steel door in a windstorm. Seattle is just now entering our smashburger renaissance with ones that are done right at spots like Smash That Burger Co., Familyfriend, and Local Tide—with a lacy meat skirt, squashed buns, and salty american cheese. — Kayla Sager-Riley, Seattle Staff Writer

The Bad: Ballooning Costs | Look, we love a good smashburger as much as anyone, but let’s not pretend you’re reinventing the wheel with every “new burger concept” because you decided to slap american cheese on a griddled patty and sell it for $16. There’s a whole world of patty density out there to explore. This is Texas—give us more LeRoy And Lewis smoked brisket patties and less Not A Damn Chance wagyu smashburgers that are just chasing a trend. — Nicolai McCrary, Austin Staff Writer


Rémy Martin

The Good: Serious Pickles | Pickled vegetables are a common pre-entree snack, but more and more Chicago spots are playing with acidity by fermenting fruits. We love the slivers of pickled eggplant at neighborhood Italian spot Elina’s, and how its sharp flavors are a bold opening act before their main course. — Nick Allen, Chicago Senior Editor

The Bad: Slap It Together And Call It Crudo | Prioritizing fresh, local produce has always been a Seattle thing, but some restaurants have taken that purity too damn far lately. “Mushroom carpaccio” sounds nice and all until you realize that you’re paying for raw slices of fungi at Bateau. And while we’re at it, enough with the underdressed shaved kohlrabi that just tastes like crunchy water, Atoma. — Aimee Rizzo, Seattle Senior Editor


5 Restaurant Trends We Like (And Some We Sorta Hate) image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

The Good: A Stunning Spork | Admittedly, we’ve only encountered one spork in the wild at Palma, an exciting new tasting menu spot in Miami’s Little Havana. But we were all immediately charmed by said spork, and also felt it’s such a perfect utensil for the kind of saucy dishes we’re seeing so much these days. — Ryan Pfeffer, Miami Senior Editor

The Bad: Shrinking Water Cups | Forget still, sparkling, or tap—all we actually want is the return of normal-sized water cups. Exhibit A: the squat little glasses from Flour + Water Pizzeria in San Francisco, which would be better suited for jello shots. Adorable? Yes. Inefficient? Also yes. — Julia Chen, SF Senior Staff Writer


5 Restaurant Trends We Like (And Some We Sorta Hate) image

photo credit: Mikah Danae

The Good: The New Dive | Every dive bar has to start somewhere. And in Houston, we’re excited to see a new era of dive bars dawning where great back bars, well-tended pool tables, and solid collections of beer signs take center stage. Sure, fussy cocktail spots have a place, but head into Catbird's or EZ's Liquor Lounge, because nothing beats a relaxed neighborhood spot. — Chelsea Thomas, Houston Staff Writer

Half of the new bars in Philly sound like they were created by a stripper name AI generator. The ones that are working the best are the more straightforward spots like a retro vinyl bar called 48 Record Bar and neighborhood tavern Meetinghouse, where they have a tight drinks menu, including a weekly mystery wine. — Candis McLean, Philly Senior Staff Writer

We're On The Fence: Bar Reservations | Most new fancy cocktail bars, like Sip & Guzzle, The Tusk Bar, and Tigre, now open with an option to reserve online. Sometimes these are even tough to secure (we’re looking at you, Portrait Bar). While we hate the idea of not just being able to walk into a bar, it is convenient to be able to guarantee a spot. — Sonal Shah, NYC Senior Editor


5 Restaurant Trends We Like (And Some We Sorta Hate) image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Its All Good.

The Remote Work-To-Drinks Pipeline | You’ve heard of all-day restaurants? Coffee-shop-slash-wine-bars are like if those spots liked to day drink. In LA, you can post up at places like Highly Likely, Red Room, or Luka with a laptop for morning lattes and breakfast sandwiches, then when 5pm hits, grab a glass of tinto, some small plates, and maybe watch a DJ spinning vinyl in the corner. Consider them the mullets of the dining world: business up front, party later on. — Garrett Snyder, LA Senior Editor

Great Food Is...Everywhere | Austin has seen this middle ground between pop-ups and restaurants develop recently, where you’ll end up with incredible food coming out of more lo-fi, bootstrapped places. One of our favorite spots right now is a Mexican-Japanese ramen shop called Ramen Del Barrio and it’s in the food court of a Korean grocery store. I think it’s the result of high rent prices clashing with everyday people who just want to make great food. — Nicolai McCrary, Austin Staff Writer

The Buddy System | Rents are high, we get it. More and more New York City bars seem to be maximizing their monetary potential by operating as coffee shops during the day, or sharing spaces with other businesses. Demo, a new wine bar, not only sells coffee, but it also sells shoppy-shop stuff and shares a kitchen with a neighboring bagel spot. — Sonal Shah, NYC Senior Editor

Casual During The Day, Upscale At Night | Philly doesn’t do "fancy dining" the same way other cities do. Fine dining goes down in townhouses, for example. Lately, it feels like more cafes are adding upscale experiences. An Afrocentric grocer and deli, for example, is serving the most exciting tasting menu in Philly right now. And one of our favorite bakeries shifted to an evening model to embrace the whole cocktail-to-pastry pipeline. — Candis McLean, Philly Senior Staff Writer

5 Restaurant Trends We Like (And Some We Sorta Hate) image

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

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