Retailers are bemoaning the demise of the shopping mall — a victim of online purchasing — but one component of those temples to capitalism, the food court, seems to be alive and well.


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Two of this season’s trendiest restaurants — Baffo at the new Eataly in Chicago and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop at Gotham West Market in New York — are in food courts, and a third, Playa Provisions, is itself a four-in-one food concept.

Beyond being open to trying food in all sorts of venues, trend-focused customers continue to experiment with new kinds of food, too. Although when it comes to seafood, Americans still mostly eat shrimp, salmon and tuna, the summer class of Trending Tables is offering sand dab and triggerfish, cobia, trout (and trout roe), yellowtail, branzino and conch, as well as Arctic char, turbot, snapper, flounder and geoduck clams, not to mention the five restaurants that are offering this year’s trendiest mollusk, octopus.

Eggs are also appearing on menus, often as “farm eggs,” one egg that’s slowly cooked over the course of an hour and two duck eggs.

Duck liver’s on the menu at Ration and Dram in Atlanta, and duck confit is part of the choucroute at Dusek’s in Chicago and at the heart of a taco at Mesero Miguel in Dallas. Quail is on three menus, and quail egg is on a fourth, rounding out the robust mix of proteins at this season’s trendy restaurants.

Trending restaurants are also highlighting vegetables, with such dishes as the “Beet is On Fire” at Shikany in Miami, featuring a red beet sponge and golden beet pop rocks; the roasted heirloom carrots with hazelnut dukkah spice at Soneburner in Seattle; and the warm grilled organic kale salad with cannellini beans, rosemary, Parmesan and sherry vinaigrette at Lido in New York.

Ethnically, there’s a healthy mix of Italian and Mexican cuisine, with a little Chinese and a surprising amount of French represented this summer, but most of the Trending Tables this season are using great ingredients and their chefs’ own vision as the inspiration for their food.

Click on the links in the menu to the left for a closer look at what’s happening at the country’s trendiest restaurants.

Contact Bret Thorn: bret.thorn@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary