Food Trends That Jumped the Shark


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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75 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Meat atop other meat is as old as a club sandwich or a bacon cheeseburger. Which, come to think of it, both involve bacon. Point is, these are popular but enduring.

    Foams and purées, yeah, those are silly and probably dispensable.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      You can only put bacon on a burger.

      I have also experienced one (one!) good pastrami burger. But that’s one out of a couple dozen attempts. I’m convinced this is not a generalizable thing. You either have it or you don’t and 99% of the folks who try to make a pastrami burger don’t have it.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    That 20% has a big assignment.Report

  3. Avatar Glyph says:

    Arugula, in addition to sounding like an old-timey car horn, is generally too bitter. As with kale, beware when former plate garnishes get promoted to salad body.

    I still think couscous was just a misguided attempt at combining grits and rice into something less satisfying than either.

    And yeah, I had one of those burger and brisket thingies the other day. Not worth it.

    Thank goodness the chicken and waffle phase is mostly forgotten.

    Now I’m sort of hungry….Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Oi! I didn’t realize this post was going live. I would have probably had more. Regardless, baby arugula tends to be less bitter but more pretentious.

      Chicken-and-waffles done right is fantastic each and every time. I’ve had it done old school in Harlem, fancy-rustic in Foggy Bottom, and fancy-hipster in TriBeCa, and Southern style in Nashville. Harlem and Nashville were how it ought to be and fantastic. Foggy Bottom was really good but lacked the essence of the dish. TriBeCa tasted good but it wasn’t really right.Report

    • Avatar zic says:


      Bitter greens. They’re very good for you, in small and regular servings.

      They are best cooked; braised and with some fat (I believe firmly that greens and fat go together; the fat helps your body absorb nutrients from the greens, the greens help your body process the fat.) And I’m firm believer in high-quality, minimally processed fats; I eat a lot of butter, olive oil, and coconut oil, and use meat as a condiment and meat and bones to make stocks, which provides things to help keep cartilage healthy and that help minimize inflammation.

      One of the best things to foil bitter greens, fresh or cooked, is eggs. There’s a long food tradition of chopped boiled egg in a fresh salad of greens, egg-based dressings, etc. One of my favorite childhood memories is of harvesting fresh dandelion greens in the early spring with my grandmother; stewing them in butter and the water from washing them until limp and the water’s evaporated, and having them in a pile, a grating of nutmeg and bit of salt, with a poached egg or soft-boiled egg on the top.

      Arugula is great braised, chopped and added to a frittata or as a filling for an omelet. I use shallots and some parmesan cheese; a drop or two of balsamic on the top. Dandelion, swiss chard, and bitter lettuce (meaning lettuce that’s getting ready to bolt, blossom, and go to seed) also work.

      Foods that are enough I’ll leave to others, I find most things that most people eat most days ‘enough, already.’

      But I have had enough of websites and news stories that talk about foods as good or bad in terms of the amount of fat or calories as if the presence of fat or a lot of calories are the problem. Some high-fat foods are extremely nutritious, and if you eat them, you’ll be better able to withstand the lure of the highly-processed foods engineered to be addictive.

      It’s the kind of fat that matters. So I’m looking at you, humus. Made with home-cooked chickpeas and good olive oil, one should eat humus to one’s content; it is not the culinary equivalent of a bigmac or fried doughnut. I’m looking at you, avocado, and you, coconut. I’m looking at you, butter from cows who eat grass instead of corn and soybeans. You’re all welcome at my table.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Arugula definitely has its place. But I feel like it was everywhere this year. Let’s all just calm down a minute… maybe take a couple plays off.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I had a delicious kale salad at a Superb Owl party last weekend. (Seriously, did anybody know before Colbert pointed it out that there are restrictions on the phrase “Super Bowl”? How dumb is that.) But it sounded like an awful lot of effort was expended in making it that good.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I was well aware of the Super Bowl thing and found Colbert’s bit funny but a bit tedious. “People don’t already know this?” Then again, I’m a rabid sports fan AND live in an area that just hosted the Super Bowl, where a number of places were getting in trouble for using the term. So it was fresher in my mind.Report

      • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

        On reddit, there is a subreddit called /r/superbowl. It is dedicated to pictures of owls.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Write this post next year, and you’re going to get a lot of people who won’t want to admit they ate their body weight in kale in 2013.

      Arugula, on the other hand, I love precisely for its bitterness. On a fresh roll, with unpicked cucumbers, roasted red peppers, and thin-sliced poultry meat and a balsamic vinaigrette is about as awesome a sandwich as I can imagine.

      Well, the turkey club on whole wheat’s pretty awesome too, albeit uncool in its oldsterness.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        The best sandwich is the Reuben, heavy on the sauerkraut. (Do not ask “pastrami or corned beef?” People have been justly eviscerated for lesser offenses.)Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        The Turkey Club is one of the human minds most perfect creation. Although it really does need to be eaten in its natural environment, a NJ diner (most other northeastern states will do if a NJ diner isn’t available). A side of fries… doesn’t get better than that. I ate far more than my share of TC’s in college at the several diners within on mile of my school. For extra ambiance it should be served by a slightly impatient, but friendly as long as you treat them nice waitress after 10pm.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Speaking of Jersey sandwiches, are people familiar with the Hobo? If you’re not, allow me to wow you…

        A Hobo is a basic egg sandwich… ONLY THEY PUT THE HOME FRIES ON IT! Now, the best places will account for the additional carb load and offer extra meat and egg to maintain a proper ratio. My local join doesn’t have cheese standard so we’re all just accustomed to say “Hobo with cheese”.

        It’s perfect in that you get the entirety of the breakfast plate (eggs, meat, toast, potatoes) but you can take it on the road. Usually you lose your potatoes as some sort of weird traveling tax. Not so with the Hobo.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        is the hobo a south jersey thing? i have never heard of it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I’m from North Jersey. What is this “South Jersey” place you speak of?Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        it starts around rutgers and goes south from there, har har har.

        seriously though i’ve never heard of this. then again, i’m in a place where no one knows what disco fries are. or a diner. dear lord a good diner would go a long way here.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        It might be more local than I realize. Nonetheless, it is delicious.

        I consider everything south of Newark South Jersey. Growing up in Bridgegate Land would do that.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I like rocket. Doesn’t taste bitter to me.
        (Then again, I dress salads with white vinegar and olive oil,
        olives and raw red onions).

        Can Not Eat Raddichio. Way. way, way too bitter.
        (and, having a CSA that gives you the stuff,
        I hate wasting food. So it really pained me to not eat it.)Report

      • I’m with you on arugula, although the Wife only likes it if it’s in a blend with blander greens. Similarly, I generally have an aversion to regular lettuce because of its blandness, so the blend is a pretty reasonable compromise. But arugula with a nice vinaigrette is wonderful. I’ve never found it to be terribly bitter, just peppery, which I love.

        Can’t say I care for kale, though. And, radicchio is waaay too bitter for my palate.Report

      • I think in my neck of the woods, the local breakfast joint calls it something along the lines of a “Garbage Truck.” It’s been awhile since I had it, but yeah, it’s delicious.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Kale can cause be toxic if eaten in large quantities. As with all good things, moderation matters.

        It can cause thyroid problems because it contains thiocyanate, a compound similar to cyanide. The sulfur compounds can cause anemia. Some of the phytochemicals are hormone disruptors. Oxalates which can cause kidney stones (spinach, too).

        Cooking helps eliminate some of these concerns, particularly the digestive concerns. Cooking processes things and makes them easier for your body to digest.

        The amounts eaten in salads and cooked as part of a mixed diet are not a concern; but drinking a shake of raw kale everyday may not be to your good health. And as with all foods you want to eat a lot of, making sure that there’s no medical reason not to eat them matters if you’ve got a specific medical problem such as a thyroid, kidney or blood problems.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        @dhex I didn’t know what disco fries were until your comment inspired me to look up the term. Sounds kind of like poutine. Sounds like the sort of thing you eat after staying out too late drinking too much so you have something else to regret in the morning. Sounds… delicious.

        @mark-thompson (at 1:13 pm) we are arugula brothers, you and I.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Poutine uses some sort of weird cheese curd. Not so with disco fries.

        Also of note are pizza fries and pizza burgers. Which are exactly what they sound like.

        Another diner staple is the Happy Waitress: grilled cheeae with tomato and bacon.

        All of this is best consumed at 3am at a 24/7 diner with a waiter you are on a first name basis from prior such visits.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Out here in SoCal, we have Tommy’s chili cheese fries, preferably with peppers for this purpose. It’s one of the most small-d democratic institutions in Los Angeles and while the corner of Beverly and Rampart can get insanely crowded on a Friday and Saturday night, it’s rare for anything bad to happen, in part because the line moves really, really quickly which is good because everyone in that line is drunk.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        That looks fantastic.

        See, here, our problem is that many towns — such as my own — have two diners. So while there were never lines or waits, some friendships (temporarily) ended after a drunken battle over whether to go to Louie’s or The Grill.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        i don’t even like disco fries. i just wanna see them on the menu somewhere.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @dhex, I sure would like to see John Travolta in an ad for disco fries.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:


        The eptiome of the Jersey sandwich is Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese on a hard roll.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I’ve been to the Tick Tock….but taylor ham sandwich. Not really feeling it myself, but diners exist to serve every possible dish 24/7 so it all works out.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        i mean in a diner around here, of which there are none. well, there’s one but like everything here it closes at 6pm and the coffee is a tragedy.

        i’ve spent more hours of my life at the tick tock than i care to recall. (the food is not really that good – the coach house in north bergen is a superior choice)


        one day many years ago i asked the greek waiter at a diner that used to be on 2nd ave why they called them disco fries. he said “you go to disco, you drink, you get hungry, you come to diner, you eat disco fries” like i was the dumbest thing on two feet.

        i’ve never actually had disco fries myself. i just miss the sound of the words.Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I really like kale.

    Agreed on the foam, I think this is done largely to show that the chef has avant-garde pretensions.

    Fois Grois only costs 7 dollars extra in Kentucky? Interesting….

    I don’t really see any of these trends as dying. There are plenty of trends that I wish would go away both food and non-food (Zombies! Enough with the fucking zombie apocalypse, it is stupid and not going to happen!) but I think our culture is going to be marked by further and further niche markets. It used to be that trends would come and go for the large population. Now it seems like several or many contradictory trends co-exist.Report

  5. Avatar greginak says:

    Frying everything became a shock food…huh….that was always the entire thing. It was to shock and be faux transgresive.Report

  6. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    So, I very much agree about most of those.

    But I only found out that Pretzel rolls were a thing that exists last month. I imagine I’ll tire of them eventually, but it’s going to take a while.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    This is going to be snobby but there food trends are rarely problematic in themselves. The problem comes when restaurants at the level of TGIF or fast food franchises attempt to remain at the same level but at the same time be trendy or gourmet. The results are rarely good because TGIF and fast food franchises are more about having a large quantity of food at a consistent quality and low to reasonable price. Being trendy or gourmet is usually about quality when not posing and requires smaller quantities to pull off right. If your mixing gourmet food and large quantity, the results tend to be a bit much. Foie gras on a burger seems a tad decadent in a bad way.Report

  8. Avatar Damon says:

    I don’t know about those percentages. Mine: 40% Food and cooking, 30% Sex, 25% vacation/travel, 5% revenge fantasies.
    Now, as to the food.
    I like kale. I’m a souther-ish boy and I like most all greens. But I think kale chips and all that crap is just stupid. I like my kale stir fried with soy
    I love arugula. I like it best as a salad. Nice and peppery. Maybe mix in some good spinach or other greens like mustard or dandelion too.
    Foam/Purees meh
    Bacon rocks.
    Fois Grais don’t really like it.
    Turkey club rocks!
    @Glyph Couscous? It’s great. I put finely chopped cooked veggies (red/green peppers, green onions, mushrooms, etc.) and chicken in it mixed with good olive oil and butter. Yum!
    I’m also big fans of curry and kebobs. Gotta order me some more sumac for my beef kebobs. ?
    One last thing, something I had in Dublin years aga: thistle and tyme sorbet. It was presented in a martini glass floating in Bombay sapphire gin. Outstanding.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      See, I maintain that most people that claim they like Kale are just pretenders.
      If you don’t also like collard greens, you’re probably just fooling yourself…

      (I love collard greens — but they’re the same plant, one’s just got frills).Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        I DO like collards. I also happen to like Ramps.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Haven’t had enough ramps to say if I like ’em, myself, but I figure I will.
        (Mental note: make trip during ramp season.)

        [and of course you like collard greens! Doesn’t everyone? lol.]Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Ramps are basically green onions combined with garlic. I’ve frozen them but then do tend to stink up the place and they tend to cause burping. The ramp burps aren’t that pleasant..and do stink like ramps. 🙂 enjoyReport

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Mine: 40% Food and cooking, 30% Sex, 25% vacation/travel, 5% revenge fantasies.

      You can combine revenge fantasies with sex, travel, and cooking. Just an observation.Report

  9. Avatar Damon says:

    Oh, I forgot to actually comment on the topic. Put me down for “kale”. I like it, but shesh, it’s over done now.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    I dunno, I love pretzel bread so much. I can’t imagine being “over” it.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’m of a mixed mind when it comes to pretzel bread. I’ve gone on record as saying that well-made pretzels are the king of snacks. The problem is, when the local gas station has a pretzel dog, it is rarely well made and often ends up being pretty shitty. I suppose that can be said of anything, but I think their is an assumption that pretzels are easy to make because the ingredient list is relatively short. They’re not. So, I will never tire of well made pretzel in any form but can understand frustration at the proliferation and ultimate watering down of the pretzel family.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I really like soft pretzels and feel privileged to live in a city where I can a good soft pretzel from a vendor off the streat when I want it. Pretzel bread and buns are beyond me. It seems like some unncessary transformation to something that should be enjoyed by itself with maybe a bit of mustard.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        A good soft pretzel comes from a hard pretzel bakery.
        Same product, they just pull ’em off before they’re fully dried.

        [Why, yes, I am a bit of a pretzel snob. See you in Tokyo?]Report

  11. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Both ‘gourmet’ burgers and Greek yogurt are on a bit of a bubble, but I’m not sure if either has completely jumped the shark yet. (though the skis are waxed up)

    I also think with the proliferation of “artisanal” cheeses, quality is beginning to suffer.Report

  12. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    I am enjoying a taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on a hard roll right now, with a glass of OJ.

    Not from a diner, but from the local bagel store.