5 takeaways from new Chicago eateries

taste trends kitchen

Chicago restaurants are rife with food, drink and design ideas, as a group of more than 100 foodservice operators discovered during a whirlwind dine-around to kick off the 2017 NRA Show. The 20th annual Taste the Trends tour, hosted by FoodService Director’s parent company and Basic American Foods, began with breakfast at a bustling downtown food hall, then continued with stops at four trending restaurants. Here are some of the ideas that bubbled up as we sampled the fare at a modern steakhouse, a veggie-centric eatery, a Szechuan restaurant and an informal seafood spot.

1. 3 times the salt

salts gt prime

Many steakhouses serve a choice of sauces to accompany an order of beef, but GT Prime swaps out these traditional condiments for a trio of salts. A small divided ceramic dish comes to each table holding three artisanal salts—Icelandic sea salt, Australian sea salt and hibiscus salt. It’s a conversation starter that not only gets guests’ attention and allows them to custom-season their steak, but the salts also save back-of-house labor to make sauces from scratch.

2. Pricing to portion size

steak gt prime

Customers at GT Prime can order a steak portion that best fits their appetite and budget. Rib-eyes, fillets and other cuts can be ordered in 4-, 8- or 16-ounce sizes, priced accordingly. The menu also encourages tables to mix and match steak cuts and share platters of meat that may include slices of wagyu, skirt steak, bison and rib-eye to feed four or more diners. 

3. Littler lobster rolls

lobster roll minis

To create mini versions of its signature lobster rolls, Brown Bag Seafood Co., one of the concepts at Revival Food Hall, cuts hot dog rolls in half and hollows out the ends. Each end forms a pocket that can be stuffed with a lobster salad mixture. It creates a portable handheld item that can easily feed a crowd and would be convenient to pass at a catering event.

4. A turntable of dishes

wonfun tofu

WonFun Chinese focuses on Szechuan cuisine, characterized by flavors that create a tingling sensation in the mouth, thanks to Szechuan peppercorns. Everything is served family-style on a metal Lazy Susan at the center of the table that spins to make every dish accessible to every guest. Among the items on the menu are chilled rabbit in sesame sauce, Szechuan pork wontons with housemade chili oil and ma po tofu with dried chilies and Szechuan peppers.

5. Shifting to the dark side

panna cotta

Activated charcoal is showing up as an ingredient in cocktails, ice creams and other savories and sweets, turning food and drink a shade of black. The trend was in full play at Bad Hunter, a veg-forward restaurant and bar. Chef Dan Snowden creates a fresh turmeric panna cotta topped with passion fruit sauce, puffed rice and coconut ash ice cream—the latter sporting a black hue from the addition of activated charcoal.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation

The Animal Welfare Act became a law in 1966.

This year, 52 years later, animal rights activists have disputed a provision to the 2018 farm bill brought by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) called the Protect Interstate Commerce Act that would prohibit states from passing laws regulating “agricultural products,” including farm animals. The amendment would not only prevent states from passing new laws, but it would also remove animal protections already in place. The farm bill failed to get the votes necessary to pass the House of Representatives in May, but the threat of expansive and...

Industry News & Opinion

Beginning this upcoming school year, Palm Springs Unified School District in Palm Springs, Calif., will offer universal free meals , Desert Sun reports .

Through the federal Community Eligibility Provision, PSUSD students will receive breakfast and lunch on school days free of charge.

"Everyone’s going to benefit regardless of their income status," Director of Nutrition Services Stephanie Bruce told Desert Sun. "Every student will have access to a complete meal."

Though students’ families will no longer need to apply for free and reduced-price meals, they will be...

Ideas and Innovation
food waste

With awareness growing about the scope of food waste in America, foodservice operators are ramping up zero-waste efforts—and coming up with more culinary-focused solutions. It’s estimated that 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Although an increase in composting has redirected some of this food waste from landfills to on-site gardens and farms at a number of operations, noncommercial chefs are re-evaluating food scraps for their menu potential.

University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., has a longstanding...

Ideas and Innovation

Jehangir Mehta, chef-owner of Graffiti Earth in New York City and an avid food waste crusader, created a soup from food scraps that even has its own hashtag: #eatmycompostsoup. There’s no standard recipe for the item, which he also introduced to the dining program at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Instead, the coconut-based soup features vegetable peels, stems and roots left over from the day’s prep and what Mehta calls “cosmetically challenged” vegetables—ingredients that previously may have found their way into the compost bin.

“Using vegetable scraps and ugly produce in...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code