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Trending Tables: 50 hot restaurants for summer 2015

Trending Tables: 50 hot restaurants for summer 2015

NRN gives foodservice execs a look at some of the most popular eateries across the nation

When diners turn to comfort food, it’s often a sign that the economy has gone south: Burgers and meat loaf and fried chicken and mashed potatoes were all the rage in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse. It’s also a sign of emotional turmoil: Americans turned to those same foods after 9/11.

The current economy seems to be better than it has been in years, but these are times of social unrest and global malaise, which may or may not be why comfort food is so fashionable right now. Or maybe it’s the after-effects of the long, brutal winter. Or, possibly, food is following fashion, which is in the throes of the Normcore movement, distinguished by dressing unpretentiously.

But whatever the reason, comfort food is in: At least eleven of this season’s 50 Trending Tables lean heavily on straightforward, mostly American food, and that doesn’t count the four steakhouses, although steak is arguably American comfort food, too. To be sure, the food they serve speaks to a level of excellence that’s now expected in good restaurants. Remedy in Dallas isn’t just serving a pork chop, but a dry-aged and brown sugar-and-cider-glazed one with jalapeño sweet potato hash. And The Commoner doesn’t serve a common deviled egg, but a Scotch one with sausage, and its sticky toffee pudding comes with rye vanilla ice cream.

There are also five mostly Italian restaurants — Neal Fraser’s Redbird in Los Angeles is more eclectic than that, but it does serve gnocchi, polenta and rabbitchetta, which is like porchetta, but with rabbit — and Italian is the most familiar of “ethnic” cuisines.

With that said, this class of Trending Tables still shows the many influences that inform modern dining. Two of the steakhouses — Rural Society and J-Prime — draw influence from Argentina and Brazil, respectively, and Japan, Spain and, more obliquely this season, France, are all represented.

Korea’s presence is strongly felt this season, with bbbop serving what it calls “Seoul food for the soul,” Faith & Flower using the Korean chile paste gochujang, Carmella’s Plates & Pints adding kimchi to her duck confit tacos, and Station Kitchen & Cocktails serving Korean fried chicken. Dishes from Lebanon, the country of Georgia, India and the Philippines all are on the menus at trendy restaurants this season.

We’ve also added four new cities to our national roundup: Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.

Contact Bret Thorn: [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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