There's a fine line between tasteful restaurant trends and those that have lost their flavor due to overexposure (hello, Edison bulbs) or just plain silliness (here's looking at you, foie gras ice cream). We scoured new eateries across the country for this fall's most conspicuous food fads, some of which will have you begging for seconds and others you'll want to send right back to the kitchen.
Upscale Chefs Doing Downscale Shelling out $30 for an entree sometimes just isn't feasible. Thankfully, fans of Michael White, who made a name with his fine-dining Italian eateries, can now head to his recently opened New York City pizza joint, Nicoletta (2), and score artisanal pies topped with basil pesto and squash blossoms for around $18. Meanwhile, no plate at Chicago chef Graham Elliot's new canteen, g.e.b., costs more than $20, with hearty pasta dishes like cavatelli with peppers and goat cheese ringing in at only $14. This leaves a nice chunk of change to spend on more important things. Like drinks.
Peruvian Cuisine Some people say Machu Picchu is Peru's greatest wonder -- they haven't tried the ceviche. Raymi (1) in New York preps the signature dish at a custom-made bar in the restaurant's lounge, while Los Angeles' Mo-Chica, which recently moved to a much bigger space, lets you gorge yourself on citrus-spiked halibut, prawns, and scallops in a room adorned with graffiti from Kozem. The other reason to embrace the country's fare? Pisco. Haunts like L.A.'s Piccafeature dozens of varieties. Knock back a few pisco sours and you'll feel as high as the Andes.
Sandwiches: The New Stars A number of excellent restaurants have opened new spin-off shops where you can get your 'wich fix without having to pony up for a full meal. Yeah, $5 foot-longs are great if you're a certain tired Subway spokesman, but the spicy tuna with Sriracha mayo at Michael Voltaggio's ink.sack (3) in Los Angeles or a sandwich stacked with pork belly and lamb sausage at Chicago's Publican Quality Meats are infinitely more memorable. Still stuck on the chain's options because you're worried about your waistline? Come on, Jared isn't even that skinny.
Take It Back!
The Tasting Menu Trap The tasting menu is a restaurant's version of bottle service, an overpriced status symbol. Sadly, some high-end restaurants are going tasting-menu-only. The $150 dinner at New York's Atera and the $100 offering at Nashville's Catbird Seat may be mouthwatering, but cheaper alternatives should exist as well.
Dirt: It's What's for Dinner A crumbled ingredient strewn across the plate is the new foam. The artfully deconstructed take on Vietnamese fare being served at Beverly Hills' Red Medicine is pretty as a picture, but when the highest compliment you can give a dish is "That was some mighty fine chicory dirt," something just seems wrong.
Repurposed Wood As Decor They look cool, but restaurants like San Franciso's Namu Gaji and New York's Monument Lane that brag about their wood's heritage take it too far. We don't really need to know that our table was once part of a barn -- it just makes us think of animal husbandry and where our lambs came from.