So many of the meals we experienced while putting together our list of the Best New Restaurants of 2022 felt exciting and entirely fresh. But even at the most unique restaurants, one can’t help but start to notice the similarities, the overlap, the recurring themes—the trends.
It became clear, as we scanned our way from one menu to the next, that QR codes are here to stay. We came nose to nose with the (very delicious) reality that whole fish are making serious headway at a lot of buzzy restaurants. And man did we see a lot of disco balls. While there are always grrumpy diners who find certain trends obnoxious, most of these developments point to a joyful and delicious future for dining out. Because actually, disco balls are a lot of fun, and even if it makes our pastry order a little more expensive, a higher tipping standard is a very good thing.
From the proliferation of counter service to the explosion of oversized punch bowls, these are the 10 restaurant trends that stuck out most to BA staffers while visiting restaurants across the country in 2022. Have you noticed them too? —Eleazar Sontag, restaurant editor
We can’t get enough of grandma’s dishes.
We’ve all seen a plate we loved at a restaurant and flipped it over in hopes of finding out where it’s from. Usually, the answer is some fancy European ceramicist or, if we’re lucky, Ikea. But there’s one type of plate popping up at all sorts of new restaurants, that are a little harder to source for our own homes: the grandma plate. They’re vintage plates or bowls with a subtle floral pattern or border that brings a mix-match aesthetic to the restaurant table. You know, like an Italian grandma’s set of “special occasion” plates. This decor choice spanned cities and cuisines. They showed up at Charlotte steakhouse Supperland and at New Orleans’ tropical roadhouse Mister Mao. During a recent visit to the Southern American restaurant Rosie’s in Miami, the grandma plates added just the right amount of hominess to my already comforting fish and grits. It just might be time to ask your grandmother to add her China collection to the inheritance. —Kate Kassin, editorial operations associate
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Skipping the tip is not an option.
We’ve been debating the merits of tipping for a long, long time. But something shifted during the pandemic: Whether you liked it or not, there was absolutely no ignoring the very real labor and skill that goes into restaurant work. Some new restaurants are sidestepping the tipping debate altogether, and putting mandatory fees on their menus to help pay staff a living wage. At Los Angeles Filipino restaurant Lasita, a 3.5% fee is added to the bill to support benefits for full time staff, and a 10% fee added to takeout orders goes directly to the kitchen team. The wine bar Daytrip in Oakland employs a 20% service fee split amongst staff. At some restaurants that have adopted these sorts of fee models—Lasita included—you can ask to have the charge removed from your bill if you’d rather not opt in. But why would you do that? —Eleazar Sontag, restaurant editor
Whole fish are swimming head-on to the American mainstream.
I’ve been eating steamed and fried whole fish at Chinese restaurants for as long as I’ve eaten solid food. When the Lazy Susan reached me, I would go straight for the collar and the cheeks. While whole fish has long been a standard offering at restaurants serving certain cuisines, many restaurants in the US have been hesitant to present the head. This year, that seemed to change. I can still get my whole fish fix at newcomer Cantonese restaurants like New York’s Bonnie’s or Uncle Lou. But I’ve also found whole fish landing on restaurant tables at New York’s Shukette, where a grilled porgy is served in the cage used to grill it, and Philly’s Irwin’s, where the grilled fish comes alongside grilled lemons and an earthy salsa verde. I, for one, am head over heels for this development. —Kate Kassin, editorial operations associate