1) Ethnic mash-ups. State Bird Provisions is the ultimate mash-up restaurant, serving unique dim sum-style dishes that draw inspiration from Asia, Eastern Europe and all points in between. Seaglass, opened by Chef Loretta Keller in the new Exploratorium location, has a menu including tacos, Welsh rarebit, pizza and sushi. The newly re-imagined Fog City follows the border-crossing trend, offering everything from burgers, to furikake-topped fries, to tongue, to French crullers. In the words of Executive Chef Bruce Hill, "It's it's really just all the things I like!"
2) Reincarnation. Fog City was the perfect example, going from diner mode to a wood-clad, California-chic hotspot. Now Fifth Floor is following suit, soon to become a more casual restaurant with David Bazirgan still at the helm. Who'll be next?
3) Mid-Market madness. Intrepid restaurants continue to push into the scuzziest section of the city. One of the first to make the foray, AQ, opened sister restaurant TBD. Chef Daniel Patterson of Coi has headed there, too, with a new entry. In part, we have tech companies like Twitter to thank for serving up hungry Mid-Market customers with deep pockets.
4) Casual spin-offs. Speaking of Daniel Patterson, his just-opened Alta CA, is a casual eatery. As is the new spin-off in the works from Benu's Corey Lee, according to rumors. This follows the big Oakland spin-off trend of a couple of years ago, starring Patterson (Plum, Haven) and James Syhabout (Box & Bells, Hawker Fare).
6) Street food goes mainstream. It seems like Off the Grid is everywhere these days, and food truckers are landing bricks-and-mortar locations, too. A good example? Curry Up Now has three non-wheeled outlets.
7) Gluten-free for all. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, up to 30% of the U.S. population is either eating gluten-free or partially gluten-free at any given time. Restaurants are taking notice, with menu items or entirely gluten-free menus. Thanks to its corn-based menu, Pica Pica is completely gluten-free. Dosa has a special gluten-free menu, as well as a vegetarian menu. Even the illustrious Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry has gotten into the act, producing gluten-free flour, sold at retail.
8) World-class food events. A few years back, the founders of SF Chefs thought it was about time San Francisco had an event to showcase local chefs. SF Chefs is now a fixture on the food scene, popular with tourists and locals alike, with tastings in the big tent on Union Square typically selling out. La Cocina's Street Food Festival has also attracted national attention, growing to include a night market--and rumors are that the entire event is going to be moved to a different venue next year and spread over more days.
What are your top trends for the year? I'd love to know--so leave them in the comments!