DC Predicts: 2011 Trends in Food and Dining

Photo courtesy of
‘Restaurant with waiter’
courtesy of ‘The Field Museum Library’

To kick off the new year, we asked some of the most prominent folks in DC’s food and drink scene for their outlook on what will be big in 2011. We reached out to chefs, owners, bloggers, barkeeps, restaurant PR folks and more – all of them gave wise predictions on what will be big in the new year. Here’s what they had to say.

“With the population of DC crossing 600,000 in the latest census, you will see a lot more small, interesting restaurants. Bistros opening in the up and coming neighborhoods.” – Ashok Bajaj, Restaurateur (Bombay Club, Oval Room, Rasika, etc.)

“I predict more and more hip cocktail spots as people start seeking niche bars that feature house specialties rather than having the same old familiar line up…I also think many more smaller niche restaurants with more creative international decor…DCites are starting to demand more!” – Erik Holzherr, owner of Wisdom, Fruit Bat, and the soon-to-be-opened Church & State

“I think in 2011, you’re going to see more restaurants getting into the retail business. Some have done it already, like Cork’s Cork Market and Co-Co Sala’s retail boutique. Others will be inspired by the success of such ventures as the Batali/Bastianich Eataly in New York City. We’ve already seen some announced for 2011, like the Armstrong’s Society Fair market; it’ll be interesting to see who else gets into the game.” – Missy Frederick, Washington Business Journal

PIE. I’ve been hearing rumblings about this lately and, as you know Katie, I called this almost a year ago when you argued macaroons would take over. They didn’t quite make it. But PIE. It will. Because it is so fucking good. It’s love wrapped in love and you can’t mess it up. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, cold, warm, sweet, savory. It will happen.” – Rachel Machacek, Contributing Editor, Washington Flyer magazine

Chef-activism will increase as chefs find their voice. Look for more of them on the Hill. Not just chefs but food people of all kind. The people involved in feeding America are going to want to bigger say in food issues. At the same time the public’s interest in where our food comes from will increase. Vegetables will be the focus as more people try to adopt a vegetable based, not necessarily vegetarian, way of eating.” – Jose Andres, Chef & Restaurateur, ThinkFoodGroup

“The trend I’d love to see in D.C. this year is pop-up restaurants like LudoBites in LA and NYC’s The Hunger. (San Francisco even has a guerilla farmers’ market.) I think it’s the next step beyond food trucks.” – Erin Hartigan, Editor, Tasting Table DC

Photo courtesy of
‘Nando’s Peri-Peri Dining Room’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

“I predict that beer will continue to be an even bigger draw for 2011 and new local brew pubs and breweries will be opening around DC. Restaurants will be expanding their lists to meet the demands of guests wanting to try new beers with food pairings.” – Heather Freeman, Heather Freeman Media & Public Relations

“I think the trend of gourmet ethnic food on the go. With mobile food trucks everywhere serving up a range of delicious food, I think the evolution on that same concept is smaller walk-up restaurants that serve up tacos, Korean, Mediterranean food to go. Muncheez in Georgetown does a good job with the concept, and I think more will come!” – Kelly Collis Frederick, CityShopGirl

Pickled everything. I have a strong feeling every restaurant from NoMa, DC to Frederick, MD will have something pickled on their menu.” – Johnna Rowe, Johnna Knows Good Food

“I think we’re going to see a lot of opportunity for people to try a tasting menu or two, with the upgrade of minibar- enabling people to better get a reservation, to Komi’s expansion and the opening of RJ Cooper’s Rogue 24 I see greater opportunities for this. Might break the bank but should be an interesting year in this time of austerity.” – Russell Warnick, Endless Simmer

Popsicles. DC Public Schools is working on secret recipe; they can be healthy, they are familiar and will be local.” – Jeffrey Mills, Director of Food Services, DC Public Schools

“One of the things I’ve noticed is a tendency towards “silver” or un-aged spirits. High West Distillery out of Utah (the world’s only ski-up distillery!) already has the Silver Oat Whiskey (which is already making waves), and I had the opportunity to taste some new samples from them, some of which are due out this month, and some slated for mid year. Silver whiskey can be very one dimensional and can get very sticky and ethyll-ey. Both of these products were spot on; they definitely did their research.” – Patrick Owens, Bar Manager, American Ice Co.

“I’m thinking going back to big family-style dinners (like Carmines).” – Olga Berman, Mango & Tomato

Photo courtesy of
‘Dining Room at 1905’
courtesy of ‘Jenn Larsen’

“I think the new hot trend will be in upscale ethnic food. Taking simple, delicious fare typically associated street food and sourcing the highest quality ingredients to be able to charge a premium in a semi upscale sit down environment. I don’t mean Italian, I mean more Vietnamese, like BaBay or Indian, like Rasika. But I also think 2011 will be the breakout year for the average resident of DC to really consider what was previously seen as “weird” food as damn good and unique cuisine. Look for more Latin (Colombian, Ecuadorian and further South), Middle Eastern that is NOT called Mediterranean, and possibly some good West African food.” – Karl Johnson, Owner, Pound Coffee NOMA and coming soon, Pound The Hill

“The un-pronounce-ables, or better yet, the “what IS that?”: soju/sochu, cachaça, Rhum agricole will be everywhere as well as the easy to pronounce pisco and sake.” – Rachel Sergi, Bourbon and soon-to-open Jack Rose”

“I think we are going to see an increase in privately held, small group dinner parties–either for cost by a chef or people taking more of the host lead–in the form of supper clubs. I suggest this based on the economic crisis and also the increased need for people to feel connected to their food and the people making it. There have been similar start-ups throughout the country of supper clubs and I think they offer a lot of cache, wit, whimsy, and connection for the diner that is unique. Alongside that, we are starting to see that consumers are spending a little more money than last year, allowing small food niches like this to grow.” – Allison Sosna, Executive Chef of Contract Foods at Fresh Start, DC Central Kitchen

“If there is one drinks trend that I hope will take off in 2011 is BITTERNESS!! Bitter ingredients, whether it’s my personal fave, Chartreuse, or any number of the amazing and varied amaros, digestifs and straight crafty bitters that are re-entering the market and newly available. I think it’s the least appreciated sense of taste and when a cocktail is in balance, bitterness is refreshing and crave-able. My favorite drinks of 2010 were bitter and delicious.” – Jill Zimorski, Beverage Director, ThinkFoodGroup

“I think we’re going to start seeing more gluten-free menu items on “traditional” restaurant menus. It seems like everyone I talk to knows someone with celiac or gluten intolerance, and restaurants seem to be responding to that.” – Nichole Remmert, The Hill Is Home

Katie moved to DC in 2007, and has since embarked upon a love affair with the city. She’s an education reform advocate and communications professional during the day; at night and on the weekends, she’s an owner here at We Love DC. Katie has high goals to eat herself through the entire city, with only her running shoes to save her from herself. For up-to-the-minute news and reviews (among other musings), follow her on Twitter!