The Biggest Food Trends Of 2016

2016 was one of the most topsy-turvy years in recent memory, with a whole lot of moments that very few could have predicted, from a slew of shocking celebrity deaths to Donald Trump being elected president. And the same principle largely held true for the biggest culinary trends of the year: Some were easy to see coming, while others came completely out of left field. 

Alcoholic Seltzer

Alcopops like Smirnoff Ice had their moment in the early aughts, but they're not gone for good: This year, they lost some of the calories and sugar and morphed into hard seltzers, like SpikedSeltzer, Nauti Seltzer, and Truly Spiked & Sparkling. 

Delivery-Only Restaurants

If you can't actually set foot inside it, is it still a restaurant? In 2016, the answer was yes. Third parties like Seamless, Caviar, and other proprietary apps changed the definition of what it meant to be a restaurant. In New York alone, delivery-only restaurants include Green Summit's 10 offerings, Michael White's Costata (which started out as a brick and mortar but didn't want to lose its delivery business after closing), David Chang's Momofuku Ando, Maple, and the aptly named Delivery Only. 


More and more chefs are turning to the ancient art of pickling and fermenting in order to showcase ingredients in unique ways and preserve produce for use later in the year. 

In-House Cured Meats

More restaurants began rolling out their own house charcuterie programs; one restaurant even began making its own "seacuterie" from sustainable seafood.

La Croix

We don't know how or why this line of flavored sparkling waters caught on like wildfire among 20-somethings this year, but it did. 

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

A year ago, if you wanted to find Nashville-style hot chicken (fried chicken dunked in a fiery oil-based sauce), you had to travel to Nashville. But over the past year, restaurants in as far as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, have jumped on the Nashville hot chicken boat, not to mention KFC

No-Tipping Restaurants

The trend of restaurants doing away with tipping has been crawling along for the past couple years, but it became a full-fledged phenomenon in 2016, largely thanks to big restaurant groups like Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality and Tom Douglas Restaurants leading the charge. 


Poke, the Hawaiian snack of diced and marinated raw fish, was a surprisingly massive hit this year. Not only has it popped up on menus nationwide, it's also the driving force (no, really, you can get it at a drive-thru) between some new fast-casual concepts like Wisefish Poke and Pokeworks. 


This is one of those trends that we'd be happy if it disappeared forever: rainbow everything. Bagels, burgers, cakes, sushi, grilled cheese, pizza... it seriously needs to stop. 

Smoothie Bowls

Why drink a smoothie with a straw when you can dump it into a bowl, top it with fruits, nuts, and other stuff, and Instagram it?