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Consumer Trends

Southern comfort

Nobody does comfort food quite like the South. The current popularity of Southern cooking taps into the need for comfort combined with our cravings for American regional delights. 

  • Fried chicken is leading the surge in iconic Southern foods on menus, but that’s just the beginning, claims Kathy Hayden, foodservice analyst with Mintel Menu Insights. “Chefs are searching below the Mason-Dixon line for culinary inspiration and finding a new love of pimento cheese, gumbo, grits, chicken and dumplings, smokehouse barbeque and even boiled peanuts,” she says.  
  • The National Restaurant Association reported in its 2012 “What’s Hot” survey that pickling—a longtime Southern tradition—was the number two “on-trend” preparation method mentioned by chefs.
  • Chefs are exploring Southern dishes and reinterpreting them with modern twists: Two examples: the Pimento Mac & Cheese at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Grilled Shrimp with Grits and fried green tomatoes at The Southern, a bar in Chicago.
  • Grits are going gourmet. At Spoonful, Los Angeles’s hot new eatery, short ribs and grits are served with shoestring leeks, and Cajun Gulf shrimp are accented with bell pepper and onion over classic buttery grits. And at Harlem’s Red Rooster, Chef Marcus Samuelsson is bringing in crowds with items like Fish & Grits—blackened catfish, served with shrimp grits and sweet onion broth.

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