While chain restaurants try to undercut one another on price, some independents are focusing on subtler ways to set their menus and services apart. Here are three methods that could be coming in vogue.
1. Salting the bread service
The very notion might give health advocates angina, but some restaurants are encouraging customers to put aside dietary concerns and enjoy some sodium with their cholesterol. They’re shaving sea salt onto the butter or olive oil they provide with bread. Mario Batali provides the salted butter with breakfast toast at his new La Sirena in New York City. Travelle in Chicago provides a black dish of a soft, buttery spread topped with sea salt as part of its bread service. Fans say the special touch provides a simple elegance.
2. Crossing ryes and IPAs
Brewers looking to capitalize on the popularity of rye whiskey and India pale ales are bringing the two together by adding malted rye grain to their mash, according to Technomic. It reports in a new beverage trends newsletter that the beers are showing up on more menus in part because they pair well with food. It describes the taste of the brews as tangy and spicy.
3. Moving past tequila
A rebound in the popularity of tequila is clearing space behind bars for other agave-based spirits as well, Technomic observed in the same newsletter. In particular, mezcal and little-known raicilla seem to be snagging more back-bar space, the researcher said. It noted that the spirits add a note of authenticity to Mexican menus and provide a new option for thrill-seekers thirsting for novelty.