As we slide into the unofficial start of summer, operators continue to open new concepts (and expand existing ones) to lure consumers and their wallets.
Here’s a look at new and soon-to-open operations worth scouting wherever your summer travels lead.
1. Veg-focused dining
Chicago’s newest veggie-centric (though not entirely vegetarian) full-service restaurant is Clever Rabbit. The restaurant offers some meat and fish, but the focus is on plant-based dishes like carrot dumplings, Neapolitan pizza and hearty salads. The cocktail menu includes a carrot margarita. The 92-seat space also has a 50-seat patio. There’s a moss wall and metallic chandeliers. The move to put vegetables on the center of the plate aligns with consumers’ demands for meat-free dishes. Some 59% of consumers say they eat a meatless meal at least once a week, according to Technomic’s2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report.
2. Amsterdam-inspired food hall
Dam (pronounced “dahm”) Park, a 6,000-square-foot public market, is launching in San Diego, with several food and drink concepts inside. The space will include Le Parfait Paris, a French bakery, as well as Buona Forchetta (Italian) and Mama Made Thai. Da Boot Bar, with a bar made from the hull of a boat, will serve cocktails, wine and beer. On the second story, Daarboven will feature a gin-heavy cocktail menu as well as live music and pop-up food sellers. It’s expected there will be 200 food halls in the U.S. by 2020, more than twice the current number, according to a new report from Phillips Edison & Company.
3. Casino gets a tapas twist
Veracruz is one of several new restaurants entering Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. The menu focuses on seafood, including tuna tartare nachos and the signature Snapper Veracruz. The restaurant offers many shareable small plates, such as five types of ceviches. Communal tables go along with the cuisine’s social focus. Also new to the resort are AC Burger Co., Coastal Craft Kitchen + Bar and, from Guy Fieri, Sammich Shop and Pin-Up Pizza, according to Atlantic City Weekly.
4. Poke craze shows no signs of slowing
Aloha Poke, a Chicago-based fast casual, is expanding west. The build-your-own-bowl concept recently announced plans to enter a new, 25,000-square-foot food hall in Denver later this year. Denver is already home to at least 10 other poke concepts, according to Eater.
5. Another high-end chef goes fast casual
Los Angeles chef Mark Peel is debuting Prawn, a seafood-focused fast-casual spot at the city’s Grand Central Market. Peel’s menu includes grain bowls, fish and chips and seafood sandwiches. Prawn also serves beer and wine. Eater reports that Prawn is already slated to expand to Pasadena, Calif., later this year.
6. Hotel dining’s renaissance continues
We recently reported on the batch of innovative concepts going into hotels. Here’s one more to add to the list: the Albert, at Chicago’s new Hotel EMC2, focuses on seasonal, globally-inspired fare. The 120-seat space features a glass chandelier-like centerpiece sculpture called “the infusary,” which stores and pours housemade infused liquors. The Albert (named after Einstein, of course) also has a 20-seat chef’s table.