12 Restaurant Trends That Need to Die

There are restaurant trends that become staples, and then there are those that should never have become trends in the first place. Our nominees for 12 to retire in 2012:

Crabcakes
Don’t get me wrong: I love a good crabcake, skillfully made. It’s a very American dish, with deep roots in the Northeastern shoreline communities, and when constructed well (meaning without a bunch of celery chunks, julienne bell peppers, and herbs that have no business being within a thousand yards of any shellfish), crabcakes are a nearly perfect example of the idea that no dish needs more than four ingredients—one of them being fire.

What I’m tired of is the profusion of crabcakes, particularly of bad ones. Just about every restaurant imaginable has some version on its menu (most of them loosely based on the Baltimore model, rather than the historically Philly version, which comes off like a deep-fried crab croquette). There are (or were) crabcakes on the board at Fish, Oyster House and Devon Seafood Grill—and that makes sense. But they were also on the menu at the Twisted Tail (crusted with kettle chips), Fare (with avocados and sweet chili sauce), Matyson (with avocado, mango and miso-truffle aioli), Valanni (more mangoes), every steakhouse in town, almost every bar and grill, and absolutely every seafood restaurant. You see my point.

No great cuisine ever achieved greatness without the occasional culling of its weirder, more obsessive tendencies. And American cuisine (which includes Philadelphia’s) will never become great until we lose some of the deadweight, bad ideas and lazy repetition. Some other examples:

Chocolate in savory dishes
With the exception of a mole actually made over the course of three days and in accordance with a secret recipe passed down by someone’s aged abuelita, you have to be a certified genius to make chocolate work in a savory dish. We don’t have that many geniuses.

Cupcakes
The trend that refuses to die.

Gastropubs
What should you call a great bar with great beer and great food? How ’bout a great restaurant?

Sushi in non-sushi restaurants
You know why your otherwise smart and worldly friend refuses to eat sushi with you? Because you keep ordering it in restaurants known for their steaks or brilliant French cuisine.

Lobster mac-and-cheese
See “Crabcakes.”

Duck fat
It is, without a doubt, one of the most awesome items in the culinary spectrum—delicious, perfectly suited to the human palate and full of flavor. But like all great things, it’s also delicate and difficult to work with. Most cooks don’t have the faintest idea what they’re doing with it—which is why so many diners end up so disappointed with their duck-fat fries.

Bacon
You know what’s awesome? Bacon. You know what’s not? Your stupid bacon cupcakes, bacon martinis and bacon alarm clock.

Hamachi crudo
See “Sushi in non-sushi restaurants.” Also, “Crabcakes.”

Ingredient demagoguery
» I don’t care if the chef grew the squash for tonight’s entrée in his bathtub. Locally sourced, homegrown, organic and artisanal ingredients are only good if they’re good. Their curricula vitae don’t count for anything.

Complaining about Yelp
Yes, it’s a crooked, ugly train wreck of a site, with vegans bashing burger joints, juvenile idiots spouting off over things they know nothing about, and people giving five-star reviews to restaurants that haven’t even opened yet. In other words, it’s just like most of the Internet.

Sous-vide
Like masturbation, it’s been around forever. Like masturbation, no one wants to hear how often you do it.

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  • rick

    With many transient and temporal novelties,don’t worry.Time will pass them by and so should we.

  • Ed

    I am sorry, I have NEVER had a crabcake that did not have at least some shells in it. Even at top notch seafood joints. I will never order one again.

  • Angie

    and what has happened to it since Philly mag took it over

  • sophie

    All the stupid gimmmicks like duck foam and the like need to go away…now please!

  • Deane

    For the funniest take on the organic/locavore trend, watch Portlandia, Season 1 – the scene in which the couple grill the waitress for the the chicken’s P.C. biography

  • frankie

    You people are obviously the annoying uneducated “Yelpers” that ‘just don’t get it’, food that is & all the different styles in which it can be manipulated. Stop complaining. Stay at home & have you mommy’s cook for you. Stop commenting you’re no chef’s with your own restaurant. If you were, you wouldn’t be chirping away here. Get a real job.

  • Traveling foodie

    Having actually made a mole chicken dish, and it almost did take 3 days, I can say that the resto where you order it had better have a Mexican chef — or one who learned the secret of mole in Mexico.

    Otherwise, I like my chocolate straight – very dark, silky, with an occasional spatter of walnuts, pecans or almonds. I also love! crab cakes, but can rarely find one that doesn’t taste like frozen croquettes. Best ever? In New Jersey at a restaurant whose name I can’t remember! Big chunks of sweet crab, held together with feather light bechamel sauce, lightly sauteed. Flavor and texture of crab being the main idea, not the bread crumbs.

    I like to be able to identify my food – so chefs should learn to make the sauces and flavorings lightly, to enhance the food, not obliterate it. Adrienne Jones, Toronto, another foodie city