Now that we’re a couple of weeks into 2014, it’s always fun to speculate on what the next year holds in store. The Twin Cities’ dining scene continues to be vibrant and full of fun, delicious and unique food options. With so many innovative chefs around town, there’s no reason to think we won’t continue to grow as a diner destination in the upper Midwest. Dara decided to take a moment and look into her “Foodie Crystal Ball” and share her top 5 trends to look for in 2014!
Restaurant closings, a phrase as common in the industry as “did you want fries with that?” The turnover that is seen in restaurants can be staggering at times. While we don’t like to start a new year with a Debbie-Downer topic, there’s only so much room for those going out to eat. By Dara’s count, the Twin Cities will add over 1,500 new seats for good dining options this year. That’s a lot of seats (not counting chains) and who is going to fill those? Well, if you’re a struggling restaurant, you better watch out for the new places. And new places better start with their act together. The competition is intense. It’s a brutal fact and if you aren’t filling seats, someone else probably is.
Brewing Boom and Distilling Too!
We’ve covered it in this space a few times and it’s been all over the place in 2013….Minneapolis-St. Paul is a hotbed of craft beer brewing. Dangerous Man, Indeed, 612 Brew, Fulton, Lucid, Steel Toe and on and on and on, beer drinkers delighted in the options given to them in 2013. The Twin Cities are officially loaded with Tap Rooms and brews to be sipped and savored year round. It’s not just the Twin Cities either as Duluth is crazy for craft beer and there are little breweries popping up everywhere from Mankato to Bemidji. You hear about Oregon, Colorado and Michigan being the top places to find craft brews but if Minnesota isn’t on that short-list, in 2014 it will be. Start being on the lookout for new beers from Fair State, Burning Brothers (Gluten-Free Beer!!!), Day Block Brewing, the first female owned brewery Urban Growler and many more.
You can also add distilling to the list because now you can get your spirits made locally. Panther is trying to become Minnesota’s first Bourbon Whiskey distillery. 11 Wells Distillery, Fair North, Isanti Spirits, Vikre Distillery, Du Nord Craft Spirits, Norseman, Loon Liquors are all up and running and that’s just the start. No doubt that in 2014 you’ll see many options to fill your cup along with your plate!
Chefs Moving to the Southwest Suburbs
It’s not just downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul anymore. South Minneapolis has so many amazing restaurants now, you wonder where there’s room for more. Places such as downtown Robbinsdale have become destinations (thank you Travail). What’s next? Dara thinks you should look to the southwest. Edina, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Orono and Excelsior are next. With the wealthy neighborhoods just waiting for great restaurants, look for some hot new spots to pop up soon. Dara’s already in the loop on two new restaurants in Excelsior and there’s sure to be more on the way. Let’s just face it, there is way too much money in those communities to not have a laundry list of great restaurants.
Alternative Grains Plus Fast-Casual-Healthy
It’s possible you can’t spell or pronounce Quinoa but you’ve probably eaten it. Listen, we all know you don’t go out to eat dinner so you can be “healthy”. But really, this is a good time to start changing that thinking. So many places now offer Gluten-Free menus and other ways to cater to specific nutrition needs for their diners. This is going to grow. Chefs are now looking to healthier, ancient grains such as Quinoa, Farro, Spelt and more. Dishes with healthy grains are popping up on menus all across the Twin Cities.
Along with that, the Fast-Healthy-Casual restaurants are coming. You can still go to Chipotle. But maybe this time, you’ll choose the Burrito Bowl with, GASP, Kale! Yes, new ways to incorporate healthy choices into your fast food. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Bar Ingredients Move Into the Kitchen
What does that mean? Good question. In an effort to increase flavor, change flavors, attempt new concepts in old ways of cooking, you’ll start to see the bar move into the kitchen. Cooking beef or chicken made with wine or beer is fairly common but how about whiskey? Maybe bitters flavoring fish and veggies? The spice pantry will grow along with that. New flavors to dance on your taste buds isn’t a bad thing. Once the alcohol cooks off, the flavors in those liquors will concentrate and bring a whole new profile to food. If you haven’t had anything like that yet, stay tuned. 2014 will probably bring a bar into a kitchen near you!