Menu trends to watch in 2021

Currently, guisada, birria, fried chicken are hot

Some consumers want to experience a culinary journey they can’t create in their own kitchens, while for others, food is functional. Restaurant operators need the business of those who. About 78 percent of Millennial consumers say that restaurants serve foods that provide flavor and taste sensations that can’t easily duplicate at home, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry report.


According to the “Trend Forecasting 2021” issue of Foodbytes by Datassential, , guisada is a menu item to watch. The deep-flavored stew-style meat can be enjoyed solo or in tacos, recommends the trend-tracking firm. At Republic Cantina on N Street, the versatile carne guisada is featured on three different menu items: on the Cantina Pupusa, guests can add guisada to make it Texan-style. The Taco Nortena comes with carne guisada, grilled onion, avocado, and melty chihuahua cheese. The house Chile con Queso comes with carne guisada, guacamole, and pico de gallo.


Also a hot menu trend, identified in Yelp’s top trends of 2020, Birria, is a spicy stewed meat made from goat, beef or mutton, originating in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The rate of review mentions for Birria jumped 228 percent in 2020. Yelp notes that Birria dishes have found additional homes beyond tacos: variations like “birria quesadillas, fondly called ‘quesabirria,’ and birria pizza” are cropping up..


Growing taco concepts Taco Rock and Taco Bamba carry Birria on their menus. At Taco Rock, Birria Tacos feature braised beef, melted cheese, onion, cilantro, guacamole, and beef consomme for dipping. Birria Tacos are one of the most popular dishes at Taco Rock’s newest location in Alexandria. At the Taco Bamba chain started by Chef Victor Albisu, the Birria Tacos feature onion and cilantro in a corn tortilla.

Fried Chicken with a twist

As pandemic consumers seek to indulge in comfort foods, fried chicken is having more than a moment. It has become a top comfort food that appears in a range of restaurant segments. Fried chicken’s popularity shows no signs of dissipating, so restaurant operators that don’t carry it should seriously reconsider. Those who already feature fried chicken, can create excitement by switching things up.

Variations on style, preparation and inspiration, especially on a rotating basis, offer ways to bring back customers and perk up appeal. Asian fried chicken has forged a pathway for unconventional creativity. According to Yelp, the rate of reviews for Korean fried chicken increased 28 percent last year. Korean fried chicken follows a time-honored method of double-frying. Washington-area independent restaurant operators, who have a deep creativity that is often unmatched, should consider tweaking this this style of fried chicken for their menus.


Spicy fried chicken is an additional notable trend, according to Yelp. Review mentions of Nashville Fried Chicken increased 60 percent in 2020. Bantam King in DC has embraced this trend, and is offering a Nashville Fried Chicken Plate, consisting of chicken prepared in a savory dunk & spice mix and served with a side of steamed rice topped with chicken drippings, tamari and butter.

Restaurants that stand out and engage customers have much to gain by monitoring these trends, particularly as every sales dollar counts so much currently. These foods are packed with flavor, sought-after by consumers, and very Instagram-worthy. As they compete in a digital world, with food offerings that must stand out online and on social media, restaurant operators should consider adopting some of these menu trends.

This article appears in the winter issue of District Restaurant News, a digital publication dedicated to local restaurant operators in the Washington, DC area. To catch the latest version, navigate here.

To learn more about the publisher of this restaurant news site, navigate here.

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