Dining Trends NYC: What We Love & Hate (2024)

When it comes to dining trends in NYC, they change rapidly, mirroring the city’s fast-paced nature. What’s popular one moment might disappear the next.

However, trends often come back around cyclically. For example, French cuisine was trendy in the mid-20th century, then replaced by Japanese and other cuisines, only to see a resurgence of French fare today. Similarly, automat-style dining, popular in the early 1900s, is making a comeback in some areas.

Whether you embrace or dislike these trends, change is inevitable. Read along for our list on dining trends we’re currently loving…and others not so much. Special thanks to our expert guides and some chefs for weighing in.

Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree!

nyc dining trends
Remember when you couldn’t walk into any deli or bagel shop without seeing rainbow bagels? Photo credit: Bex Walton

NYC dining trends we love

Fiery foods

For adventurous eaters who get a rush from singeing their taste buds, there are now ample ways to sweat through a meal.

“I’m excited about all the restaurants serving food that’s as fiery as it’s supposed to be while courting serious diners, unapologetically amping up the heat, to steal a turn-of-phrase from the Dhamaka folks, letting timid palates know they’ll be better off taking their business elsewhere,” says Food writer Jay Cheshes.

“It’s not just the Indians sticking to their hot chili guns in New York these days. Korean chefs are earning Michelin stars while piling on the kimchi, serious Thai restaurants, like Thai Diner and Ugly Baby (407 Smith St.) and a slew of new spots I haven’t tried yet, seem to be enjoying watching their patrons sweat.”

bowl of kimchi
NYC’s hot dining scene: Where spicy kimchi dishes are center stage. Photo credit: Charles Haynes

Luxury bar bites

There once was a time when eating at the bar of a restaurant meant an inferior dining experience. Not anymore. Super luxury bar bites at upscale bars are totally in. And for wine and food writer, Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave, this is a very welcome dining trend in NYC.

Case in point: The new cocktail bar Shinji’s, serves a foie gras sidecar. “The foie gras garnish comes on the side of the Sidecar martini sitting on a little wafer,” she said. “And a sushi chef rolls a small table to your table and assembles a hand roll filled with caviar and he tops it off with more caviar.”

Two people sit at a bar behind a restaurant
Grabbing a quick bite to eat at the bar can be a complete gourmet experience. Photo credit: Luca Bravo

Plant-based everything

Every generation looks back at the opinions and assumptions of our grandparents and cringes. “I can’t believe they thought that,” they say. “That’s so uncivilized.”

Likely, future generations will look back at early 21st-century humans and condemn us eating so many animals. And so it’s no surprise that much of the world is moving to more of a plant-based diet.

Vegetarianism is no longer for hippies and Deadheads. It’s in vogue and it’s here to stay (and grow, like a wild, delicious plant—pun intended). The fact that the newly minted vegan eatery Eleven Madison Park retained its three Michelin stars this year and that lauded vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy finally got a Michelin star, is testament to this.

veggies on a plate with a sauce on top
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are impressing more than ever with Michelin-worthy dishes. Photo credit: maka food

Perennial small plates

Tapas hit the United States in a big way about 15 or so years ago and then gave way to other dining trends. But the small plates, whether Spanish or another cuisine, are more popular than ever.

Three glasses of red wine on a table among several small tapas-style dishes.
Sharing small plates is a wonderful way to try new dishes with friends.

“I’ve always loved tapas, both the flavors of Spanish food and the fun of trying all kinds of things in one meal,” said food and travel writer Paola Singer, “so I love that small plates are now served in so many restaurants.”

Seafood towers

“I love: seafood towers, the ultimate in abundance,” said Kathleen Squires, a food columnist for the Wall Street Journal. “They are light and luxurious at the same time, making any meal feel like a celebration. I love when chefs get creative with them and include extras like ceviche, caviar and fish pates.”

bowls filled with different types of seafood
Seafood towers are particularly popular in coastal spots like New York City, Boston, and San Francisco. Photo credit: Lou Stejskal

Tinned fish

“I’m very much enjoying the tinned fish trend,” says food writer Gabriella Gershenson, editor at Wirecutter and co-author of Love Japan.

“In general, I love any trend that elevates food that was previously considered unsexy. Sardines, razor clams, sprats, I’m here for them all—or at least most of them. All you need is some butter, toast, and a spritz of lemon and you have a meal.” She adds: “And it has us eating the right kind of fish. So many tinned varieties are sustainable and low on the food chain.”

Tinned fish
Tinned fish is more in style in the USA than perhaps ever before. Photo credit: Alpha

NYC dining trends we hate

Ordering all at once

When I’m dining with a few or more friends and we figure out a selection of starters to order first, so that we can nurse our wine or cocktails and peruse the menu, it’s a record scratch across the heavens on my dining joy when the server utters this sentence: “Chef prefers the table order everything at once.”

This NYC dining trends has grown since the pandemic. It sends the wrong message to the diner, and right at the beginning of the meal: that while we love having you as a guest, we only love it so much because we can’t get you out of here soon enough so that we can tell the next table that they shouldn’t plan on lingering too long, either. Before you know it, they’re bringing you the check (before you asked) and they’re seating the next party at your table.

Madrid Tapas & Wine Tour
Cheers to places that don’t make you order all at once!

Instagram as a restaurant website

If the reason for a restaurant website is to help the diner to, say, browse the menu ahead of time, learn the opening hours, and perhaps read a bit more about the concept of the restaurant, then the emerging trend of new restaurants solely relying on Instagram pages, rather than providing a comprehensive website with essential information, is both a headache and a fail.

picture of a restaurant's website
If you can’t give us paper menus, at least give us a functioning website (instead of just Instagram!).

The persistence of QR codes

The heavy use of QR codes in replace of menus during the pandemic was understandable. But now that things have “regained normaly,” it’s looking like these types of menu are still sticking around…to the frustration of many.

People love holding a physical menu, and QR codes can be subject to issues when there are glitches in the apps or the restaurant has bad cell connection.

table with qr menu stand and plant
It’s looking like QR code menus are here to stay. Photo credit: Marco Verch

Honey on pizza

“I hate the honey on pizza trend,” said Kathleen Squires, a food columnist for the Wall Street Journal “It’s the biggest blasphemy put on pizza since pineapple. Pizza should not be sweet. Spicy, salty, tangy—sure. Sweet, just no.”

slice of pizza with veggies and honey
Is honey on pizza the new pinapple on pizza? Photo credit: Pablo Macedo

Wellness overload

Like “Mindfulness,” these days you can’t click on a link without seeing the word “wellness.” Chef Alex Raij, who is the co-owner and co-chef of a handful of great restaurants in New York City, including La Vara, Txichito, and Saint Julivert Fisherie, says, “I’m not much for trends, but I’m a little turned off by the cloaking of everything in wellness.”

She adds: “There is this kind of suggestion of purity around it that sort of undermines the pursuit of flavor. It feels more concerned with packaging and image and linking it to cosmetics and ‘self care’ in ways that require an unrealistic investment of time and money. It just feels like an extension of the cosmetic industry.”


Want to try some of New York’s most amazing restaurants? From discovering the best foodie haunts in Greenwich Village to checking out the historic eateries in the Lower East Side, our local tour guides will show you the best of NYC’s food scene.