Food Trends 2021

So, many of the Food Trends for this year were hard to predict since COVID wasn’t over in January 2021, when my Food Trends 2021 article was published. Well, COVID isn’t over yet, especially with the delta variant, but many of the Food Trends we’re now seeing were definitely created by the Pandemic.

  • Scannable Menus. My husband and I went to a Noodle Bar in South Miami, pre-Pandemic, where you scanned the menu on your phone, ordered on your phone and paid on your phone. We thought, at the time, it was a little too high-tech, difficult and impersonal. Two years later, post-Pandemic, it seems genius. Scannable menus are not going away, but now, luckily, a lot of restaurants give you the option of the good, old-fashioned hard copies, as well.
  • Rising Restaurant Prices. For those restaurants lucky enough to survive the Pandemic, something had to give for all those months of either being shut down or just doing take out. Many restaurants have raised prices for their menu items, in order to compensate for the unprecedented disruption.
  • Limited Menus. Along the same vein, some restaurants eliminated menu items that didn’t make them much money and kept the money makers, thereby cutting down on menu choices.
  • Upscale Restaurants in Museums. Remember when, if you were famished after visiting a museum, you were stuck with a restaurant that served cafeteria-like food, where you had to wait in line to order and ended up with a stale-bread sandwich or watery soup? Those days are gone, with very important chefs opening restaurants in museums all over the United States. Shown below is Leku, housed in the Rubell Museum in Allapattah. Verde, in the Perez Art Museum, is another upscale, desirable restaurant following this trend.
  • Automatic Gratuity. I think we all appreciate the servers and food workers in the restaurant industry a lot more since the Pandemic occured. I sometimes took their work for granted and have tried to tip higher in the aftermath of COVID. I tipped 25% on a recent lunch, only to discover afterwards that the restaurant had already added a 20% gratuity to the check. I have no problem with an automatic gratuity at restaurants, but just think they should let you know so you don’t double tip (no wine was involved at this lunch).
  • Pantry Meals. Similar to cooking after a hurricane, many of us found ways to cook during the Pandemic with staples stocked in our pantry to avoid frequent (and potentially hazardous) trips to the grocery store. Did you say Tuna Casserole again?
  • Instacart is King. Many of us discovered how easy it is to simply go to our computers and order food online, a trend that is unlikely to die out entirely. One rainy day, when I had zero desire to trek to Publix, I realized I could Instacart my groceries. My day was saved! I especially like Instacart for Cotsco. Instacarting for Total Wine proved too dangerous for this household.
  • Ghost Kitchens. These are kitchens that use under-used urban spaces, such as parking lots, and house truck-trailers to prepare meals for various restaurant’s delivery service. It’s a less expensive way of preparing food and is set up to get food to diners more quickly. REEF, a Miami-based technology ghost kitchen startup recently raised 1 billion dollars to set up Ghost Kitchens in Miami, so you know it’s a real thing.
  • Vegan/Vegetarian Food. This trend shows no sign of dying, but has only gotten bigger with the introduction of meat alternatives, such as Beyond and Impossible meat substitutes. Also, restaurants now realize a boring Veggie Plate won’t cut it to appeal to the growing expanse of diners who want to increase their vegetable intake. Restaurants like Planta Queen in Coconut Grove offering dishes like Watermelon Sushi, Mushroom Bao Buns and Crispy Vegetable Dumplings, make trying veggies an exciting, rather than boring, experience.
  • Earthy Ingredients. Mushrooms, Roots and Herbs are making a splash these days. In keeping with the vegan theme, but getting more into the earth that we all live on, and rely on, these ingredients are taking center stage.

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

The Who.
  • Plant Jerky. See above. Jerky, that chewy, beefy, unami treat, is reappearing in Vegan form with jerky being created out of coconut, mushroom and eggplant. Sounds interesting and not a Slim Jim around.
  • Carb Alternatives. I’ve tried Keto and will never do it again, yet I do find myself searching for carb alternatives, such as Hearts of Palm pasta and Cauliflower Pizza Crust, because I think it’s healthier to incorporate plant-based foods into my diet. So rather than a total, cold turkey nuking of carbs, I’m slowly leaning into more veggies and/or beans and leaning out of white flour and sugar.
  • Milk Alternatives. Why is dairy suddenly evil? I’m not sure, but I have been trying to eat less dairy, especially in my morning coffee. I tried Almond Milk, but it tasted like white water in my coffee. I now am using Oat Milk sometimes, which is better than Almond, creamier and sort of sweet, but it also has a slightly soapy taste to me. I will, however, never give up cheese because life is too short and Vegan Cheese too bad.

Speaking of trends, I made a Banana Bread for a Girl’s Weekend in the Keys recently. I had remembered there was a good, “healthy” one in an old Jane Fonda cookbook I had called Cooking for Healthy Living. When I looked it up, it had NO FAT at all in it (because fat was evil at the time), but tons of White Flour and Sugar. Just goes to show, what we thought was bad back in the ’90’s, is now being embraced by popular diets like Keto. What I do know for sure (channeling my inner Oprah) is that the Global Pandemic we all went through, has affected our lives in many ways, including what, how and where we eat.

Up Next: A cell phone doesn’t belong at the Dinner Table!

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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