When Food Trends Get Out of Control


OK, so I haven't actually had the Korean tacos from the truck that started it all, but I've made some pretty mean kimchi quesadillas using their recipe (it's got sesame seeds and shiso, yum!), and had a killer off-the-menu bulgogi-hoagie at the Broadway Café in Detroit. I've even stuck cooked kalbi into soft corn tortillas with good results.

The problem comes when a great idea becomes such a big trend that the concept itself begins to trump the execution and the number of bad interpretations start to creep up on the good.

Case in point: Ducks Eatery in SPiN, a few blocks away from our office. The menu sure looks interesting: Korean Tacos ($9.50) with beef short rib, soybean aioli, oyster kimchi, cilantro and lime sound good, until you actually bite into one. Grisly, underseasoned meat, and dull, flat aioli. Even a giant pile of kimchi can't save the thing from the depths of blandness the meat sinks too. The Lamb Taco ($10.50) similarly manages to pack a bafflingly long list of ingredients—cumin, mint, pickled strawberries and cucumber, whole stem-on parsley leaves, and mung bean sprouts—into a sloppy, ill-conceived package completely devoid of flavor besides "blugh." You've really got to try hard to make such ridiculously overwrought, underthought food.

When looking at the menu and eating the food, you get the distinct feeling that it was designed by a PR firm without the consultation of a chef. Trendy, sure, but completely, astoundingly amateur in preparation.

It's not like we haven't seen this happen before. In New York alone, Fusion sushi long ago underwent the transition from fun to passé to downright bad. The Cupcake Stop truck took uninspired cupcakes mobile. Rickshaw Dumplings brought street food to new levels of mediocrity. Maggie sampled about 15 mac and cheeses for her epic Mac & Cheese roundup, but only half of them were worth the calories.

Of course, all this is not to say that there isn't great fusion sushi, cupcakes, dumplings, or mac and cheese in the city—far from it! Only that there comes a watershed phase in the life of every trend in which the concept begins to wrest control from the flavor, and that's the stage at which we'd like it to stop, please.

What other trends have you noticed jump ship recently?