Over It: The Food Trends We'd 86

Whether outdated or just plain obnoxious, these are the culinary trends we find as sad and unappealing as a pile of zoodles.

Vicky Wasik

Everything becomes popular for a reason—high-waisted pants are flattering, little kids flossing on the jumbotron at sports games are cute, and who can resist a twangy country-trap track that samples Nine Inch Nails and expresses a longing to get away from it all with a couple of horses in tow?

The problem is, some trends just seem oblivious to that music playing them off, and the food world offers plenty of examples. It doesn't help that our social media–governed lives drive many of us to post photos of everything we eat online, providing incentive for the creation of foods that look a lot better than they taste, or edible monstrosities that exist mainly for their shock value.

But a food trend doesn't have to be grossly offensive to be bothersome; just...tired. Exhausted, in some cases. If it seems like a large portion of this list could have been written two, three, or even five years ago, that's a testament to how stubbornly these once-hot notions have clung to relevancy. Here are the ingredients, dishes, and restaurant features we'd happily show the door.

Stella Parks, Pastry Wizard

Black truffle oil. Look, we get it—you have no idea how to make macaroni and cheese taste good. Try using better-quality cheese, okay? It's not 2005 anymore; you can bump up your check average with cans of rosé instead. Let French fries be French fries, bro.

Sho Spaeth, Features Editor

  • Tonkotsu ramen is boring even when it's good, and it's often bad.
  • American "izakaya" (they're not izakaya).
  • It's more of an indictment of an entire nation's tastes than a trend, but the complete list of edible fish is not "salmon, tuna."

Maggie Lee, UX Designer

Cashless restaurants are wack. This discriminatory practice may offer some benefits to business operations, but mostly it just signals to people who rely on cash, and are already economically vulnerable, that their kind isn't welcome. It's lazy to use the rationalization that "the unbanked" are not typical fine-dining patrons, since many cashless establishments are fast-casual lunch joints and bare-bones cafés. And, since the majority of customers pay by card anyway, I see no extreme difficulty with taking cash for a few transactions each hour. I am glad to see that some cities have decided to ban the practice.

Grace Chen, Office Manager and Associate Podcast Producer

A head of cauliflower sitting next to a chef's knife on a wooden board
J. Kenji López-Alt

Cauliflower rice. Cauliflower pizza. Cauliflower gnocchi. Cauliflower mac and cheese. Soon everything from pencils to skyscrapers will be made of cauliflower, too. Once just a mere cousin to broccoli, cauliflower has now risen to form its own powerful dynasty, and it must be stopped.

Elazar Sontag, Assistant Editor

I'm all for cooking from scratch, and I'm a huge fan of restaurants that make nearly every element of every dish themselves. But mayonnaise and ketchup should never, ever be homemade. Yeah, sure, "house-made ketchup" is a nice thing to be able to print on your menu, but it's really never as good as the stuff that's 50% sugar. I'd place bets that even in restaurants where chefs are making their own condiments, they pull out the Hellmann's and Heinz for staff meal—as they should.

Sasha Marx, Senior Culinary Editor

  • Micro-green garnishes. Dishes that use them look dated, and that cutesy micro basil or cilantro usually ends up in a wilted, sad heap as it steams on the way to the table. Micros also cost a lot more than full-grown herbs, and most of the time don’t taste like much.
  • Zoodles and their spiralized siblings. Don’t try to sell me on a bowl of soggy, limp vegetables. I’m all set.
  • Hard seltzer. Any trend that Four Loko gets in on is bad news.

Yasmine Maggio, Social Media Intern

Pumpkin spice–flavored everything. I’m here for the fall enthusiasm, and I’ll allow the pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin bread, but it has to stop there. Pumpkin spice salsa. Pumpkin spice kale chips. Pumpkin spice Spam. It's truly gotten out of hand. Just give me plain old cinnamon, which was always meant to be the one true fall spice.

Kristina Bornholtz, Social Media Editor

A wooden tray of fresh orange uni (sea urchin roe) on a wooden surface
J. Kenji López-Alt

I'm over uni. It's not sustainable, and it doesn't taste that good. Sorry!

Miranda Kaplan, Senior Editor

Square has made it a lot easier for small food businesses to take credit cards, and that's dandy, but it also subtly pressures you into tipping on transactions that would formerly never be thought to entail gratuities. Tipping is a really poor system in the first place for ensuring that people get paid decently—which is not to say I don't tip! I do, but it's a terrible system, just like the health insurance that I regularly pay into!—and it's awkward to be confronted with that tip-option screen every time I pay for someone to spend five seconds pouring me a cup of drip coffee, and to know that they're going to see whether I chose to tip or not. The logical end of all this is tipping hyperinflation and massive pent-up resentment between customers and service professionals. For the love of god, let's just start paying all food-service employees a living wage instead of forcing everyone to participate in this ludicrous charade.

Okay, and just one more thing, which is unfortunately probably less "annoying trend" by now and more "permanent feature of dining out": I'm endlessly bitter over café-height restaurant tables, a.k.a. high-tops. So you're saying I can have all the discomfort of sitting on a stool, with none of the conviviality of eating at the bar? Spend my whole meal deciding whether to perch on the extreme edge of the chair, thereby reaching my food easily but pinching myself in some very uncomfortable places, or lean back and just observe my meal from a distance instead of eating it? Hoping against hope that I don't drop a credit card or pen on the floor? Sign me up! When I was pregnant, I actively avoided certain restaurants based on the likelihood that I'd be seated at a high-top; getting in and out of a regular chair is hard enough when you have a beach ball where your belly used to be.

Daniel Gritzer, Managing Culinary Director

Salad mixes. I won't judge all the tired and overworked souls out there who just need an easy way to get some greens in their diet; we all do what we gotta do. But in "nice" restaurants? Are you f***ing kidding me? When a server delivers a plate that's absentmindedly piled with limp and lifeless greens, a few rotten and slimy strands clinging to the undersides of some sturdy tatsoi leaves, I want to scream, Is there no love? Any chef passing that crap off as a salad should pack up their knives and find a new career.

Ariel Kanter, Director of Commerce

Vicky Wasik

Avocados have got to go. On toast, in salads, with a scoop of cottage cheese in the pit hole, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. I'm tired of their healthy fats and ubiquity. Every time someone tells me how much they love avocados, a little piece of my soul dies.

And it's not the texture; it's the taste! Does anyone else think that avocados taste a little metallic? Is my mouth broken? That's the only reason I can think of for why everyone in my life loves avocados and I just can't get on board. Or maybe everyone else's mouths are broken. Either way, it's time to retire the avocado and start worshipping some other, more deserving vegetable.

John Mattia, Video Editor

I don’t like this trend of using the word protein in a dining context to mean "meat and meat substitutes." Just call it "meat." Shrimp is meat. Fish is meat. Seitan is meat. Tofu is meat!