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2005 Menu Census: Regional/Ethnic

14 December 2005
2005 Menu Census: Regional/Ethnic

This article first appeared in the 1 September 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com

There may be no more pronounced trend in menu development than the urge to append the name of a city, nation or continent to a dish. An easy way to alert diners to regional or ethnic items, the trend is evident in the Big City Eats menu contractor Sodexho USA developed for employee-feeding accounts. Offerings include Austin Roadhouse Grilled Chicken, Little Havana Pork Mojo and Memphis Pulled Pork & Beans BBQ Wraps.

No U.S. city may be better represented on menus than Santa Fe, N.M., used to denote Southwestern or Tex-Mex flavor profiles. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery's Santa Fe Mini Chimi appetizer combines smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeño Jack cheese, red bell pepper and spinach in a crispy tortilla. The Santa Fe Salad at The Cheesecake Factory contains lime-marinated chicken, corn, black beans, cheese, tortilla strips, tomato, lettuce and peanut-cilantro vinaigrette. Arby's carries the trend to the QSR category with Santa Fe Salad.

Asian influences are most prevalent among fine-dining concepts, although Mediterranean (especially Italian and occasionally Greek) and Caribbean flavors are on the rise too. With intense flavors in vogue, Japanese wasabi is favored, even at steakhouses such as Prime in Las Vegas (seared tuna au poivre with wasabi mashed potatoes). Seafood specialist Joe's Stone Crab looks east with Wasabi-Macadamia Tuna Skewers served with Sunburst Chutney.

Rumjungle's menu is indicative of the pan-ethnic styles of many operations. Options include Cuban-coffee smoked ribs, Jamaican jerk-spiced chicken and Argentine-style skirt steak with chimichurri.

On the Menu

At the largest quick-service, family- and casual-dining and white-tablecloth restaurants, these are among the trends for incorporating global flavors.

Asian-Style Appetizers

Multi-ethnic Preparations
Peking duck quesadilla with chipotle sour cream, green onions and hoisin sauce. -Redeye Grill, New York City

Cajun-Spiced Pasta
Sautéed shrimp, chicken and red bell peppers tossed in Cajun Alfredo sauce. Served over fettuccine with garlic ciabatta bread. -T.G.I. Friday's, multiple locations

Seafood with Bold, Global Flavors
Atlantic Salmon from Nova Scotia grilled with Jamaican jerk spices, served with mango sauce. -Gladstone's Malibu, Los Angeles

According to R&I's 2005 Menu Census, these ethnic cuisines are the most often represented on menus:

- - On Menu
1.Mexican50%
2.Cajun/Creole34%
3.Chinese33%
4.Tex-Mex31%
5.Mediterranean26%
6.French22%
7.Greek21%
8.Caribbean20%
9.Latin American17%
10.Japanese14%
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