food and beverage

Restaurant Cuisine: The Most Popular Regional Fare & Global Flavors

We all know that hyper-local regional restaurant cuisine has seen growing demand along with unique, ethnic-inspired seasonings. But it’s a big world with a lot of flavors, so where does one start when they want to offer their guests what they’re craving?

Let’s look at what today’s customers search for when deciding where their next meal will be.

Authentic Food

As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” Chefs embracing this ancient wisdom are finding popularity among today’s restaurantgoers. The hunt is on for those who are embracing their culture and upbringing, from traditional cooking methods to the flavors that they grew up with as a child. 

And the Winner Is

In January 2024, Datassential surveyed SupHerb Farms. Their goal was to determine what global flavors various generations were drawn to. 

  • Gen Z (12-27 years old in 2024): A Diner Trends Report found that 37% of Gen Zers try a new restaurant weekly, at minimum. So, how do you appeal to this generation? Over 60% are drawn to Korean food. Bold, hot, and spicy Korean barbeque is gaining traction along with Gochujang, a Korean fermented pepper paste. The flavor profile includes salty, sweet, and umami. According to NPR, in 2023, two of the 12 new Michelin stars awarded in New York went to Korean restaurants.
  • Millennials (28-43 years old in 2024): According to Gitnux, Millennials spend about 44% of their food dollars on eating out. Dataessential’s survey found that about 44% of those going out enjoy Vietnamese food. Chefs from the Northern reaches of Vietnam tend to focus on fresh herbs, chilies, limes, and garlic. Conversely, Hue cuisine is known for its red, rich, spicy sauce and a variety of steamed dumplings. Millennials also enjoy Cuban and Indian dishes.
  • Gen Xers: (44 – 59 years old in 2024): About half of Gex X lean toward Thai food when eating at or picking up food from a restaurant. Southern Thai cuisine shares flavors with Indonesia and Malaysia, its next-door neighbors. It includes incorporating kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. In the central region, ingredients like galangal, garlic, chilies, and shrimp paste are popular.
  • Boomers: (60-77 years old in 2024): A whopping 71% of boomers enjoy Italian food when going out to eat. One interesting trend is the Italian culinary crossovers which blend global influences with traditional Italian fare. An example is Wafu, which combines Japanese and Italian cuisines. 

Another fusion cuisine is bulgogi, a Korean food with grilled meat enhanced by Italian buffalo mozzarella and truffles. Nduja, a spicy, spreadable salami that hails from a small town in the Calabria region, and Apulian burrata, a delicious stretched, cured cheese from Southern Italy’s Apulia region, are also top runners. Additional cuisines that appeal to Boomers are Mexican and Chinese. Is there a fusion blend of Mexican and Italian? Of course, there is! Think Mexican lasagna and chicken marsala burrito.

The other checkbox that these foods mark is that many of these dishes are not usually made at home, a feature today’s restaurantgoers appreciate. The new, the different, and the experiential will win today’s diners over. 

The Hottest New Restaurants Offering Unique Flavor Profiles

Recently Club Enologique came out with the hottest new restaurants in May 2024. One of the leaders was Demo in New York. Described as “Eclectic European,’ you’ll find tuna and beef tongue tonnato and the classic Parisian lobster. 

Agora in London leans toward Greek and Levantine wood-fired cuisine, the latter of which is classic Palestinian. In Edinburgh, you’ll find Ardfern, a cafe, bar, and bottle shop that offers items like handmade pies, fired duck eggs, and langoustine rosti, a dish made with small crustaceans similar to lobsters.

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