By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
On storylines: More food as narrative. There's a good start in that direction with Next, in Chicago, and to some extent, Eleven Madison Park, but I think you'll see more of it, and on a national scale, especially in fine dining. Fine dining is becoming increasingly "experiential," and the food served will have a more developed story behind it as restaurants seek to satisfy a growing demand for something unique. Beyond that, I think we'll start to see more of a resurgence in luxury ingredients, but in less traditional manners. Look for foie and caviar in unexpected places.
On cocktail fads: Novelty cocktail trends like barrel-aged cocktails, keg cocktails and bottled cocktails will fade away. These trends are taking us back to the "Age of Convenience" that almost led our craft to ruin. What's next? Housemade dehydrated "fresh" sour mix? It's been done. All of these ready-made beverages take away from the craft and interaction with our guests. Oh, and beer cocktails still suck.
On bar hospitality: I'd love to see bartending return to basic hospitality: greetings, eye contact, introductions and congeniality. For a true bartender, the art of conversation is just as important — if not more important — as the craft of mixology. There was a time when the bartender was a complete guide to the city, other bars and restaurants, current events, sports news, etc. Hardly any of the new generation of bartenders even cares about that aspect of our profession, because they've focused so much on the science that they've forgotten that we're serving people, not drinks.
On spirits: People's eyes will be opened to amazing lower-alcohol vermouths and fortified wines like Cocchi Americano, Lillet, Barolo Chinat and Bonal. Amaros and digestivi will continue to surge, and the Leopold Bros. Fernet will become a cult sensation. (Todd, please make more. Quickly!)
Kelly Greene, restaurant broker, David Hicks & Lampert
On this, that and the other: I predict we'll see more tacos, lots more cocktails, breakfast continuing its trendy rebound, glass garage doors, rooftop decks, "designer" pizzas, smaller portions, late-night dining options, the continuation of the craft beer movement, "comfort food" menu items like meatloaf and fried chicken, televisions everywhere, more pay-to-park or valet parking, and patios, patios, patios.
On liquid assets: I think on the cocktail side of the world, we're going to continue to see boutique craft cocktails in vogue. Green Russell and Williams & Graham are the clear leaders in this group, and I think they'll continue to be the standard-bearers. They're both incredibly innovative venues with very dynamic teams that have the skills and talent to stay ahead of the curves. Cocktail lists will become shorter, with drinks featuring fewer ingredients, but the flavors will be more precise and louder as a result.
In addition, someone is finally going to point out that a few great restaurants have a beer selection that's outpacing their offerings on the wine side. I'm still surprised that Colorado is the epicenter of crafty beer and yet many restaurant programs don't give it the respect that it deserves. I think that's going to turn around next year, and we're going to see restaurants that are focused on food, beer, wine — and possibly cocktails — on equal footing.
I really hope, too, that we're going to see smaller, more concise wine lists with a focus on truly small vigneron and smaller importers. Clients will start demanding that their wine comes from a farmer, just like their mushrooms did. Hopefully, restaurateurs will step aside from the old three-to-four-times markup as a pricing model and start focusing on putting bottles of wine on people's tables instead of relying on it as the crutch to keep the cash flow super-cushy.
Rich Byers, executive chef, The Corner Office Restaurant + Martini Bar
On casual dining: The upscale-casual concept restaurant is where it's at now. A restaurant has to be fast, good, provide lots of variety and be priced competitively. I think we'll see a lot of very good casual-dining options in the mid-range price category in 2013. I'd be surprised to see to see a lot of high-end fine-dining concepts open next year. I don't think fine dining is dead, but it's definitely different, and from the perspective of a chef, I think the evolution of people's diets and the current economy, among other factors, require us to be more versatile and smarter than before.
On rising food prices: Proteins continue to rise in price, and 2013 looks to be very inflationary based on the future of corn. Because of that, I think we'll see smaller portions of meats and the continued use of non-traditional cuts that will be powered by intense spice blends and marinades using unusual pairings of flavors.
On copycats: The quest to duplicate Chipotle continues. Everyone and their brother thinks they can be the next Steve Ells and come up with the concept that will make them millions. Whatever.
On locavorism: While I know that "local" has been the focus for a few years now, I see that branching out a little bit. I think that some of the chefs who embraced the whole locality movement at first are now seeing that local quality isn't always what it was from the previous sources. I think that possibly more of an expansion into regional areas will take hold; we've especially noticed that in beef. Colorado doesn't quite grow — or produce — enough to meet the demands of our chefs, so branching out has been accepted, especially when the quality of Nebraska/Kansas beef is very good. Really good artisans may be looked at first, with local products taking their place as second on the list. But if we can have both, that's great.
In Iowa--less emphasis on pork and booze; more emphasis on eating healthy. Pigging out and getting drunk are among the leading pastimes in Iowa.
I predicted last year that Scandinavian cuisine and more low spice/low intensity meals would come back but it didn't happen. Maybe this year.