From custom matchbooks fit for your dinner party to exciting restaurant collaborations to savory pints of ice cream, dining trends for 2023 ran the gamut from delightful to perplexing to... maybe simply bad. As always, Eater spent the year chronicling the trends hitting restaurant menus, TikTok, and culture at large (Pasta Girl Fall, anyone?), but here’s a look back at the worst of the bunch, according to Eater’s experts:
What were the worst food and dining trends of the year?
As Eater pointed out in October, maximalism was big in 2023. And while I’m all for loosening the tie and kicking back in slightly wacky dining rooms, that urge for maximalism often resulted in spaces and menus that appeared to be designed for literal babies. Would I, an adult, like to eat my dinner while seated in a gigantic neon green hand? No. If I were a baby, however, I would love it. Instead of a regular pepper grinder, would I perhaps prefer one that is three-feet tall? Again, no, but if I were a tiny baby, yes. Would I like a shot delivered to me on a cup affixed to a Hot Wheel? I am old enough to legally drink, so the answer is again no. Were I somewhere between a newborn child and a preschooler, sign me up. All of those gimmicks and so many others actually appeared in restaurants in 2023. Next year, if we want to make restaurants more fun, let’s make them more fun for grown-ups. — Jonathan Smith, interim senior editor
TikTok has birthed many unfortunate food trends, but I think chief among them has to be the “sexy” food guys, those videos in which men with abs do unspeakable things to food. The peak (or low point, rather) of this trend has got to be this video in which a deep-V-wearing muscled man violates dough as he makes a set of festive Halloween doughnuts. I can’t make it make sense. — Monica Burton, deputy editor
It is not the worst trend, but I feel us coming upon the precipice of Too Much Olive. Between martinis having a moment and them showing up in cakes and Jell-O shots, I worry we’re on the path to them being thrown in everything by less careful and creative chefs, and then everyone getting sick of them, and then a backlash. Which would be silly, since olives are great and we should all be able to enjoy them. What can we do to save olives from this future? — Jaya Saxena, correspondent
I thought it would end with the Stanley: that we would agree, hey, here’s one really great, indestructible cup for drinking water and we’d buy one or two and gift a couple, because water really doesn’t need to be so complicated or so expensive, right? Well, that was naive of me. As if the Stanley collectors on my feeds, with a cup in literally every color, weren’t enough, I’m now constantly being pushed “better” alternative bottles, like the one from Owala, with its sippy spout. I’m begging us all to confront the fact that what we have is enough, and that nobody really cares if your Stanley matches your seasonal color scheme or whatever. — Bettina Makalintal, senior reporter
WaterTok. Water “recipes” are not a thing that should exist, especially if they involve 14 different types of sugar-free syrup. — Amy McCarthy, staff writer
Paying for restaurant reservations is pretty rank: Let’s make dining out even more stressful and inaccessible! That said, this is a problem that tends to affect only those intent on going to buzzy restaurants, so in this, the hottest year in recorded history, I’m saving my true ire for bad food trends of a more global nature, namely the continuing inability of countries in the Global North to cut back on our meat consumption, and the livestock industry’s concomitant bloated influence on policymaking. The average American continues to eat an annual 264 pounds of meat while the world literally burns, and that has a way of putting things like fighting for restaurant reservations in perspective. — Rebecca Flint Marx, Home editor