Jan 13, 2016 - Food and Drink

9 food trends to watch in 2016 and where to find them now in Charlotte

John's Country Kitchen

John’s Country Kitchen

Each year, restaurant associations and consultants release their predictions for the top food trends to watch in the coming months. According to the National Restaurant Association, kale salads, quinoa, coconut water and gluten-free foods are so 2015. Here are some of the food trends to watch in 2016 and where to find them in Charlotte.

Acai bowls

Butter Bro bowl Rico's Acai

Acai bowls are a creamy blend of frozen pureed fruit (namely acai berries) topped with things like granola, nut butter, hemp seeds and fresh fruit. They’ve been on the radar in larger metros for a while but just hit the scene in Charlotte last year with the opening of Clean Juice in Birkdale Village. Rico’s Acai food truck followed shortly thereafter and Green Brothers Juice Co. announced last week that they’ll also be adding acai bowls to their expanded menu.

Maybe this is the end of the frozen yogurt craze.

Clean Juice – 16815 Cranlyn Road and 7918 Rea Road

Green Brothers – 101 S. Tryon Street

Rico’s Acai – 510 S. College Street

African flavors

The Cooking Pot

We have no shortage of African restaurants in Charlotte and 2016 food trends predict they’ll become more popular this year. But Africa’s a big place so that’s like saying “North American food will be big this year” without considering the diversity in cuisine from Central America to Canada. So with this trend I’d expect to see increased awareness of the country-specific cuisines of Africa.

This trend might also lead to African spices and entrees (think jollof rice, peanut stew and fufu) popping up on menus at other restaurants not known for African cuisine.

The Cooking Pot (Nigerian) – 5622 E. Independence Boulevard

Nile Grocery (Ethiopian) – 3113 N. Sharon Amity Road

Red Sea (Ethiopian) – 1206 Charlottetowne Avenue

Zoewee’s Restaurant (Liberian) – 4112 N. Tryon Street

Artisan soft drinks

photo via Facebook
photo via Facebook

Move over, Coke and Pepsi. The “all craft everything” trend has made its way to soda. Over at Dogwood Southern Table, bartender Brian Lorusso makes his own ginger beer to use in creative cocktails like this completely insane mix of local Muddy River rum and his own blackstrap molasses-infused ginger beer garnished with a molasses cookie. Heist Brewery makes its own root beer, cream soda, orange cream soda and black cherry soda. And Luna’s Living Kitchen, a raw/vegan restaurant that wouldn’t dream of serving traditional high-fructose corn syrup-laden sodas, makes its own ginger ale with agave nectar.

Dogwood Southern Table – 4905 Ashley Park Lane

Heist – 2909 N. Davidson Street

Luna’s Living Kitchen – 2000 South Boulevard

Craft spirits


We all know breweries are big in Charlotte but last year brought a distillery boom that will certainly carry into 2016. We’ve got Muddy River making rum in Belmont, Doc Porter’s rolled out their vodka in November and Great Wagon Road added whiskey to the mix at the end of the year.

Expect to see these spirits behind the bar at area restaurants and an influx of local craft cocktail specials.

Doc Porter’s – 232 Peterson Drive

Great Wagon Road – 227 Southside Drive

Muddy River – 1500 River Drive, Belmont, NC

Delivery technology


Food delivery is nothing new, but centralized delivery service providers are now making it possible to order food from restaurants that don’t run their own delivery operations. Postmates, a San Francisco-based food delivery service that made a big splash with its Chipotle partnership, hit the Charlotte market in May of last year. At the time, GrubHub was already on the scene as were two Charlotte-based delivery services, FoodieCall and TakeHome.

The bottom line: We’re all running out of reasons to leave the house in 2016 because burritos can be delivered to our doorsteps with the push of a button.





Dessert hybrids

photo via Facebook
photo via Facebook

Desserts that merge two sweets into one are increasing in popularity, but it’s tough to beat the classic combination of ice cream and cookies. 300 East’s ice cream sandwiches deliver on this perfect pairing. If the trendier combination of croissants + doughnuts is more your style, you’ll find cronuts at Cafe Ganache in SouthPark Mall. And let’s not forget the Palmetto Pie, an epic stack of chocolate chip cookies, Oreo cake truffles and frosting from Hey Sugar Shop in Rock Hill. Is it a cookie? A truffle? A cake? A pie? Who cares. Let’s eat.

300 East – 300 East Boulevard

Cafe Ganache – 4400 Sharon Road

Hey Sugar Shop – 1121 Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill, SC

Locally sourced food

photo via Facebook
photo via Facebook

Nothing new here. Diners are not only interested in what’s in their food but also where it came from. Locally sourced food has economic and environmental impacts on the region and a number of restaurants go to great lengths to support the farmers that produce it. Passion8 lists their partner farms on their website and Zone 7 Foods includes the source of each food on their ingredient labels.

These are just a handful of restaurants known for supporting local farms in and around Charlotte.

Customshop – 1601 Elizabeth Avenue

Heirloom – 8470 Bellhaven Road

Passion8 – 1523 Elizabeth Avenue

Roots Food – see truck menu and schedule here

Zone 7 Foods – 4113 Monroe Road

Pop-up restaurants

photo via Facebook
photo via Facebook

Restaurants are a risky and expensive business so some entrepreneurs are bypassing brick and mortar buildings in favor of the pop-up model (at least to start, anyway). Joe’s Doughs, a gourmet doughnut shop, saw great success in 2015 with pop-up service at coffee shops and events. This year they’ll open their own permanent location in NoDa. Tephra, a vegan pop-up dinner event, has also launched with rave reviews and I hope to see them land a permanent restaurant space this year.

On the event side, Relish Carolina hosts jaw-dropping pop-up dinners showcasing Charlotte’s best chefs.

Relish Carolina – no 2016 events scheduled at this time; keep an eye on their website

Tephra – watch their Facebook page for upcoming events


Luna's Living Kitchen turmeric antidote

Turmeric, a spice commonly used in Indian cooking, is popping up in smoothies and juices thanks to the widely held belief that its anti-inflammatory properties help cure anything from arthritis to diarrhea. You’ll find it in The Cold Busta at Green Brothers, The Antidote at Luna’s and the Great Fruit juice and turmeric almond milk at Viva Raw. Or pick up your own at Savory Spice Shop at Atherton Mill.

Green Brothers – 101 S. Tryon Street

Luna’s Living Kitchen – 2000 South Boulevard

Savory Spice Shop – 2000 South Boulevard

Viva Raw – Great Fruit juice, turmeric almond milk

My Picks

This is fine and all but I have a few of my own ideas for food trends to watch in 2016.

Tater tots: Forget frozen tots. Homemade varieties – like these from What the Fries – will change your life.


Veggie burgers: They’re not just for vegetarians anymore and they’re certainly not coming from a frozen box. More and more non-vegetarian restaurants are trying their hand at house-made veggie patties and this one from Bang Bang Burgers is one of my favorites.

Bang Bang Burger vegetarian

Pie: Enough with cutesy little cupcakes and cake pops. Good old fashioned pie is ripe for a resurgence and Keia Mastrianni’s Milk Glass Pie is one to watch.

Milk Glass Pie

Waffles: I think we’ve only scratched the surface on what can be done with waffles. Hex Coffee makes them with local craft beer in the batter. Fūd at Salud uses them to make insane sandwiches. And I once waffled a hot dog and a cinnamon bun. The possibilities are endless.

hex coffee waffles

What do you want to see happen in Charlotte’s food scene this year?


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