Best Restaurant Trend (2011)

The democratization of fine dining

Well before the recession, we first noticed a trend toward the democratization of fine dining when a former French Laundry chef started cooking at the dearly departed Town Talk Diner. But the movement truly hit its stride last summer, when several similarly lauded cooks took their wares on the streets: Downtown office workers no longer packed their own PB&Js but instead bought gourmet fusion banh mi from food trucks. The standards upheld at upscale restaurants—preparing the freshest, highest-quality ingredients with exacting technique in creative flavor pairings—are today becoming more widespread and affordable. Airport travelers can bypass mass-produced fast food for an elegant cheese plate and glass of fine wine from Surdyk's Flights. Baseball fans are no longer prisoners to stale chips and processed nacho cheese, as Target Field offers such homegrown favorites as Kramarczuk's sausages, Vincent's burgers, and Murray's steak sandwiches. Suburbanites no longer need to cross freeways to find a stellar craft beer list (Purple Sandpiper), molecular gastronomy (Travail), or dry-aged steaks (Hanger Room). Next thing we know, we'll find haute cuisine on the shelves at Target.


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