KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Regional street foods are playing a more influential role on restaurant menus. Such chains as The Cheesecake Factory, and others known for featuring international dishes that honor the original recipes, are keeping close tabs on what’s “hot” at street level. Recently, “street” tacos have quickly moved through Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle “and grew 145 percent [on US restaurant menus] in just the past four years,” said Mike Kostyo, the market research firm's senior publications manager. He finds the word “street” on nearly 10 percent of menus overall, including on 13 percent of casual dining menus.

Upon returning from cross-country travel to industry conferences and to targeted immersion tours, Datassential staff publishes “Dine Around,” a trend magazine that highlights a specific region or city.

“For a long time, we saw a lot of focus on Asian as well as Latin American concepts, but now we’re seeing more interest in Middle Eastern cuisine with concepts like Shaya, the Israeli restaurant in New Orleans, attracting a lot of attention, and dishes like shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce, served with pita) are growing on menus,” Kostyo said. “Actually, shakshuka has grown a whopping 326 percent in just the past few years.”

Some of the fastest growing spices mentioned on menus today include several from Japan along with seed blends such as "furikake and togarashi, which add both heat and texture,” according to Datassential. But it’s gochujang that is earning kudos as the “fastest growing global flavor.”

Gochujang is featured in the food truck-inspired Asian Fried Chicken Sandwich at Jack in the Box.


“Korean Wings at Yard House, covered in gochujang glaze, also scored well with our consumer panel,” Kostyo said.

Additional Datassential figures point to a 27 percent menu growth for peri peri and a 74 percent menu growth for harissa. In addition, pandan, ube and rosewater all appear on Datassential’s 2018 “flavors to watch” list.