Five Restaurant Trends We Can Live Without, 2014 Edition

Photos by Dustin Ames

This needs nearly no introduction: food trends evolve. A while back, it was cupcakes and stuff stirred into mac 'n cheese; before that, it was reinvented comfort food and moonshine. Many of the items on this list appeared years ago in Los Angeles. As with many things, it took a while and now it's started to appear in the desolate stretches of South Orange County.

1. Unnecessarily expensive filtered water

Just plain ol' water...
Just plain ol' water...
Photo by the Elmo Monster

Remember the famous water upsell in nice restaurants? "Still or sparkling, sir?" intones the server. "Still," you say, and then you discover that it's $5 a bottle and they like to open a new bottle when yours is still a third full.

Well, Americans caught on to the restaurateurs' little shenanigans, and started snarling, "Tap!" before the server could even finish the hated question. The quest for filthy lucre being what it is, there's now there's an even bigger rip-off: water filtration systems. These are fancy taps that connect either to the city water and filter it in-line, carbonating it if requested, or they're connected to pointlessly huge and heavy glass jugs.

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It's one thing when it costs a quarter for as much as you can drink, like at Border Grill. When it's $4 a cup and $2 for each refill, you're just giving your clientele the middle finger. Besides, shouldn't "the cleanest, blah blah blah" water on Earth be served in appropriate glassware?

It's water. It's gone through a jumped-up version of a Brita filter. No one yet has died from drinking tap water in a California restaurant, and no one is likely to.

Also in this category: alkaline water. Hippie bro science at its finest. Water shouldn't make you feel thirstier when you're done drinking it. Water shouldn't make you run for the bottles of Miller High Life your weird great-uncle left in your fridge.

2. The salt trolley

And then there's this...
And then there's this...
Photo by Das Ubergeek

Having an array of salts on hand to accentuate the particular aspects of a dish is a great idea. Huge flakes of fleur de sel de la Camargue atop a fresh heirloom tomato? Yes, please. Crunchy crystals of Alaea pink salt accenting a nearly-melting chocolate-covered caramel? Oh, yeah.

A tray of eight different salts wheeled around on a trolley designed from crèmes caramel, apple tarts, and cheesecakes? Just the height of pretense. Put the salt that goes on the dish on the dish, and leave the snotty descriptions to the menu writer.

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