As recently as two years ago a lot of pundits were pooh-poohing the idea that food served in bowls was a trend with legs.
Boy, were they ever wrong.
Bowl-based menu options are proliferating, thanks to a confluence of unrelated developments.
Bowls arguably got their biggest boost when Chipotle popularized them as an alternative to burritos. Then they were embraced by the carb-shunning crowd, who opted for bowls over sandwiches. Filling a bowl with food made it somehow seem more substantial, less of a sacrifice.
Bowls were also ready-made for the trend toward dressed-down dining. Even super-upscale restaurants have taken to presenting food in bowls rather than the more formal and traditional white plate.
And let’s not forget social media: A beautifully composed bowl is conveniently sized for a terrific Instagram shot.
Chefs have jumped on the bowl bandwagon as well.
Jose Andrés, who built his considerable reputation on more refined fare, created an expansion vehicle with Beefsteak, a casual vegetable-centric concept serving “America’s bounty in a bowl.” His meals-in-a-bowl adhere to the formula so many chefs have followed: a mix of produce, grains, sauces, greens and toppings, usually paired with a protein.
And Campanile/La Brea Bakery veteran Mark Peel last year debuted Bombo, a seafood-focused concept in Los Angeles. Bombo specializes in bowls based on one of five fresh broths, a choice of pasta or steamed rice with flax seeds and one of various proteins.
Service is super-fast — from order to bowl in 3.5 minutes — and prices at Bombo are low, considering Peel’s pedigree, but that’s what he intended. The most expensive item on the menu, Seattle Fish Stew (lobster broth, clams, mussels, shrimp, squid and fresh fish of the day with bacon, diced tomato, crisp fried potatoes and rouille), comes in at a cool $14.
Check out the some of the delicious ways restaurants across the country are diving into Americans’ appetite for bowls.