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Saxon_&_Parole_portobellomousse.png Saxon & Parole
Saxon & Parole’s Truffled Portobello Mushroom Mousse.

Chefs make way for mushrooms

The ‘It’ fungus spreads to all parts of the menu

When The New York Times publishes its annual list of hot food trends, people in the food industry pay close attention. So it was notable that the Times named the mushroom an “it vegetable” for 2019 — although technically mushrooms are fungi, not vegetables — on the basis of its halo of health and versatility. The writer predicted we’d see it in everything from beverages to desserts, an acknowledgement of its extraordinary culinary reach.

Mushroom appetizers. Mushrooms work equally well in starters that range from rustic to refined. The former includes the dish of Creamy White Polenta with Wild Mushrooms at Sa Za Serious Italian in Montgomery, Ala., and Funghi Fritti, battered and fried cremini mushrooms with garlic aïoli, at Novo Cucina in suburban Atlanta. At Seasons 52, the Darden Restaurants chain of around 45 units where flatbreads are a popular, shareable first course, the Four Mushroom option comes with goat cheese, truffle oil and scallions.

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Mushroom flatbread from Season’s 52.

By contrast, Dirty French in New York City emphasizes technique with Trumpet Royale Millefeuille, a savory take on the classic pastry, plated with sweet corn and yellow curry. Vedge in Philadelphia garnered a James Beard nomination for its wizardry with vegetables, and that mastery is on display with Mushroom Carpaccio with deviled kohlrabi, caper purée and a nigella biscuit. New York’s Saxon & Parole pairs a lovely Truffled Portobello Mushroom Mousse with savory whisky jelly, and diners at Zasu in New Orleans’ hot Mid-City neighborhood can enjoy a trendy veggie double-header of king trumpet mushrooms plated with roasted cauliflower and vadouvan butter.

Mushroom entrées. Main dishes take maximum advantage of the wide range of tastes and textures provided by mushroom varieties. Zasu’s stated culinary goal, which is to explore new ways to treat traditional favorites, is realized in Wild Mushroom and Potato Perogies with caramelized Vidalia onions, asparagus and onion crème fraîche. At Vedge, diners can choose between a trumpet mushroom ”carbonara” with fregola pasta, or a seared maitake mushroom with smoked rémoulade.  Maitake mushrooms with Turkish aleppo pepper and asparagus is an entrée option at Gupshup Bombay House in New York City, as are wild Himalayan morels with khandvi rolls. Speaking of morels, Saxon & Parole stuffs them with shrimp and spring vegetables accented by truffle sauce.

Plant-forward fast-casual chains are all about mushrooms, too. At Veggie Grill, a 34-unit chain based in Culver City, Calif., the clever King Oyster “Scallop” Plate uses king oyster mushrooms as a non-aquatic stand-in, along with cilantro pesto, creamed corn with grape tomatoes and roasted fingerling potatoes with lemon dill sauce. Also based in the Los Angeles area, Sweetgreen’s Shroomami Bowl tops organic wild rice and shredded kale with a warm portobello mix, a mélange of herbs and vegetables, and miso sesame ginger dressing.

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Veggie Grill’s mushrooms “scallops”

Mushroom sandwiches and sides. The meatiness of mushrooms makes them a natural sandwich filler, as in the Maitake Mushroom Melt on toasted focaccia with heirloom tomato jam, a new addition to the lunch bill of fare at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, a 16-unit chain  based Irving, Texas. At The Kentucky Inn in Denver, the Roasted Mushroom Sandwich is the No. 1 best seller; it’s served with chimichurri, provolone and garlic mayonnaise. The brunch menu at Saxon & Parole features a nifty Pulled Portobello BBQ Sandwich with Brussels sprouts slaw.

Of course, mushrooms also excel on the side of the plate, as at Echo & Rig, which operates in Las Vegas and Sacramento. Patrons are treated to a side-dish trifecta of mushrooms Rockefeller, brandied mushrooms and portobello fries with herbed aïoli. The restaurants also feature wild mushroom soup with a touch of cream as a starter. The side-dish listing at meat-centric Cockscomb in San Francisco is titled Daily Requirements, one of which is Mushrooms à la Grecque, a classic preparation cooked in olive oil and served with lemon, garlic and parsley.

Mushrooms everywhere. In perhaps the ultimate tribute to the fungus’ versatility, cocktail gurus at Birds & Bees in Los Angeles created the Earth Angel by combining fermented mushroom juice with whisky; it was garnished with a chocolate-dipped dehydrated mushroom. Alfred Coffee in Los Angeles addresses wellness trends with Chagaccino, a signature beverage made with chaga mushrooms and sweetened with monk fruit. And in a true finish with a flourish, La La Land, a memorable dessert on the opening menu at Timna in New York City, featured a porcini mushroom brûlée in which ground porcini were cooked down with heavy cream and milk and then topped with honey-sage ice cream.

Nancy Kruse, president of the Kruse Company, is a menu trends analyst based in Atlanta. As one of LinkedIn’s Top 100 Influencers in the US, she blogs regularly on food-related at

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