Jun 17

Eastern Mediterranean - Approachable meets Adventurous

Eastern Mediterranean flavors are not new to North American diners – Flavor & the Menu pegged Eastern Med Meats as a top ten trend way back in 2018 – but their popularity has never been higher. Following a trail blazed by noted chefs and independent restaurants like Zahav in Philadelphia and Safta in Denver, multi-unit brands like Cava, Luna Grill and Miznon have brought these flavors to a broader audience in fast-casual formats. 

"Eastern Mediterranean foods are unique in that they feature many ingredients and flavors familiar to U.S. consumers but often offer those flavors and ingredients in new and unexpected ways,” says Maeve Webster, founder of Menu Matters. “While some dishes from this region will be completely new, many will feel familiar enough to be approachable but exciting enough to be adventurous. For operators looking to differentiate with a protein like lamb, Eastern Med cuisine offers North American consumers the opportunity to enjoy lamb in dishes from a culture that truly loves this meat, and many of the applications will appeal specifically to younger consumers."

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(Tahini & Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb. Image and recipe by James Patterson, learn more here)

That familiarity and interest has revved up the innovation engines in foodservice, and sharpened consumers’ hunger for more. And there’s so much more to discover, from Aleppo to Z’hug! Just this year, trendwatchers at Carbonate pegged borek as a top dish to watch; it’s a savory pie wrapped in thin, flaky pastry filled with ground lamb, cheese, spinach or potatoes, it’s found across the region from Turkey to Greece, the Middle East and into North Africa. found across the region from Turkey to Greece, the Middle East and into North Africa.

Also this year, Datassential’s experts tabbed tahini, harissa and za’atar as ingredients primed to proliferate, more evidence of Eastern Med’s rise. For ideas on how to apply these flavors and trends on your menu, read on here or visit our menu inspiration pages.

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