Pork has remained extremely popular on menus, something that was absolutely proven out during Gordon Food Service’s most recent external research, where we visited more than 100 restaurants and tasted more than 1,100 dishes in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Prized for its ability to take on so many different flavors, its economical price point and its popular flavor, pork is the go-to ingredient for chefs, who are using it in a number of creative, trend-forward applications. We’ve pinpointed five menu-ready opportunities that star the always popular protein—pork. Creativity in approach is an underlying theme tying these five pork-centric opportunities together, showcasing yet again the demand for exciting, memorable fare on menus today.
1. Pork Belly
Pork belly continues to gain traction on menus, which makes sense as it’s one of those ingredients that chefs can rely on to create something highly craveable, thanks to the indulgent factor of the cut. Whether you sous vide or braise it, it’s delicious when it’s sliced and crisped up. We’re also seeing it balance out “healthier” dishes like salads, lending a bit of decadence to a typically leaner profile.
- Quinoa Chaufa: Pork belly, brown rice, plantains, king oyster mushroom, Onsen egg, smoked oshinko (Japanese pickle)—Sen Sakana, New York
- Pork Belly Nuggets: Kimchi, blueberry balsamic glaze, pickled watermelon—Sweet Chick, Los Angeles
- Panzanella: Pork belly, tomato, flatbread, eggplant aïoli, cucumber, gooseberry, herbs, za’atar—Eden, Chicago
2. Braised Pork
Braised pork dishes serve up the sweet spot for chefs because they’re economical and versatile. We saw many examples on our trends tour, where chefs are featuring braised pork in really interesting, craveable applications that bring out the tender, savory, rich side of this protein.
- Pork N’ Brussels: Braised with pork shoulder, roasted Brussels sprouts, wheat berries, bacon, mushrooms, ginger, chili and lime—Made Nice, New York
- Pork-Stuffed Blini: Braised pork, cremini mushrooms, Swiss cheese, beet-horseradish aïoli and parsley—Teremok, New York
- Torn Potato Poutine: Guajillo pork—MV Grab & Go, Los Angeles
- Pork Osso Buco: Hominy, chile guajillo, toasted pumpkin seed—Mar Vista, Los Angeles
- Pork Rib Carnitas: Japanese eggplant, salsa verde, Cotija—Quiote, Chicago
- Slow Roasted Pork Bäco: Cotija cheese, green peppercorn mustard, dill pickles—Bacoshop, Los Angeles
3. Ground Pork
There’s so much flavor-forward potential in using ground pork in menu applications, particularly in the burger category, which we all know welcomes global mashups and other big flavor moves. Ground pork brings huge flavor to a burger, and, as we saw in our research, fits really well into a number of modern American takes. We all spotted an emerging opportunity here, with pork-based sausages, particularly in Asian-based flavors.
The Loco Moco Hot Dog: Pork sausage, Hayashi beef gravy, mushroom, egg, pickled ginger, furikake—Sumo Dog, Los Angeles
Larb Burger: Thai-style pork larb patty, mint mayo, fried scallions, fresh mint salad, toasted housemade bun—Chimney Coffee House, Los Angeles
4. Pork Chops
The pork chop, that classic menu standby, is getting a menu makeover in a lot of forward-thinking restaurants. Chefs are changing things up in presentation, standing up thick-cut chops in their whole state or cutting it in half and charring the bone to great effect, as seen at Chicago’s Split Rail.
- Thin-Cut Pork Chops: Coleman’s Hot Spicy Mustard, Concord grapes, herb salad, peanuts—El Che Bar, Chicago
- Pork Tenderloin & Belly: Sunchokes, peaches and feta— Somerset, Chicago
- Chicken Fried Buttermilk Pork Chop: Wilted kale, radicchio, gigantes, feta, dates, pumpkin seed pesto—Motel Morris, New York
- 16 oz. Niman Ranch Pork Chop: Salsa verde—Cannibal Liquor House, New York
5. Pulled Bacon
We saw this at The Wayland in New York a few years back and couldn’t get over the unbelievably craveable, spoon-tender, versatile, full-flavored result of pulled bacon. We can’t overemphasize the opportunity—it offers a lot of flavor potential for menu innovation. Pulled bacon sees whole-slab bacon marinated in a liquid like apple cider and bourbon, braised like a pot roast, cut into small cubes and pulled. From there, the options are endless—from tacos and sandwiches to egg rolls and more.
- Pulled Bacon Taco: Beets, radishes, cucumbers, cilantro sour cream, greens, lime vinaigrette
- Pulled Bacon Naanwich: Mushrooms, leeks, red bell peppers, horseradish spread
- Pulled Bacon Biscuit: Tomato jam, Brie, bread and butter pickles, arugula, crème de Brie
- Mushroom and Swiss Pulled Bacon Egg Roll: Cabbage, leeks, bell peppers, cremini mushrooms, horseradish mayonnaise