4 freewheeling, fun restaurant trends that emerged in 2023

A giant raviolo oozing cheesy sauce atop steak at NYC restaurant Bad Roman
Maximalism, like in this cheesy raviolo at NYC’s Bad Roman, came out on top in 2023. Photo credit: Christian Harder

Restaurants have always been culture bearers, and 2023 was no exception. Debut restaurants majorly upped the drama, new dishes went viral again and again, and drinks ditched alcohol in favor of CBD—or nothing. 

It’s clear that people are once again ready to go big when they’re going out to eat. OpenTable’s 2023 data looking back at the year in dining shows that diners found creative ways to go out as much as possible: Early-bird reservations continued to rise, with 36% of all dining happening between 5 pm and 7 pm1. Plus, more people are totally happy to go out by themselves—solo dining rose 4% from last year1.

And that’s just the beginning. Read on for the restaurants that set the most fun, most over-the-top trends in 2023.

Maximum maximalism

An illuminated plate in the shape of hands cupped together holding a small box of caviar at NYC restaurant Trust Bae
Dishes shaped like illuminated hands at NYC’s Trust Bae define the year of maximalist dining. Photo credit: Hassan Mokkaddam/HMPhotoshoots

Most viral restaurant: Bad Roman in NYC

Seats were booked up even before this restaurant debuted this year thanks to social-media-gold dishes like oozing raviolo atop steak, garlic babka, and more.

Most unique plating: Amrina in Houston

An old fashioned on a log, spicy baked oysters on rocks, and other party tricks make this a must-visit for its Indian-food-inspired menu. 

Most original omakase: Trust Bae in NYC

Diner reviews for omakase were up 17% from the previous year, according to OpenTable data2, and this 16-course Filipino omakase—with dishes shaped like illuminated hands and fish wrapped in banana leaves—might just be the most original new entry yet. 

Boldest seafood extravaganza: Rappahannock in Los Angeles

Seafood towers saw a resurgence this year, but they don’t quite look like they did before. At this LA staple, ceviche (yep!) is just as at home as plump oysters on the showstopping towers.

A bigger focus on the bar

A martini made with roasted oyster shell vodka, housemade vermouth, and salt next to a three-gram caviar bump and a raw oyster at Joyce in Los Angeles
Just when we thought martinis couldn’t get more creative, LA’s Joyce pours one that’ll make your jaw drop. Photo credit: Joyce

Peak martini moment: Joyce in Los Angeles

The martini train isn’t slowing down: Mentions of “espresso martini” alone jumped 39% in reviews from the previous year, according to OpenTable data2. But no one’s making one quite as luxurious as this Southern spot in LA. Roasted oyster shell vodka and housemade vermouth with a caviar bump and a raw oyster on the side—need we say more?

Best N/A drinks: Kumiko in Chicago

In this golden era of N/A cocktails, this Chicago hotspot is making some of the best in the country. It’s clear there’s a growing thirst for such places: Mentions of mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks in diner reviews rose 48% and 8% respectively in 2023, according to OpenTable data2.

Best new-age bar food: Roundhouse in Chicago

Move over mozzarella sticks and boneless wings, this new Chicago restaurant does Mongolian beef nachos, cheeseburger egg rolls, Italian beef fried rice, and other bar food that knocks it out of the park.

Best CBD drinks: Gracias Madre in Los Angeles

The future of cannabis-infused drinking and dining is taking shape at restaurants across the country right now, and you can add CBD to all the soft drinks at this LA standout. 

Dining as an escape

The interior of NYC Mexican seafood restaurant Tán featuring sconces with candles on the walls, tropical plants, and wooden tables
Tán is an escape to Tulum in the heart of New York. Photo credit: Tán

Most exciting new cuisine mash-up: Comfort Kitchen in Boston

This African and Asian-foods influenced spot was one of The New York Times’s favorite new restaurants in 2023. That tracks: West African  and other cuisines from the continent were among the top trending cuisines in 2023 (up 72% and 23% respectively from 2022), according to OpenTable data1.

Vibiest vacation vibes: Tán in NYC

You’ll be looking up beachside hotels and flights to Tulum after the transportive meal at this restaurant thanks to its dappled light, lush plants, and stellar Mexican seafood.

Best meal you don’t have to hop on a flight for: Akikos in San Francisco

This SF staple moved to a swanky new downtown location after 36 years, but one thing remains the same: the finest fish flies for you all the way from Tokyo’s famed Toyosu fish market.

Best new views: Crown Block in Dallas

You could get lost in the 360-degree Dallas views at this new seafood-and-steak restaurant inside the iconic, twinkling ball at Reunion Tower. 

Next-level hospitality

Drag queen Malai in a sparkly blue Indian outfit at NYC restaurant SONA
Drag queen Malai spearheads SONA’s unique Bollywood-themed brunch in NYC. Photo credit: SONA

Most inclusive restaurant: Prairie Grass Cafe near Chicago

Restaurants are hard places for people with sensory sensitivity, but this restaurant is redefining hospitality with new, semi-regular sensory friendly dining hours for people with autism.

Best new brunch: SONA in NYC

In a field of stellar options, this Indian restaurant’s Bollywood-themed drag brunch (the next one is December 16) led by drag queen Malai is like no other.

Most beloved staffer: Pascale’s Manale in New Orleans

This more than century-old restaurant has a new owner, but NOLA legend Thomas Stewart is still shucking oysters at the bar going on 30 years. 

Most entertaining meal: Journey in NYC

Tabletop projections take you to an underground shipwreck or Broadway performers serenade you IRL over a five-course meal, to name just some of the experiences at this one-of-a-kind spot.

OpenTable data methodology

  1. OpenTable looked at the number of seated diners from online, phone, and walk-in reservations from January 1 – September 30, 2023 and compared it to the same range in 2022, including restaurants that were on the platform in both of these periods. Cuisines reflected had a minimum of 30k diners in 2022, cuisine category is self-determined by restaurants.
  2. OpenTable analyzed more than 200 keywords and phrases across more than 2.5M text restaurant reviews from January 1 – September 30, 2023 and compared it to the same date range in 2022. Keywords reflected were featured in the top 50% by number of mentions.

Tanay Warerkar is a content marketing manager at OpenTable, filling in for Hot Dish columnist Marion Brewer this month alongside OpenTable’s senior content marketing manager Stefanie Tuder.

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