Special Report

The Biggest Food Fads of the Past 50 Years

Source: Adriano at Italian Wikipedia. / Wikimedia Commons

Fad: Ramen
> Era: 2000s

Ramen began as a kind of chewy noodle imported to Japan from China in the 1920s. Japanese food producer Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen in 1958 — happily for the generations of college students and other impoverished sorts that it has nourished ever since. Ramen didn’t really become a thing, though — with ramen shops seemingly as ubiquitous as Starbucks in some American urban areas — until after influential chef David Chang opened his first Momofuku Noodle Bar (named in honor of Ando) in Manhattan in 2004.

Source: patty_c / Getty Images

Fad: Sliders
> Era: 2000s

White Castle, which calls itself the first fast-food hamburger chain, became famous for its miniature burgers, which sailors in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s reportedly first called “sliders” because they were greasy and slid down easily. In the latter 2000s, chefs at independent restaurants started using the term for mini-sandwiches of their own, made not just with ground beef, but with other meats, chicken, seafood, even dessert foods.

Source: 146966953@N02 / Flickr

Fad: Avocado toast
> Era: 2010s

The idea of mashing avocado on toast was conceived at a restaurant called Bills in Sydney, Australia in 1993. Unless it was first proposed in a Southern California newspaper in 1920. Whatever its provenance, it got trendy after a young chef in Los Angeles named Jessica Koslow put it on the menu at her restaurant Sqirl. Once her version and the many copies that soon appeared hit social media, avocado toast became a seemingly unstoppable phenomenon.

Source: b1ll / Flickr

Fad: Bone broth
> Era: 2010s

Stock is a flavorful liquid made by simmering vegetables with meat or poultry bones, generally for three or four hours. Bone broth is similar, but simmered for much longer — up to 24 hours in some recipes — supposedly to extract every atom of nutritionally valuable elements from the bones. In the early 2010s, with the advent of the eat-like-a-caveman Paleo movement, bone broth got big. Broth bars opened around the country, and cans and freezer packs of it began showing up in supermarkets. When Keurig began selling bone broth K-cups, Eater declared that “peak bone broth” had been reached — but it’s still going strong.

Source: martiapunts / Shutterstock.com

Fad: Cronuts
> Era: 2010s

Nobody knows for sure who invented the doughnut or the croissant, but there’s no doubt who first conceived of this pioneering mashup between the two: In 2013, French-born Manhattan-based pastry chef Dominique Ansel devised a way of making a doughnut with croissant dough. After a review on Grub Street, his bakery was thronged — and remains so to this day. The cronut has been widely copied all over America, and has inspired such other mashups as Cruffins (croissant-muffins), Bonuts (biscuit-doughnuts), and the Cherpumple (three kinds of pie layered inside three kinds of cake).

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