Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

Food & restaurant trends

Local chefs share what’s hot and what’s heating up on the Lowcountry food scene.

If there’s one constant in the restaurant industry, it’s change. Each year brings new innovations, new twists, new ingredients and new trends to the Lowcountry food scene. We reached out to a few of our favorite chefs to find out what’s trending as we start the new decade.

Forever fresh and local

Red Fish is a great place to score fresh local seafood, like this Panko crusted triggerfish. When available, it is served with black rice ramen, wok-charred vegetables, Pacific Rim sauce and wasabi cream.

When asked what trends the culinary team at Red Fish is following, chef Josh Goldfarb answered, “We like anything fresh and local, those are trends that don’t die. As far as current food trends, we notice more people looking for plant-based alternatives and gluten-free options. Good trends stick around and become part of what we do every day.”

Buy the farm

Brian Coseo tops a halibut fillet with fried leeks in the kitchen at Sea Pines Country Club. ©Mike Ritterbeck

For Brian Coseo, executive chef at Sea Pines Country Club, many restaurants are shifting from commercially produced foods to farm-raised.

“2020 is all about the sourcing of ingredients from local and national family farms, ranches and fisheries,” he said. “Farms that are environmentally friendly, supplying sustainable foods, and are using humane and organic techniques. These farms will play an important role in 2020 for the continued growth of regenerative agriculture; plant-based, organic and GMO-free foods in addition to offering healthier alternatives to commercially raised red meats.”

Keep it simple

Tomato, mozzarella and basil bruschetta is an easy-to-put-together appetizer that works with almost any meal.

Nunzio Patruno of Nunzio Restaurant + Bar is onboard with the less-is-more trend.

“You will see a continued emphasis on local ingredients and more simply prepared dishes, where the flavors of the ingredients are more pronounced,” he said. “You will also see a great interest in grandparent food — a resurgence of classic family dishes evoking family stories and history. In my view, it’s very Italian. Buon Anno 2020!”

Get well soon

Vegan lentil burgers with kale and tomato sauce are a healthier alternative to the traditional burgers with ketchup.

For Kim Tavino of Sprout Momma Breads, wellness foods are the biggest trend heading into 2020.

“People are putting more thought into what they eat and order,” she said. “Health conscious dining alternatives are becoming the norm on even fast food menus. There are now multiple healthy choices from plant-based burgers to plant-based milks.”

It’s a side show

Christopher Carge puts the finishing touches on a green bean casserole at Poseidon Coastal Cuisine. ©Lisa Staff

Christopher Carge, the executive chef at Poseidon, and the other chefs of SERG Restaurant Group are focused on the Mediterranean diet in 2020.

“We hope to get people eating more vegetables, herbs, beans and grains, and to build dishes around these great plant-based foods,” he said. “I believe these ingredients get overlooked because everyone is so focused on the huge steak or pork chop on the plate. Sides are an afterthought. There are some great flavors and textures from these types of ingredients. It’s just a lighter and healthier way of eating. Hopefully, others will catch on to this great way of eating. Sometimes, less is more!”

Huge unami flavors

Tuna tartare lettuce wraps at WiseGuys.

For WiseGuys executive chef Chaun Bescos, the days of needing to have a starch, a vegetable and a large center of plate protein are changing.

“For me as a chef, the new trends we are moving into are most definitely more of a plant-based focus on new dishes and features at the restaurant,” he said. “Many times when creating dishes, we opt toward a heavy vegetable set, using many parts of the same vegetable in the dish. At the moment, we are using the outer leaves of the broccoli plant coming to us from Three Sisters Organic Farm in Pinckney Colony. We use the leaves as a green, but with the trimmed stalks, we peel them and lacto-ferment them. And then they become reintegrated with the greens with a little homemade black-eyed pea miso. Now you have an amazing base for a high-quality steak or one of our new poulet rouge chicken dishes. So we are definitely trending to a higher vegetable consciousness with huge umami flavors that keep you coming back for more.”

Give peas a chance

Create a healthy vegetarian salad bowl with hummus, beans, wild rice, beets, carrots, cucumbers and pea shoots.

Lakeysha Marshall, the sous-chef at Belfair, feels the vegan trend that has been building will continue well into the new decade.

“A lot of people who are not vegan or even vegetarian are wanting to experience tasty and healthy food without the guilt,” she said. “I am a vegetarian myself and I also enjoy vegan food. I’ve seen more places opening up and catering to the healthier side. Even here at the Bistro at Belfair Country Club, my menu includes vegetarian/vegan geared food. Restaurants are now starting to hire vegetarian chefs to help cater to the growing number of people who are either veganish/vegetarian, or just needing a break from the heavier kinds of foods.”

Fried chicken is cool again

The fried chicken at Ruby Lee’s South is one of the most popular dishes in the Lowcountry. Its recipe is classified. “Our fried chicken recipe is really simple. Actually, I’m not going to talk about the fried chicken,” owner Tim Singleton said. ©Mike Ritterbeck

According to local chefs, the fried chicken trend is no flash in the pan. This popular Southern dish is not only staying relevant in the health-food era, but it’s also getting elevated, thanks to creative chefs at local restaurants such as Ruby Lee’s South, Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar, Cahill’s Market, Annie O’s and Jane Bistro and Bar. At 5 p.m. Jan. 24, Lucky Rooster is partnering with the TV show “Eat It and Like It” for a fried chicken and champagne pop-up dinner with unlimited bird and bubbles.

Harissa is the new sriracha

Americans continue to temp their taste buds with spicier and hotter flavors. Harissa is a North African hot chili pepper paste that is gaining popularity on menus across the country. Use it as a condiment for grilled meat or fish, add it to roasted vegetables, or stir it into stews and soups. In addition to adding unique flavor, it also provides vitamins and minerals, and can boost your metabolism. It’s great for your circulatory system.

Sprout Momma –Homemade harissa


15 dried chiles de árbol

2 dried guajillo chiles

1 dried ancho chile

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds

3 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup olive oil, divided

Directions [1] Toast cumin and coriander in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing constantly, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. [2] Transfer to a food processor, add garlic, and pulse until spices are broken up and garlic forms a paste. Add chiles and pulse until chiles form a coarse paste. Add lemon juice, vinegar, tomato paste, paprika, and salt and process until mostly smooth but mixture still has a little texture. [3] With the motor running, stream in 1/2 cup oil. Process until oil is incorporated. [4] Transfer harissa to a bowl. Pour remaining 1/4 cup oil over top.