Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Nov 16, 2007 08:03 AM

What menu items need to be retired?

Here is my question:

I would like to know what everyone thinks is the most overused, tired, long-gone, or generally disliked food trend that needs to be retired? I hope I get some replies on this because there are a few which I would love to see go the way of the dinosaur.

Spinach & artichoke dip
Tuna tartare
calling anything between two buns a "burger", for example, a chicken burger

I would be interested to find out what others are tired of seeing.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I will probably get a lot of flack for this, but as a pastry chef I hated making Tiramisu and creme brulee.

    I would like to add artisan breads with excessive mix-ins. Olives, non-traditional herbs, etc.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      how about "ye olde hummus plate", esp at non-middle eastern, non-greek, non-hippie ethnic eateries, such as indian restaurants. . .

      also from chef's perspective though, the hummus plate, spinach dip & creme brulee will be with us as long as people keep enthusiastically ordering them (the familiar & non-threatening vaguely "yummy" thing they will never make at home). tilapia will be on menus as long as exec chefs choose cheap fish. . .

      one person's tired and passe is another's exciting and exotic. what is really disheartening is not that these dishes are on menus everywhere for years and years, but that they're so uninspired and bad most of the time. i recently asked a fine dining waiter, after a great meal, to rec dessert: without hesitation he recd creme brulee. my heart sank but i trusted him & ordered it-- it was fantastic, a beautifully prepared, classic creme brulee perfect in every way and anything but trite or tired. when chefs make the old standbys with new care & attention to detail each time, maybe with an unexpected tweak now & again, i think that's so much more refreshing than being on top of the latest food trend or flavor of the season. folks will come back for the perfect creme brulee. . .

      sorry to get off topic though, i do get the op's original intent. i personally don't understand why individual molten chocolate cakes won't die, already.

      1. re: soupkitten

        I agree with the tepid hummus plate. That can be very good at a middle eastern restaurant, but most places used canned salty hummus that is better suited to patching drywall.

        I don't mind tilapia, as it can be a versatile canvas for imaginative chef to explore, but much of it comes from China and SE Asia and has questionable nutritional /safety background. Chilean Sea bass also needs to go, as does planked salmon

        I grew up eating Creme Brulee, as my grand parents are of French descent, and lived on a farm. Creme brulee was a efficient way of using excessive eggs laid during the past week. I had never heard it called Creme Brulee until I was in college, as we called it baked custard at home. The use of flavored/spiced sugars can add a bit of spark to this tired flavor, as can the use of cinnamon/Turbinado sugar .

        I had forgotten about the chocolate lava cakes, but Ive been away from the pastry station for 5+ years, and they aren't commonly seen in a stand-alone bakery where I will occasionally fill in now.

        1. re: Kelli2006

          totally agreed! Most of them but the cedarplanked salmon?! what is that?! eating of a wooden plank, nasty!

          1. re: mariekeac

            That's so amazing! I was also going to put Chilean sea bass and planked salmon, but didn't want it to look like I hate seafood, which I don't!

            1. re: mariekeac

              Cedar planked salmon is a filet of salmon that is cooked over a open flame on a cedar shingle. The wood chars from the heat adding a bit of smoke flavor to the fish, and a unique presentation.

              I love seafood, but both of these have run their course. Any establishment outside of NOLA still serving blackened catfish also needs a update.

            2. re: Kelli2006

              Yes! Planked salmon! Enough of that already.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                mmm....lava.......and chocolate =)
                but yeah. enough of the salmon madness

              2. re: soupkitten

                similar story re creme brulee. recent trip to san fransisco, had creme brulee twice which is sort of unusual for me but both times incredible different wow just extraordinary simply because the chef bothered to put a spin on it. once it was oriental black sesame custard, mandarin cardamom custard, the other was tea scented custard. so i would keep it if its all of the abv.

                1. re: foodwich

                  Live in New Orleans and avoid both creme brulee and bread pudding like the plague when I eat out. Sooo tired on both. I make bread pudding at home, more like a bread souffle (18 eggs) than a hard loaf of sickenly sweet bread pieces, and I add either extra ripe diced peaches or pears and rum. I love my own, haven't found anywhere else that makes it the way I like. Creme brulee just seems like such a throwaway recipe in 99.9% of restaurants. However, I attended a cognac dinner about 5 years ago - every course used a different type of cognac in the recipe and the same cognac was served with every course. The first course was a lobster, cognac creme brulee. NOW that I still dream about.

                2. re: soupkitten

                  You may have hit on the whole story right there. So many things seem so tired because of poor performance. The reason they first became so popular gets lost.

                3. re: Kelli2006

                  I am so glad to see Tiramisu- on the "retire" list - really a dessert few restaurants do well but for some reason many spots feel it is needed on the menu. Word to the wise-get rid of it unless it is done well, please.

                  1. re: jme90

                    you're right that molten chocolate cake is EVERYWHERE. somehow i can't get behind any effort to get rid of it, though. it's too damn tasty.

                    1. re: etowernyc

                      I think molten chocolate cakes are so popular because they are so easy to make, so hard to ruin, and are so cheap. But everyone's right - they need to get off the restaurant menus. Anything that can be made so easily and affordably at home doesn't deserve a place as a "fancy" dessert for seven bucks at a restaurant.

                      1. re: alysonlaurel

                        "Easy to make, hard to ruin, cheap" -- and available frozen at Costco, GFS, and other places. So no muss, no fuss, no work.

                  2. Ranch Dressing (almost makes me miss thousand island)

                    38 Replies
                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      yes! esp the california tendency to put ranch on everything, incl pizza!

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        I was born and raised in Northern California (SF Bay Area) and have lived here almost my entire life. I have never heard of anyone putting ranch dressing on anything but salad and occasionally as a dip for french fries, onion rings, and fried mozzarella sticks (and even that, only in places like Denny's -- I always thought it was a midwestern thing that somehow came over here with the industrial chain diners!). Could it be a Southern California thing to put it on everything, not California in general? It's definitely not happening anywhere around here that I've seen.

                        1. re: Kitchen Imp

                          I've lived in both halfs of Cali, native of So Cal, don't go blaming us! I you're right that the ranch on everything trend comes from the middle of the country (where I have tons of ranch-loving relatives.) Ranch goes on salad and the occasional french fry. Ranch on pizza sounds disgusting!

                          1. re: writergirl

                            "Ranch on pizza sounds disgusting!"
                            Unless you are in college, it is 3 a.m. and you're just getting home from the bar. It really dresses up the cardboard that passes as pizza in a college town...ahhh, good memories.

                            1. re: amy_rc

                              My son loves to dip the pizza's crust in Ranch after eating all the good part of the pizza. It was a good way to get him to eat the entire piece of pizza instead of having a plate with a bunch of pizza crusts at the end.

                          2. re: Kitchen Imp

                            "but salad and occasionally as a dip for french fries, onion rings, and fried mozzarella sticks"

                            Well, that's three more items than I ever put ranch on...and I grew up in Iowa.

                            1. re: sebetti

                              I think Iowa is pretty notorious for ranch-loving. One of my friends waitresses at a pizza restaurant in Cedar Rapids, and she says people are constantly asking for ranch dressing to put on absolutely everything!

                              1. re: Mangojane

                                Yeeeah...that's pretty typical. Getting anyone in my family to try something on their salad other than ranch or Western is like pulling teeth.

                                1. re: spellweaver16

                                  What the heck is "Western" dressing? Here on the east coast, I suppose our "Eastern" dressing is a concoction of :
                                  extra-virgin olive oil, finely chopped shallots, white-wine vinegar, pure maple syrup, kosher salt & fresly gorund black pepper.

                                  1. re: JayVaBeach

                                    Western dressing is some kind of red dressing, I suppose like "french" or "catalina" or something. If I'm eating somewhere that the only options are Western or Ranch, I have both. If there's a third option, I choose that.

                                    First time I remember seeing Ranch dressing was on a chef salad my mom got from my dad's cafeteria, when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I remember eating it for lunch one day, not being too impressed, and then coming down with stomach flu the very next day. I don't think it had anything to do with the dressing since no one else got sick, but it pretty much put me off ranch for a very long time. To this day it's definitely not one of my favorites, and I'll go without salad it it's the only dressing offered.

                                    1. re: revsharkie

                                      It's fun to reminisce on old food memories. I remember my Mother was appalled when she came to parents weekend at my prep school (VES) circa 1984, my freshman year eating "good green gravy" - yikes !

                                    2. re: JayVaBeach

                                      Yes, Western dressing is very similar to French or Catalina. I liked it as a child because of its sweetness, but I've grown out of it.

                                      1. re: JayVaBeach

                                        With the idea of making the salad dressing harmonize witht he meal, Western probably has some of the same spices that are used on the meats when they are fire-cooked. I've seen a recipie for cole slaw thats bbq flavored so it goes with bbq.

                                2. re: Kitchen Imp

                                  ranch dressing originated in cali (hidden valley ranch), & the trend of putting ranch on/dipping everything in incl. french fries, onion rings, fried mozz, chicken wings, pizza crust, tacos, etc. comes from "surfer cuisine"-- basically unhealthy fried bar food made more unhealthy by being topped with/dipped in ranch or another sauce. . . from there it just went thru the nation's youth culture like mad, getting the greatest early hold in texas and socal. pizza made with ranch instead of red sauce came in the 90's, in cali. most college-aged stoners just dip their crusts in, though.

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    I live in Cali, Colombia. There is no ranch dressing here. I was born in California. We had no ranch dressing growing up.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      ranch dressing was created in cali in 1954, but it was made "shelf stable" in the 70's by clorox co., and nationwide takeover ensued


                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        When did you grow up in California? (Clearly before the slang term "Cali" was in use!) I grew up here in the 70s/80s and Ranch was definitely the salad dressing of choice. Maybe it is generational...and the generation younger than me uses it on everything.

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          Yes, I thought the reason why ranch on pizza got popular is when pizza places started serving wings and at the end there were no more wings left and people started dipping their pizza in it.

                                          speaking of wings, I hate seeing wings on a pizza restaurant menu, when and why did that become so popular.

                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                            except that the trad. accompaniaments to wings are celery stix and bleu cheese dressing!

                                            1. re: betsydiver

                                              I'm always amazed at the term "bleu cheese". Why do you use a french word when there's a perfectly good English equivalent? The French themselves do not refer to "fromage bleu" - they use the name of the variety, like Roquefort or Bleu de Bresse, or whatever. The English always refer to their mold-enlivined cheeses as "Blue", or again just the varietal, such as "Stilton".

                                              But it's no big deal - I'm off to enjoy some roast beef with au jus sauce.

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                And that seems to be unique to America. Up here in Canada it's BLUE cheese (or the specific kind - Stilton, Gorzongola, etc), never "bleu cheese".
                                                In Quebec they probably call it "fromage bleu" which would make sense.

                                                "au jus sauce" and "bento box".... those also make me cringe!

                                      2. re: soupkitten

                                        You should see the use of ranch dressing in Texas. My SO always says if they run out of ideas they just fry it and serve it with ranch dressing.

                                        1. re: kkak97

                                          I've lived in Texas and california, no ranch on my plate. Maybe those places that serve ranch with everything I'd think are commerical chains you can find all over the country. Or bar food. I wouldn't go blaming regions of the country for a food, its how the household your grew up in consumed it.

                                          1. re: mai_world

                                            A. I'm not from Texas (transplant)
                                            B. I don't eat in chain restaurants
                                            C. Food is absolutely regional
                                            D. We never ate ranch in my household

                                            1. re: mai_world

                                              I won't eat any sort of shelf stable creamy dressing. Yuck. Ranch is too sweet for me, and I'm a Texan.

                                            2. re: kkak97

                                              Perhaps someone could do a special thread on the topic of The "ORIGINS of RANCH DRESSING" and it's various uses?

                                              1. re: kkak97

                                                That's for sure. I'm from the midwest and grew up eating the various forms of red dressing (see previous reference to Western - always a staple in our house). I live in Texas now and it's hard to find a restaurant that serves any type of red dressing. You can bet they serve 15 different flavors of ranch though.

                                              2. re: soupkitten

                                                I'm from California too, and I definitely must be of the ranch-on-everything generation. If we're eating greasy fried food someone at the table will generally ask for a side of ranch, for dipping...anything on their plate. Tortilla chips and ranch, pizza crust and ranch naturally, fries, burgers (not dipped, but with ranch instead of mayo or mixed with bbq sauce), with wings instead of blue cheese, I've even seen people put it in fajitas.

                                                I haven't even tried to order it in New York where I live now, cause I know I'll get the we-don't-do-that-here sneer.

                                                1. re: Olallieberry

                                                  that sneer is not unique to ranch dressing.

                                                2. re: soupkitten

                                                  What! you'd rather have Japanese pizza with Tater Tots and mayonnaise on it? '-)

                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                    You guys should try creamy Italian on pizza... Yum! : )

                                                3. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  One of the funniest things I ever saw happened about 10 years ago when I was attending an international conference in Boise. There was a delegation from South Africa there who were a bunch of party guys. One night they went to some bar/resto and tasted ranch dressing for the first time -- likely with onion rings and a lot of beer. The next day they were back at the conference raving about it and wanting directions to the mall. They ended up buying cases of the stuff and packing it their luggage for the long trek back to S.A. Who knew it was so addictive?

                                                  1. re: Greg B

                                                    Along those same lines, I was in line at a Sbarro's pizza at a mall in Phoenix, and there were two French tourists in front of me. The person behind the counter was telling them what type of salad dressings they had, and the girls just did not understand "ranch". They kept saying "French? French dressing?" I poked my nose in and suggested they try the ranch. The look on their faces when they got their salads was priceless.

                                                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    Absolutely Ranch Dressing, it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the title of this thread.
                                                    I live in California and somehow have raised a son who loves everything Including pizza) dipped in ranch dressing. gah

                                                    1. re: laliz

                                                      I have eaten ranch on very few things...originally from WNY and Buffalo, I grew up putting blue cheese dressing on absolutely everything!

                                                      If anyone is interested in the history of ranch dressing, did an article on it.

                                                    2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      Lord yes! Gawd if ever anything has been done to death...

                                                    3. Every restaurant has spinach and artichoke dip on thier menu. How boring? It needs to go.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                                                        Yes, they do, but it varies from one place to another. Some of it is truly inspired with little extras tossed in and some could be made at home with a carton of sour cream. I still like it, at certain places.

                                                        But Buffalo wings have got to go! Good grief! Like you can't get them on every corner. They are so yesterday, IMO. Now if they have wings that have other flavors that may be okay (I like tequila lime ones), but the buffalo ones need to be yanked out of the restaurant appetizer section!

                                                        Also Mozzarella sticks! No more!

                                                        1. re: danhole

                                                          Buffalo wings? Noooooo. Granted most of what we find are bad versions. But back when I was in college (80-85) one of my first roomates was from Buffalo so we knew about wings before they went national. We were cooking 'em up at every bash and they were new to everyone. It was fun watching them become so popular.

                                                          Like others have said...when they get done right they are the best thing served with beer since the peanut.

                                                          Sadly they are rarely done right.

                                                          1. re: danhole

                                                            Particularly "boneless" chicken wings - really, how hard is it to eat your chicken off the bone???

                                                            1. re: Antithesisofpop

                                                              "Boneless wings" are not wings at all. Nobody, for the most part, is going to bone out a wing.. Boneless wings are pieces of chicken breast - they are for the "EWWWW, skin and bones - yuck" people. "Boneless wings" really need to go away.

                                                              1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                                                                I'm pretty sure that boneless wings are usually thigh meat. At least Tyson, who I think invented the idea.

                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                  Most restaurants I've been to are using white meat.

                                                            2. re: danhole

                                                              Please don't make Buffalo wings go away. Sometimes that is the only thing on the menu that isn't covered in wheat (breading, batter, buns) when I get dragged out to eat somewhere uninspired. I went to a "better" restaurant with a friend for lunch and it was literally the only thing on the menu I could eat. So much for being a "better" restaurant.

                                                            3. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                                                              they do? Where the heck are you eating?

                                                            4. Fried calamari, except in the VERY few places that get it right. Too often it's become just another heavy, greasy "appetizer" not worthy of the name. And while we're at it let's put deep-fried mozzarella into the same category.

                                                              And I'm not sure if this is quite on-topic, but another thing that bugs me is restaurants that try to appear sophisticated by serving you olive oil and balsamic vinegar together instead of butter with your bread. Olive oil alone, yes, that's classically Italian, but you NEVER get served vinegar with your bread anywhere but in America, and it needs to stop!

                                                              25 Replies
                                                              1. re: BobB

                                                                The vinegar appears in the UK too... and I like it, as it is a fat-free option.
                                                                Except (as is usual) they float the oil on top of the vinegar - what's that all about?

                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                  haha, I am always so foolish, because I love calamari - i always order it. And you are right, NO ONE gets it right. I have a list of 2 restaurants max, at any given time, that can make it. (I like it very lightly fried with a slightly sweet sauce)

                                                                  The only thing is Bob, its really not worth the effort to clean squid, and and deep fry at home. Its like 6-15 dollars as an appetizer... and frankly, that's something that's worth every penny.

                                                                  1. re: in_wonderment

                                                                    in wonderment, i have made fried calamari at home exactly once, but it was quite easy and economical. plus, mr. alka and i felt like little magicians, creating this wonderful snack. we would do a batch and eat it. then another... 'twas fun!
                                                                    we have also easily used calamari to make the thai salad with calamari, ginger, lime, lemon grass, cellophane noodles, etc. again, easy and so delicious. it was an adventure to recreate the dishes at home!

                                                                    now, i will put in my two-cents worth on spinach and artichoke dip. i love spinach and i love artichokes. i love the combo. i love mayo, sour cream, parmesan, gruyere, etc. i like them combined with spinach and artichokes. and garlic. most places do not do it right, but they could if they cared. (and please, use the right ratios -- MOSTLY artichoke and fresh spinach. NOT mostly gloppy goo.). (so, there is my two cents worth, now 5 cents, with the dollar devaluation....)

                                                                    ps, bring back green goddess!

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      Thanks alka. I havent tried it yet. I did however watch someone clean squid, and it looked sort of scary. I think if I can find squid mostly cleaned, I will try it. Frying isn't too bad, just kind of messy.

                                                                      Calamari is so good.

                                                                      1. re: in_wonderment

                                                                        whole foods has frozen cleaned squid. texture is not as tender as really fresh. a good fish place will clean it for you, but it is easy to do (don't forget the beak!)

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          marinate frozen squid in milk overnight. It will soften it right up! freaky, huh?

                                                                          1. re: TSQ75

                                                                            cool, thanks TSQ75! what do you make with it? i see from your avatar an affinity for squid! ;-)

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              thanks both of you. i didn't realize whole foods had cleaned squid, and its nice to know that milk will soften it up.

                                                                              im not big on cleaning things... but i do LOVE calamari.

                                                                              1. re: in_wonderment

                                                                                you're good to go, in wonderment. happy frying! we use peanut oil.

                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                  thanks alka and everyone else in this post. :)

                                                                                  1. re: in_wonderment

                                                                                    Cleaned squid ususally still has some cartilidge in the middle of the tubes, so check before preparing. You should be able to buy it at a lot of places, not just Whole Foods. Just look in the frozen section. If you see it in the fresh fish display, I'm guessing it's just thawed out, unless you live right by the ocean.

                                                                            2. re: TSQ75

                                                                              This technique also works well with beef/calves' liver

                                                                        2. re: alkapal

                                                                          I bought some a few months back @ Kroger. It didn't last long!

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            Ohhh, alkapal, this is an old post (someone seems to have revived the thread, as happens)

                                                                            I LOVE green goddess dressing! I make at home a few times in summer when my herb garden is going strong, and salad can be the most apealing meal on a hot day.

                                                                            But I never see it in resto's. It is actually a reasonably complex dressing if made right and it doesn't keep well. Seems perfect for some restaurant with a decent volume of business to have it be a signature... sigh. I can dream:)

                                                                          2. re: in_wonderment

                                                                            TJ's has frozen breaded calamari rings, which are pretty good. It's never been rubbery or overly chewy.

                                                                            1. re: in_wonderment

                                                                              In my experience, the places that "don't get it right" overcook it. I send it back. Then they get it right!

                                                                              You can buy flash frozen calimari rings to make your own. You can also buy fresh squid and cut the rings yourself. Not difficult. There's no reason to love calimari and be deprived of good calimari. When restaurants goof, just send it back! It's sooooooooooooooo American not to send things back and just pay for bad food like the flock of sheep we too often are.

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                One of my one & only "fried" hors d'oeuvres I truly enjoy & prefer to order them out, as I don't do much frying at home - Calamari Fritti. If I'm not actually in Italy, the next best spot is the Isle of Capri in Virginia Beach - their batter is unique & the calamari is always perfect.

                                                                                1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                  thanks from one virginian to another.

                                                                                  1. re: in_wonderment

                                                                                    In Wonderment - I see that you're from Charlottesville, VA - wahoo - I love c'ville - I've spent a lot of time there as the University of Virginia was both my father's & sister's alma mater. We use to love eating at Eastern Standard when in town. I was an hour south @ Hampden-Sydney College. "Virginia is for lovers" definitely for fine food.

                                                                                    1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                      definitely. lots of great restuarants in charlottesville. thanks for the calamari suggestion in the southeast. when we visit down there, its overwhelming to find good seafood... because its offered so much. its tough to tell what is good, what is just catering to tourists, etc. its funny, a lot of the time it doesn't have to do with price either. so ill take suggestions when i can get them :)

                                                                                  2. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                                    Next time you're in or near a Japanese restaurant, see if they will do some calimari tempura for you, if it's not already on the munu. An added bonus is that Japanese restaurants very rarely overcook anything.

                                                                                    For home, heat about three inches of peanut oil in a saucepan, dip the calimari rings in either canned (evaporated) milk OR buttermilk, then dredge in seasoned flour and into the really hot oil for a minute or two. For those who prefer gilding the lily, you can double dip, double flour the rings for a thicker batter. The evaporated milk produces a somewhat thinner crust than the butternilk, the buttermilk has a tad more tang. I find the evaporated milk version reminiscent of tempura batter, but a bit thicker.

                                                                              2. re: BobB

                                                                                I love fried calamari, but it is true that many restos do it dreadfully. There are a couple of places in Montréal, where I live, that do it rather well. No sweet sauce with it here - usually served rather plain, with wedges of lemon.

                                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                                  I have to disagree. If they can't get calamari right how do they get the rest of the menu right?

                                                                                  Also in Italy I've never seen bread served with anything. No butter, no oil, no vinegar. But the type of bread they use is very different than here too. I only object to vinegar as most served are not the good quality ones.

                                                                                  1. re: notmartha

                                                                                    I agree , my Italian friends who live in Milan think it is an American thing.

                                                                                  2. re: BobB

                                                                                    i just wanna see the words 'dipping sauce' fall of the face of the globe. don't say 'baked spaghetti' to me; nor 'emeril' nor a couple other things, but puhleeease let's all just get over dipping sauce with everything. i think more than anything else, this brings out the food snob in me. there are other things to call those that we really need to keep, and the rest is all just extra fattiness that adds nothing except appeals to the basest of us all for getting even more obese needlessly! yes, i've eaten and enjoyed potato chips with mayo, but do i need any of it?