The Up & Coming Fad of Craft Food and Drinks

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Every few years there’s a new “fad” or “movement” ranging from clothing and music trends to the current craft food trend we are in the midst of. Locally sourced, farm-to-table, as well as “craft” food and drinks are terms we hear a lot lately. Craft food is defined as food prepared from high-quality ingredients, as opposed to fast food.

Craft food and drink are part of a trend of more expensive, sit-down restaurants with some local or better quality ingredients. Likewise there is also a boom of non-mass-produced craft beer, which has taken the American beer and food culture by storm.  These small business are drawing a lot of attention and creating a new niche for American dining culture..

In the long run, this is great. America is finally creating its own food niche of quality over speed and size.  With such an exponential growth rate, it’s hard to know how much bigger this trend can get. Eventually, once the demand plateaus and there are too many craft restaurants and breweries, some of the  best business models will be able to make a big name and market for themselves, while the rest will be able to keep a local following as well.

The lasting mark that will be left is invaluable, as craft beer and food in America is here to stay. Instead of making the trek to San Diego or Los Angeles, food and beer connoisseurs will have their own local industry, and Irvine will be one of many local spots where quality establishments are only a few miles away. Americans have finally stumbled on a great food and drink concept that we can embrace, and we will be able to reap the benefits of it for the next few decades to come.

There has always been a few of these types of  high-quality restaurants, but the past decade has brought an exponential increase in the market and popularity of trendy and better quality food spots.

With the rise of phone technology and a platform for foodies to share their findings on Yelp and Instagram, finding trendy and highly rated restaurants can be done with just a few swipes on your smartphone. Not only is it great to find an up-and-coming food spot, but it also becomes popular to share all the details of the newest spots and be a social media food critic. The millennial generation is in part responsible for this craze and movement away from fast food. Yet, along with social media, craft beer as well as food has blossomed to create its own identity and following and our generation has brought it into the mainstream.

The American craft beer movement, which started flourishing a few decades ago, initially brought about this mass socialization, pairing great food with great beer. One perfect example is the Anthill Pub & Grille, a spot where you can find UCI students and beer snobs alike enjoying pub food along with great beer.  It is now more socially acceptable to grab beer and lunch with a friend, but many breweries and gastro-pubs have also stumbled upon this great idea. Many young people and successful millennial love great tasting items, and are willing to pay a little more to be in an environment that caters to their passions for higher quality and better tasting items.

Similarly, craft beer enthusiasts need food to go with their beer, and some eateries have set themselves apart by providing high quality, more expensive items that any customer will enjoy. These patrons are tired of the same mass produced, shitty food and beer that has plagued American culture, and have finally helped carve a niche.

Some prime examples of this pairing of local sourced food and beer are the bourgeoning gastro pub and restaurant scene in San Diego and in Portland. By working with local agriculture to bring in this farm fresh yet more expensive product, restaurants have been striking gold. It seems like there’s a new chic and trendy food and beer spot every week. People with the income to spend on better quality are cashing in on this and adding to the booming craze we are in the midst of.

For this blossoming concept to work though, there has to be a certain disposable income and market to tap. Orange County, with its high amount of middle class and people aching for more great local food spots, has seen a rise in the restaurant and beer industry, ranging from Downtown Santa Ana, Anaheim,  Costa Mesa and Irvine. Young people have credit cards, money and a lifestyle bent on finding and sharing the latest go-to spots.

So with all this ammunition to keep the craft food and beer movement going, is it good and sustainable.  It’s been on the way up for a while and we are nearing the peak of this market. This has created a foodie culture of more informed consumers of people who embrace the restaurant and craft drink lifestyle. So embrace it, try a craft beer or an up-and-coming restaurant. You just might enjoy it enough to come back again.  Give it a chance and you might fall in love with the new food and drink cultural awakening we are in the midst of.  It is here to stay, and you can help be a part of it.

Alex Guardado is a fifth-year public health science Major.  He can be reached at aguarda1@uci.edu.

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