Bowl of coleslaw
The Controversial Upswing Of Fast Casual Bowl Restaurants
From burrito bowls to acai bowls, “bowl” has transformed from a piece of dishware to a filling, balanced meal, but the food trend is not without controversy.
Bowls can offer customers the chance to pick and choose exactly what they want and allow chefs to introduce lesser-known dishes to the public in a form they already recognize.
However, these restaurants can decontextualize cultural dishes to the point they’re no longer recognizable, and signal a wave of gentrification in the neighborhood.
This is best explained by the controversy surrounding Brooklyn-based restaurant OxKale, which offers bowls featuring traditional Caribbean ingredients.
Brooklyn is home to a large Caribbean population, but as restaurants like OxKale become popular, formerly affordable ingredients like oxtail become inaccessible to the community.
These trends can also decontextualize dishes, changing or simplifying traditional names or leaving out key ingredients to make them more palatable to a mass market.
Restaurants are often a leading indicator of gentrification, with fast-casual restaurants signaling the final stage of gentrification and a no-longer-affordable neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the fast-casual market is expected to grow by 10% over the next five years, so as you see more of these restaurants, try to support local businesses run by people of color.