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Food trends of the past decade: How we eat

Trendy sliders popped up on lots of menus

Trendy sliders popped up on lots of menus across Long Island in the '00s. Photo Credit: Newsday/Ana P. Gutierrez

Rules have changed over the past decade. Remember the square meal? It's given way to "small plates" (don't call them tapas anymore), to be shared and combined at whim.

General Tso's chicken at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant has become an anachronism, replaced by lettuce wraps at an Asian fusion place with neon-lit sushi bar and techno background music.

There's more; read on.

Comfort, please

Long Islanders consistently crave childhood comfort classics - but with a contemporary twist. In no dish is this more evident than mac 'n' cheese, available haute (with black truffles and lobster) or humble (laced with ham and peas). Find it everywhere, from the cozy neighborhood pub to the stylish destination dining spots.

Sliders go down easy

Mini burgers (and sandwiches) have become a major phenom over the past five years, turning up at chain restaurants, bars, even chic New American spots.

Raw fish on a roll

If sushi was huge during the '90s, it's become gargantuan over the past decade, showing up not only in Japanese restaurants but in steak houses, New American spots, supermarkets and malls.

Burgers are back

Ground beef has rebounded from the mad-cow scare of the early decade. Lately, a spate of creative new joints has opened, serving patties crowned with everything from mashed potatoes to peanut butter.

Big on barbecue

The taste for slow-smoked foods - ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken - has risen steadily, along with the number of barbecue joints dotting LI.

When the moon hits your eye

The Grandma pie is a relatively recent Long Island phenomenon - square but thinner than Sicilian, topped with basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. There's also an upswing in restaurants specializing in wood- and coal-oven pizza.

East meets West

Peking duck fajitas, jalapeño yellowtail sashimi and tuna tacos - just some of the innovative combos at the growing cadre of Asian fusion restaurants, most equipped with sushi bars.

Thai at a high

At the dawn of the decade, Long Island had but a handful of Thai restaurants. Now, you can probably find a green curry fix within 5 miles of your home. And, with the opening of the new SriPraPhai in Williston Park, indulge in more rarefied and authentic dishes.

Song of India

Exotic aromas waft over the Route 107 corridor in Hicksville, now a nexus of Indian culture. Here, you'll find curries, tandoor-baked breads and the South Indian crepes called dosas.

Chinese food at a crossroads

The decade has seen the closing of a number of Chinese-American standbys, like Sun Ming in Huntington. The neighborhood Hunan-Sichuan restaurant, once a standby, is a nearly extinct species.

Middle East and Mediterranean flavors

Islandwide, it's getting easier to find pide (the Turkish stuffed pastry analogous to pizza), along with the kebabs of Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and even Azerbaijan. Greek restaurants have been burgeoning, from basic moussaka houses to swankiest estiatorios specializing in whole grilled fish. What's common to almost all of the above? Hummus.

Latin American panache

Over the decade, Long Island has seen the opening of authentic Colombian rotisserie restaurants, Salvadoran pupuserias and Mexican taquerias, most in ethnic neighborhoods.

The name game

* The most popular word in restaurant names? Blue. Here are just a few "blues" that opened (and closed) over the decade: Blue, Blue Honu, Blue Moon Cafe, Aqua Blue, Blue Sky, Blue Sky Bistro, Blue Lagoon, Blue Ocean Asian Bistro, Blue Room, Blue Fin, etc.

* "New American" cuisine is in, "Continental" a dinosaur.

* This was the decade of the "kitchen & wine bar," the "food studio and cocktail salon." And, over the past 2 years, the "gastro pub" (casual chef-driven bar serving well-crafted fare) has come into its own.

Price fixing

The midweek prix-fixe (a set price for a multicourse meal) gained popularity as restaurateurs sought to fill empty seats. Restaurant Weeks are now annual traditions in many communities.

Internet intervention

* Anyone keeping up with Long Island restaurant happenings should be clued into the Internet, where Newsday's "Feed Me" blog (newsday.com/feedme) was launched last year. There's also the more long-standing Chowhound.com, where Long Island foodies gripe and rave about whatever they've eaten.

* Need to see a menu? Most are just a mouse click away, since most restaurants have Web sites.

* You can book reservations at a growing number of Long Island places at Opentable.com.

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