Our 10 Favorite Stories of the Year
From oral histories on iconic joints to a unifying theory explaining the restaurant industry as we know it, here are our favorite dispatches on dining in 2023...
Throughout December, we’ll be posting reported features, essays, and lists around our monthly theme: Holiday.
When we look at this year’s data, dining out trended downward year-over-year in the U.S. While 2023 started off strong, surging throughout January (seated dinners were up 37 percent during the first week of the year alone!), and again spiking in early February and mid-May, the numbers fell off precipitously from there. At nearly every turn, we remained one step behind our dining selves of the previous year. Chalk it up to bear markets and a world in which inflation still outpaces check size.
But those numbers hardly capture the enthusiasm we witnessed IRL. In New York, restaurants were packed — and those restaurants were bigger than ever, with classics like I Sodi, Superiority Burger, and Torrisi all reincarnated in much larger spaces, to say nothing of the 25,000 Shangri-La square feet that is ZZ’s Club (or the 250 Founders Club memberships Major Food Group sold for the place, each to the tune of a $50,000 initiation fee). It wasn’t all about size, however. Small spots like Mắm and Foxface Natural dazzled — the latter giving the kind of #iykyk energy reminiscent of early Momofuku Noodle Bar days. We got Fauxdeons, the martinis and fries happy meal, and George Motz went viral with Hamburger America, proving that the platonic ideal of an American meal still has some life in her. And here on Blackbird, we launched with loyalty programs at some of our favorite restaurants — with much more to come in 2024.
It’s been a good year here on The Supersonic as well, and we thank everyone of you for subscribing and joining us for the ride. We were lucky enough to have some of our favorite writers pen stories on a range of topics. We ranked things, dissected trends, went deep on power ups, scandals, and bonding curves. We even resorted to AI, employing it as a would-be restaurateur, as well as an artist capable of dreaming up mascots for the world’s most iconic fine dining establishments. In short, it was hard to whittle things down to our 10 favorite stories, let alone rank them (don’t worry, we did), but the list below represents our best efforts. We hope the breadth of these stories speaks to the holistic way in which we approach dining, and the sense of wonder and excitement this sweet little industry of ours still inspires. Enjoy.