Beer, pop-ups and stationary food trucks trending for 2011 so far

For their mid-year weigh-in, crowd-sourcing diner's guide Zagat has identified pop-ups, beer, rapid chain expansion, izakayas and permanently parked food trucks as the hottest US food trends for 2011 so far.

Zagat cites chef José Andrés' restaurant America Eats Tavern as an example of a concept-shifting restaurant that has become all the rage in early 2011.

Andrés, who was named Outstanding Chef at the James Beard Awards this year, transformed his Washington DC restaurant Café Atlantico into a temporary culinary museum exhibiting the history of American cooking.

The restaurant was created in partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives' exhibit What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?, a journey that traces the government's role in the American diet.

The US dining scene is also seeing the emergence of "perma pop-ups," in which restaurants rotate chefs every few months.

"Beer-centric" cuisine is also a-brewing State-side, Zagat says, and a slew of beer gardens have been popping up throughout the country.

In the last six months alone, Los Angeles gained four beer gardens including Steingarten, a traditional beer garden that serves a dozen type of sausages like wild boar, elk, rabbit, bison, and venison blueberry, 70 couture brews, and 20 rotating craft beers on tap.

Restaurants with regional cult followings have also become remarkably ambitious, carrying out lofty expansion plans across the US.

When In-N-Out Burger, a wildly popular west coast burger chain, set up a shop in Texas last month, for example, residents camped out overnight to get their first taste of its burgers.

For a fair trade, New York's Papaya King, a tourist destination for its tropical drinks and selection of hot dogs, also moved out west to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, food trucks are slamming on the brakes and taking a detour away from the very thing that makes these mobile restaurants so novel and returning to brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Zagat cites LA ice cream truck Coolhaus as an example, as they've announced plans to set up a permanent location.

And finally, izakayas - sake-centric Japanese small-plate eateries which were all the rage in New York a time ago - are trending in Chicago, San Francisco and LA.

Hecho, in San Francisco, for example, serves Otumami: small plates like tuna tartar with lime avocado and macha salt, cured hamachi with jalapeno candies and lemon oil, and flash-fried tofu with dashi broth.

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