Young and Hungry

Ten Most Abused Foodie Terms of 2012

In this week's print column, we judged the best, worst, and weirdest in D.C. food this year. Among our "Hungries" awards was "most misused foodie term," which went to "speakeasy." But there are plenty of other phrases that were abused and overused in 2012 (and even yours truly is sometimes guilty). Here are ten terms we hope to hear less of next year:

1. Pop-up

Any guest chef dinner or special event is now automatically deemed a pop-up. The concept doesn't even need to be temporary to be a pop-up anymore.

2. Artisanal

We knew it was over for this word when we saw "artisanal lettuce" on the menu at Crios Modern Mexican in Dupont Circle.

3. Farm-to-table

Where do you think your food came from before?

4. Nose-to-tail

Wow, sweetbreads on the menu? Yawn. Not so original anymore.

5. Soft-open

It's either open or it's not.

6. Neighborhood restaurant

All kinds of restaurants, even hotel restaurants, want to brand themselves as a "neighborhood" spots regardless of the vibe or crowd. The term is now completely meaningless.

7. Hand-crafted

As opposed to robot-crafted? Or foot-crafted?

8. Housemade

Now that pretty much every new restaurant does its own pickling/infusing/brining, they don't really need to point out that a dish is housemade… Plus, can't we just call it homemade?

9. Tapas

Just because it's served on a tiny plate doesn't mean it's tapas.

10. Sustainable

This word is used to describe so many different things, we don't even know what it means anymore.

Got others? Leave 'em in the comments.

Photo via Shutterstock

  • Ben


  • Alison

    I prefer 'housemade' to 'homemade' - I doubt that any of the products are made in someone's home. Homemade to me is in contrast to something that is made in a factory or in a restaurant, so it shouldn't be on a restaurant menu.

  • Sancho

    It seems as though I hear the term organic alot. A pig's asshole could be organic nowadays, so I think the meaning is becoming too broad.

  • Jane

    I like how "pop-up" is so overused that Tom Brown insists on calling his place a "restaurant accelerator".

    Abused, misused or overused: heirloom, small-batch, vintage, authentic, "inspired" as a suffix.

  • mary

    small plates

  • Over the River

    This is an excellent list. I have to agree with Ben on "Foodie",it is just wrong.

  • Dave

    I've had it with "umami". It's meaning has expanded and diffused since it was introduced to describe glutamic taste. Even worse, I find it hard to pronounce.

  • Lisa

    Rustic is STILL overused and abused.

  • Maggie

    TWIST!!!! Can we stop using this word? Everyone has a 'twist' on something! Passion is another one...

  • michael

    Two terms annoy me, mostly used on top chef: "This dish is a *play* on this classic dish," and "What you have here is pork *two ways.*" I mean, for whatever reason, they just kind of annoy me.

  • c

    game over

  • Jessica Sidman

    I'd like to add another: "chef-driven"

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  • Alex

    "Celebrity chef" and blogs such as this one reporting on them every time they do anything. Sorry, I just don't care about some guy who didn't even place on whatever Cable TV reality show he was on five years ago, especially when his restaurants aren't even that good.

  • jess

    It seems like food writers have been annoyed by tapas since the early to mid 2000's.

  • Ellen

    "Grilled to perfection"

  • D

    You actually have some real tapas, in small plates, on that picture... look home made to me!

  • Chris

    Locavore, food truck and cupcake.

  • Chris

    and I'd like to add "foraged" as well.

  • P

    Why must everything be called a concept?

  • Jeff

    "To die for." Why is everything "to die for?" Can't it just be delicious? I've had some very, very good food in some very, very good restaurants (and a fair amount of excellent food in skeevy-looking little joints), and none of it would be worth dying for, even as a figure of speech.

  • video

    "Confit." Most everything served as "confit" is nothing like confit.

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  • Novatronic


  • Jen

    "I'm going in" just say you're taking a bite! and "Organic"..seriously? This word isn't even really regulated...and do I need to see it before every word on a label?

  • Kelly

    "family owned"