Tacos are for everyone, everywhere. Here’s how to cash in with original spins
  
Tacos are an industry favorite, found everywhere from local hole-in-the-wall and white-tablecloth concepts to small-plate menus and even the dessert course. They’re a familiar and approachable – not to mention delicious – classic that can showcase a variety of flavors and techniques. Here’s a peek at some ways that tacos are being reinvented in the current restaurant landscape.
 
New veggie/plant-based options
In previous years, meatless taco fillings consisted mostly of potatoes or beans. Now plant-based options are more popular than ever. From roasted asparagus to pan-fried cauliflower, operators are finding new and exciting ways to use veggies in tacos. In fact, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, the fastest-growing taco ingredients are all veggies – sweet potato has grown 100% on menus year over year, followed by zucchini (up 67%), kale (up 57%), black bean salsa (55%) and squash (up 50%).
 
Mash-ups
Tacos are a popular menu item in part because they are so familiar. People know what to expect when they order them. That said, the format lends well to experimentation and, in turn, fusion of cuisines. Try switching up the tortilla for a flatbread or naan. Spice the filling with Greek or Mediterranean seasoning instead of Mexican flavors. Or include ingredients such as labneh, a type of Greek yogurt, or kimchi, popular in Korean dishes.
 
 
Unexpected proteins

Tacos have also paved the way for using unexpected proteins as fillings. For instance, instead of serving standard beef or fish tacos, operators can create their own original dish using brisket or catfish. Poke tacos with sashimi-grade ahi tuna or salmon marry two popular trends. And gyro tacos, with lamb served in a tortilla, satisfy diners who are looking for a new twist on a traditional favorite.

 
 
High-end and small plates

Most consumers wouldn’t necessarily think to order tacos as an entrée at a white tablecloth restaurant. But even fine-dining establishments are getting on the taco train by putting their own original taco creations on small plate or appetizer menus. A two-bite mini taco, or a taco made in a wonton shell, for example, are great ways to manage food costs and stretch the utility of more expensive ingredients.

While a diner may shy away from ordering lobster as their main course due to cost, a lower priced lobster taco appetizer can be the perfect treat. And as Neil Doherty, Senior Director of Culinary Development for Sysco, points out, the more eccentric the ingredient, the higher the cost can be, making small-bite tacos ideal for fine dining establishments. Operators can experiment with ingredients such as beef tartare or Kobe beef, lobster or soft-shell crab, scallops, and more.