02/28/2013 10:14 am ET

Southern Food, Drinking Chocolate, The Return Of The Sandwich: Food Trends for 2013

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The scene at L.A's hot new restaurant Spoonful is low key and cool as we dig into its classic Southern style menu with a gourmet twist. Pork sliders with three classic Southern BBQ sauces from three different regions, the most incredible fried chicken with scratch made mac and cheese and collard greens, short rib and grits topped with shoestring cut leeks and grits -- the hearty meal has been a trend for a while in the market but Southern food is newly arriving and Spoonful is hands down one of the best places to eat. Chef Victor Calderon and the restaurant puts a lot of thought into the menu items - the weekend brunch menu is buzzing around the city. Great Jones in New York is said to be one of the favorites of the east.

Another trend that is cropping up is drinking chocolate. Whereas hot chocolate is traditionally made from cocoa powder, upstart chocolatiers like Flying Noir are grinding up true chocolate, mixing in spices and salts and redefining the experience. It can be added to water, cream, milk or other liquids as well as desserts and sauces for cooking and has a richer taste and texture than traditional cocoa powder. Spiced chocolates in general are popular and will likely continue to be.

Hamburgers have been the hot thing for a while from quick serve to gourmet restaurants, but the sandwich is back in a big way. It's condensed in size and packed with flavorful ingredients, speciality sauces and premium meats, or traditional bahn mi style pulling in squishy soft bread with classic Vietnamese flavors and pairings. Ink.Sack usually has a line outside the door for its combinations which include one topped with Fritos.

Lettuces of all kinds have been having a minute for a while -- arugula and butter lettuce leading the pack, particularly. Delicate and simple salads replacing the traditional chopped. Canada's classic Poutine has also been popping up among some of the restaurants, served chic and gourmet style. While small plates were the thing for a while, the hearty meal has returned, particularly with regional and national classics from the U.S. and around the world.

Artisan and upstart product companies are also turning up at a lot more restaurants and eateries. For example, Ink.Sack carries a range of colas and sodas from artisan companies versus the mass market brands. Farm-to-table is also a huge thing everywhere, from small, organic, and sustainable farms. On a stay in Portland the entire hotel menu items were all from local farms, suppliers and startup companies.

The cool thing about all of these trends is that if you're not in a major city, or major market, you can do a lot of them at home.

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