People in small - medium towns, what new foods have you been able to get in the last 5 years?

I’m curious about the diffusion of food trends across the US. It seems like even the smallest towns in the US nowadays can get Sushi and Jalapenos but what about Burmese food? Mangosteen? Plantains?

Either in restaurants or grocery stores, what new food related items have come to your town in the last 5 years?

In the last five years, the upscale grocery store in my town of 26,000 put in an international foods section, and I can now get spotted dick! Beyond that, they also carry a good selection of Indian sauce mixes and jarred sauces that are pretty darned good. I wish we would get an Indian restaurant. I’m pretty sure it would do well here.

Hmmmm, lets see. Five years ago, when I first move to this small midwestern city, you could get sushi, tapas, and all manner of asian and mexican groceries.

Since then we’ve acquired a gourmet cupcake bar and one of the asian groceries began selling duck eggs and quail’s eggs. They are available on a come-and-go basis, because they’re supplied by local people who happen to have some of the birds.

I don’t know how informative this is for you, really, because there was a plethora of ethnic food available. Like I said there were several very good asian groceries, a middle-eastern one, and scattered Mexican ones. We can get prickly pears and many types of seaweed, and mochi and brinza, and many “alternate” meats like bison and ostrich. The alternate-species eggs I noticed because I wanted them. I don’t know if we can get bitter melon and ponzu and durian because I’ve never looked. Ditto burdock drink and speck.

PS, the county’s population is about 175K, but that swells considerably when the students are in town. There’s a big university here.

My town in MA has almost 17k people and is about 20 minutes from the nearest city. For restaurants we have Chinese and Greek and that’s about it for foreign. We have one chain restaurant (Big Y) and one local grocery store (Big Bunny) plus two chain grocery stores in the next town over (Shaw’s and Stop and Shop). The local store doesn’t have much of a foreign section at all (but they do have wine, which the chain stores do not). The chain stores have the typical foreign stuff (Mexican, Asian, a tiny amount of Indian stuff). The entire Mexican sections seem to revolve around tacos. One of them, I don’t remember which, has a bit of a British section too, which is nice.
I really wish we’d get a good Indian restaurant here.
We badly lack in choices but we do have at least one awesome Chinese buffet, pizza parlor, and fried chicken place.

Gelato. Yum. Not as exciting as when real cappuccino appeared in restaurants in small NE Wisconsin towns. But close. Even have Gorgonzola and prosciutto at the market.

Let’s see, things I cannot get here. I’m not going to include things like dry good that I can easily get over the Internet (like spices… I’m sure there’s a fair # of spices I can’t buy locally but it’s easy & cheap to get them sent to me.)

Sushi: technically we have a couple places that serve sushi, but they’re not sushi bars. They’re places where they have one or two roll on the menu, almost always tuna or salmon or California rolls. You want eel/scallop/mackeral/yellowtail/toro/etc? Can’t get it. And the stuff you can get is not very high quality.

Ethnic restaurants: easier to list what I can get than what I can’t. Americanized Italian food, semi-greek stuff (a local place that serves gyros and spinach pie along with pizza and burgers), semi-decent Thai, Americanized Chinese, semi-decent takeout Burritos & Tacos. That’s about it - no Vietnamese, no sit-down Mexican, no even semi-authentic Italian, no Laotian, no Ethiopian, nothing else. No Burmese.

Ingredients: I can’t get most ocean fish or fresh seafood. Sometimes I see low-quality frozen stuff - like tasteless scallops or the scary-looking frozen swordfish I saw today.

I can get a lot of veggies and fresh herbs, even some non-standard stuff like baby bok choy and fresh curry leaf on occasion. The local co-op has been stocking Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges in season, which makes me giddy. Oddly, things like non-standard greens are sometimes hard. I’ve never seen frisee lettuce, for example, and Boston lettuce has just shown up in the past 4-5 years. Lemongrass I can sometimes get. Galangal? Not fresh, no way.

I’ve never seen a Mangosteen here but we do get Plantains.

I can get Anaheim peppers and (only the past couple years) Poblanos. One place carries Thai chiles and Habeneros pretty regularly, and jalapenos and Serranos are never a problem to find. I wish they’d get Hatch or other New Mexico chiles, but I’ve never seen them. Tomatillos are also easy to find.

Even certain cuts of meat can be difficult on occasion. I looked all over today for hanger steak, no luck. Veal and lamb are available, but I’ve learned to stock up when I see it because there’s no guarantee they’ll have it when I’m looking for it. Same with duck/goose/capons/any bird but chicken. Flank steak/skirt steak can be hard to find.

Pate - they never have anything of good quality. Nor can I get a lot of salami/charcuterie. Summer sausage/brats/etc are everywhere, but Mortadella and other not-so-crazy stuff is hard to find. Small packages of pretty good quality Prosciutto isn’t too hard to find.

No Gelato (I wish!).

Really freakin’ good coffee, though, we have that! Local roaster who is a coffee God.

Pretty decent selection of cheeses, though I wish they’d rotate more. Like, we can get a lot of high-quality small-producer Wisconsin cheese, and decent quality Brie, Camembert, and French or American blue cheese. Gorgonzola is easy to find. But no Tallegio or Cabrales or Epoisses or real Muenster (from Muenster, not the white stuff with the orange edge.)

Man I smell a fortune to be made opening a gelato chain. I Can’t Believe They Don’t Have Gelato Here!

Town of about 18k - 19k

We just got a Japanese steakhouse. Thus, about a month or so ago I finally tried sushi for the first time. It was ok.

I have no idea what mangosteen is, although I am assuming from context that it is not an animated singing fruit. I know what plantains are because of World of Warcraft. I suspect I would not be able to find either of them in town. The same goes for Burmese food.

We have a couple of Chinese places. We also have a couple of Mexican grocery stores and lots of (what I assume are) authentic Mexican restaurants.

Burmese food?

Laotian restaurants?

I wonder how many individual Laotian restaurants LA, Houston, Chicago or NYC currently has?

2 or 3 in the entire city?

20 or 30 each?

200 or 300 per square mile, all teeming with customers both day & night to keep up with the insatiable demand?

I don’t know how small you want to go, but my town is about 1,000 people. We have three restaurants and one tiny grocery store. About the most exotic thing in the grocery store is ginger root and maybe mangoes. They just got the ginger root in a couple of weeks ago.

As for the restaurants, one is the bowling alley/bar, one used to be a cafe and seems to be trying to turn itself into a bar and the other is a pretty nice restaurant/bar that was built about 15 years ago and has had several owners since then. The bowling alley has what you would call ‘bar food’ (burgers, broasted chicken, etc) and the cafe and restaurant/bar have typical American cuisine (steaks, burgers, chops, etc.).

It was about five years ago that we started getting decent Thai food here in Bozeman. There are two or three restaurants now. And it looks like we might be getting an Indian restaurant soon (which we desperately need); a couple of entrepreneurs are experimenting with a booth at the farmer’s market to gauge the demand.

We’ve had Mexican, Chinese, sushi, Korean, and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern for as long as I’ve been here (over a decade), and a Cajun place for nearly that long.

Here in San Francisco we have 8 Burmese restaurants, but apparently only one Laotian restaurant. I’m not sure that there is any type of cuisine that doesn’t have at least one restaurant in San Francisco.

Broasted chicken! That sounds exotic and yummy. I’d love to try that someday.

Is there a Hungarian restaurant? There used to be one in Ghirardelli Square, but it closed years ago.

In fact, I’d love to find a Hungarian restaurant anywhere in the Bay Area. I only know of one in Los Angeles.

If you have a pressure cooker, you can approximate it fairly well.

I still visit the old hometown in NE Arkansas (~8k people) every now and again.

Nothing new, food-wise, in the last 20 years. The most “exotic” thing you might find is take-out Americanized Chinese or the local Tex-Mex place (which has been there for 35 years). The best place for coffee is still the local McDonald’s as there’s nothing like a Starbucks or other chain coffeehouse. As we were the only East Asians living in the town for several years, we made regular trips to Memphis for supplies.

I guess you mentioned jalapenos, but those aren’t really too exotic in the South and haven’t been exotic in a while.