Dining out in the United States for the last several decades could be broken down into two categories: going out for a fancy meal made by an international chef in a big city, or splitting a pizza at the local Italian joint in town. Small towns typically did not have a diverse enough population to support something deemed exotic. As these towns gradually expanded into suburbs and people left the cities behind, the dynamics began to change and people wanted to have the same fine dining experiences they were used to without having to make a big trip into a city.
It was not just diners that were looking to have the big city experience in a smaller town setting. Many of the restaurants that have been setting the pace by opening in previously underserved communities tend to be ethnic restaurants owned and operated by second or third generation family members. First generation immigrants tend to land in cities where there is already an established community of people from their country. As they settle into their new home, start a family and gradually become successful, the children and grandchildren look to strike out on their own.
Unfortunately, starting any new business in a city can be expensive, and restaurants, with their razor thin profit margins in most cases, are especially prohibitive to first time business owners. Finding space in the suburbs tends to be far less expensive and also comes with much less competition. Even if there are several other independent restaurants established in a community, rarely will you find more than one or two of a specific ethnicity.
These new restaurants tend to fall in two categories. Either they are a pure example of their heritage, with meals prepared using authentic ingredients and served as they would be "back in the old country," or they are called fusion restaurants. A fusion restaurant is one that takes traditional elements - certain ingredients, particular spices or signature sauces - from a specific ethnic background and marries it with more familiar ingredients. For instance, a Latin fusion restaurant might offer a New York Strip steak garnished with a poblano butter and mole sauce.
More people live in the suburbs than either the urban or rural areas of the country, and the new generation of restaurant owners are following the crowds. Today it is just as possible to enjoy a five star meal at an Appleton, Wisconsin Restaurant as it is in New York City, and at a fraction of the cost. Just as importantly, it probably comes with much more parking as well.
Jack Terry is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com