I am 28 years old, moved to DC right after college (2004) and quickly learned the amazing range and depth of taste in Chinese Szechuan food. In part this is because my arrival coincided with the rise of the now famous Peter Chang, who was just opening his first restaurants at that time. When he left DC, we found that there were quite a number of restaurants making great Szechuan, including some of the dishes that Chang turned out. I moved to Boston several years ago, and again found that there is a good selection of excellent Szechuan here, including many of my favorites (Chongqing Chicken, Dan Dan Noodles, Cumin Lamb, Dumplings in Chili Oil, etc.).
I have noticed what seems like a rise of Szechuan restaurants in many cities I frequent, but am curious if I am experiencing this because I have myself matured as a diner in the last six years, or if this is actually a historically specific phenomenon to the last 5-10 years. In other words, am I experiencing this is a trend because of my own heightened awareness, or is good Szechuan actually becoming more prevalent? Are there any speculations why this might be the case? I assume it might be a confluence of factors: generally more sophisticated American diners, a generation of diners (mine and thereabouts) who are the second or third to experience Americanized Chinese food and want something more "authentic," more chefs immigrating to America who are looking to distinguish themselves (it seems like there is also growing sophistication in other Americanized Asian cuisines, such as Thai).
I am a historian so spend my time wondering about things like this, but hopefully others will find it interesting and might have some thoughts too! Thanks in advance.