Today’s customers appreciate adventure on the plate and in the glass—but that adventure has to taste good, too.
Extra-meaty steak basting
While most steakhouses brush meats with butter, Chicago’s RPM Steak instead repurposes some of the trimmings left from in-house butchering. “We use all the dry-aged beef fat, which has been rendered with black pepper and garlic, and brush [that] onto our steaks,” says chef-partner Doug Psaltis. “It’s incredible flavor.”
On the (coffee) rocks
Booze-infused ice cubes have made a splash at bars. Queen of Cream in Atlanta, an ice-cream-and-coffee concept, takes a page from that playbook, freezing the cold-brew coffee it sells by the cup into flavored cubes. For $1 extra, guests can boost iced-coffee drinks with the frozen shot while Queen of Cream boosts checks.
Chefs work with farmers to grow custom produce, so Jeff Tunks, chef-partner of Washington, D.C.-based Passion Food Hospitality, contracted with a Maryland oyster farmer to produce two bivalves tailored to his salinity preferences. “The Big Daddy was developed to enjoy raw; it’s oversized, buttery and sweet, with a deep cup that holds lots of briny liquor,” Tunks says. It joins Pure Passion on the oyster list at DC Coast, Acadiana and PassionFish.
Tapping the bitters trend
Putting wine and cocktails on tap eases bottlenecks at the bar and delivers value to guests. Best Intentions bar in Chicago has a new take on taps—dispensing bitters on draft. The bitters go into several retro drinks, including an old fashioned and a champagne cocktail. But customers also can order $4 shots of bitters to add to any beverage.
A saucy game of dice
At Breeze, an open-air restaurant atop Bangkok’s Lebua Hotel known for its five-course tasting menu, interactive elements are part of every meal. This summer, Executive Chef Sam Pang presented a pair of dice with his Ohmi beef course. Guests rolled the dice to determine which of nine sauces would accompany their dish. Call it grown-up eatertainment—and a boon for the indecisive.
House cocktails in a bottle
Guests who want to score one of the Daily Dozen bottled cocktails at Cured in San Antonio have to get to happy hour early. The housemade “cocktail sodas,” which serve one and sell for $10 a bottle, include Basil and Watermelon Rum Mojitos, Vanilla Mint Crush with Vodka and Texas Peach Pops with Bourbon. “We change the flavors daily and seasonally, and because of the handcrafted process, we limit the batch to 12 bottles a day,” says Chef Steve McHugh. “The small number makes them a hot commodity, and we often run out quickly.”
A bowl of pie
Taking a cue from taco salads in edible bowls popularized by Mexican chains, Dallas-based Pie Five shapes its scratch-made pizza dough into an individual bowl, bakes it and fills it with one of four salads—chicken Caesar, Greek, classic Italian or spinach. The move aims to differentiate Pie Five in the build-your-own pizza segment and curbs veto votes from salad-craving guests.