Pasta and sushi shaped like doughnuts and noodles that appear to float in the air—no, these items aren’t just part of an RB editor’s dream. They’re gimmicky restaurant foods that have recently gone viral, drawing lines down the block and often selling out before the day’s end. Following the Cronut’s footsteps from years ago, these items prove that regular foods served in abnormal ways still garner gobs of traffic and press.
Here are three food gimmicks going viral.
1. Sushi doughnuts
Sushi doughnuts—which are simply sushi formed to look like doughnuts—have been going viral for a few months. The trend started at Project Poke in Fountain Valley, Calif., which makes its version by stuffing rings of rice with avocado or spicy tuna then tops it with fish, cucumber, masago and cabbage. Other restaurants across the country soon followed suit. This month, Simply Thalia in Chicago unveiled its own take on the trend with its Simply Sushi Donuts ($7.95-$8.95) named after Chicago neighborhoods or transit lines. The idea came about when hype surrounding the sushi burrito started to die down and owner Fritz ColCol was looking for something new to try, according to NBC Chicago. The sushi doughnut has been so popular that the restaurant has run out of stock on some days.
2. Spaghetti doughnuts
Sushi doughnuts aren’t the only doughnut mashup going viral. When the Smorgasburg open-air market reopened in Brooklyn, N.Y., this month, all eyes were on Pop Pasta’s Spaghetti Doughnuts. The item combines pasta with eggs and cheese in a round doughnut-shaped mold before baking. The portable snack comes in five flavors, including Aglio E Olio Pop, featuring spaghetti, Parmigiano, eggs, olive oil, garlic, red pepper, black pepper and salt, and Carbonara Pop, featuring spaghetti, Parmigiano, eggs, bacon, black pepper and salt. Pop Pasta founder Luigi Fiorentino told Food & Wine that he was inspired “to take a tradition and part with it in order to create something innovative.” In this case, it’s a spaghetti pie with a doughnut twist that’s caught the attention of news outlets from Today to Fox News.
3. Floating noodles
Noodles aren’t just taking the shape of doughnuts—they’re also magically floating. Inspired by a trend that started in Asia, Neptunes Raw Bar in Artesia, Calif., recently unveiled a variety of Floating Noodle dishes ($16.99), featuring garlic noodles intertwined in what appears to be floating chopsticks. Spoiler: the chopsticks are supported by a hidden pole in the basket. In the weeks since its release, people have formed lines out the door to try the new dish. And the item is not a first of co-owner Andy Nguyen’s to go viral; he’s also part-owner of California-based Project Poke of sushi doughnut fame and Afters Ice Cream, home of the Milky Bun glazed doughnut ice cream sandwich concoction.