If there’s a mainstream restaurant concept that isn’t trying to set itself apart with unique menu options, please let us know. A heads-up on flying pigs would also be appreciated.
In the meantime, here are some of the more ambitious attempts by chains thus far in 2016 to offer something arrestingly different on their bills of fare.
Grilled cauliflower steak at Wildflower Bread Company
The dish is actually presented as a salad, though the draw is the seared slab of cauliflower presented in cutlet form. The steak sits atop a bed of multi-colored quinoa mixed with cranberries, toasted walnuts and baby kale, with a cranberry-caper puree filling out the plate. The price: $7.99.
Bruegger’s Breakfast Brisket
If the notion of brisket for breakfast isn’t novel enough, consider that the meat is garnished with Muenster cheese, pickled onion and horseradish sauce, all served atop an Everything Bagel. This is clearly not an egg-whites McMuffin.
Also worth noting: A lunchtime twist called Twisted Brisket, with the brisket served with bacon and different flavorings atop jalapeno cornbread.
The Wedgie from Red Robin
It’s a flashback to the Atkins Diet craze, when iceberg lettuce leaves became the replacement of choice for burger buns. Using the lettuce enables Red Robin to give its seasonal burger a catchy name, though the patties are nestled in leaves rather than a whole wedge. The retro-carrier also helps to keep the calorie count below 450, a hook for all those customers who resolved to lose weight in the New Year. And that’s with bacon included.
Chick-fil-A’s Superfood side salad
The Wedgie might sound downright decadent compared with the chicken chain’s newest nod to health, a salad of chopped broccolini, kale, dried sour cherries and roasted nuts. Even as a large size, it packs a mere 170 calories and eight grams of fat.
Little Caesars’ Detroit-Style Deep!Deep! Dish Pizza
Who knew Detroit had its own style of pizza? No doubt the residents of Michigan, where an abundance of the bargain-pizza provider’s units are located. Other areas might know it as Sicilian. The Deep!Deep! is actually two mini deep-pan pizzas, which enables the chain to crow about providing eight corner slices to an order instead of the usual four. And the featured cheese is Muenster, which appears to be the variety of the moment for restaurant chains. The price: $8.