As the start of Lent approaches on March 1, chains are beginning to put seafood in the spotlight. Some concepts are promoting seafood LTOs that customers can take advantage of throughout the 40-day Lenten period, while others are ramping up seasonal menus with additional fish and shellfish items. Shrimp, a customer favorite, seems to be an operator favorite too—the current supply is ample and prices have been stable for several months. Take a look at the items these chains are promoting for Lent.
Although Del Taco put a shrimp taco and burrito on its menu last year during Lent, the chain is reintroducing both items with larger-size shrimp. The Jumbo Shrimp Taco ($2.69) partners crispy shrimp, fried with hints of citrus and chili, with shredded cabbage and pico de gallo in a double flour tortilla, while the Jumbo Shrimp Burrito ($4.99) encloses a few more shrimp and a helping of lime rice in a tortilla with cabbage and pico de gallo.
Lobster swims into a sub
Quiznos is bringing back its limited-time lobster and seafood lineup, running from February through mid-April. The newest item to join the roster is a Lobster & Seafood Scampi Bake ($7) featuring garlic-baked lobster topped with melted mozzarella, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, served on a toasted 8-inch sub roll. The other two Lenten LTOs are a Lobster & Seafood Salad Sub, and a Lobster & Seafood Fresh Salad.
Lent with a Latin accent
Gambas are joining pollo at the El Pollo Loco chicken chain. During Lent, marinated Baja shrimp are returning to the menu in several options, including a Shrimp Avocado Taco, Shrimp Wrap, Garlic Butter Shrimp Bowl (served over rice, broccoli and corn) and Mango Avocado Shrimp Tostada in a crispy tortilla bowl with avocado, mango salsa, pinto beans, rice, Jack cheese and cilantro dressing. Prices range from $5.99-$6.99.
Chicken of the sea
Church’s is another chicken-centric chain exploring the waters this season, bringing back its Lemon-Seasoned Butterfly Shrimp and Crispy Fish on Feb. 27. Guests can choose from several meal packages, including a combo of eight shrimp or two fish fillets paired with five hush puppy biscuit bites for $3.49. A Family Fish Fry is also available.
A burger concept goes fishing
Krystal, known for its iconic burgers, is bringing a Shrimp Po’ Boy to the menu for Lent. The three flavor variations—Zesty Texas Petal, Buffalo and BBQ—are made on mini sub rolls that are stuffed with fried shrimp ($1.39 each). For larger appetites, Krystal is serving up baskets filled with crispy golden-fried shrimp ($2.99) accompanied by a dipping sauce.
Two seaworthy sandwiches
Shrimp is not the only fish in the sea at Schlotzsky’s. Starting March 6, the deli chain is adding the Tuna Original ($5.49) to its lineup. Sandwiched on a toasted sourdough bun is tuna mixed with cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses along with mayo, apples, red onions and black olives. The Shrimp Original ($5.99) is also making its debut on that date, spiked with chipotle mayonnaise and chipotle pesto.
Seafood with a Brazilian beat
Texas de Brazil Churrascaria is also turning its attention from land to sea for Lent. Throughout March, this all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse is offering Fish Moqueca as an option with its fixed price menu (approximately $47 for dinner, $25 for lunch). The moqueca is a seafood stew featuring saltwater fish cooked in coconut milk with tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and palm oil.
Trio of tacos
During Lent, Chicago chain Burrito Beach is serving up a special of Cabo Shrimp Tacos every Friday—the day observant Catholics traditionally eat seafood. The tacos feature grilled-to-order ancho chili-marinated shrimp on fresh corn tortillas garnished with "staff favorite" toppings of salsa verde, marinated shredded cabbage, onions and cilantro. Each meal package includes three tacos, chips and salsa for $7.79.
The BojAngler Fish Sandwich and Dinner Platter are coming to Bojangles’ menu for Lent. Both feature a wild-caught Alaskan pollock filet coated with the chain’s signature fry seasoning. The sandwich ($3.49), which debuted during the 2016 Lenten season, pairs the fish with cheddar cheese and tartar sauce on a buttered bun. The platter ($6.49), new this year, is geared toward dinner customers and includes the filet, two sides, a buttermilk biscuit and a drink.
Expanding the menu and the season
At El Fenix, the Frescas del Mar promotion runs from March 6 through April 30, offering customers a bit of the unexpected. Among the four limited-time items are Ceviche Fresco, an appetizer of marinated whitefish, tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and lime served with chips ($6.99). The same ceviche is menued as an entree salad ($10.49). For heartier appetites, there’s Seafood Diablo ($12.49), a fish stew enriched with potatoes, corn, squash and bell peppers, and grilled Saltillo Whitefish with a roasted tomato chili sauce ($11.49).
Ahi tuna duo
From Feb. 27 to April 30, Newk’s Eatery is ramping up its seafood selection with the return of its seasonal Ahi Tuna Sandwich ($9.99) and Ahi Tuna Salad ($12.99). Both feature seared ahi tuna steak that’s marinated with Asian flavors, crusted with sesame seeds and cooked medium-rare.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.