Old boundaries are being trampled as restaurant chains roam far to find their next big customer draw. Here are a few examples of what they’re bringing back from once-alien territory.
Burger King’s fiery red buns
The No. 2 burger chain is once again borrowing a trick from the Japanese market, this time coloring its hamburger buns bright red for what is presumably a limited-time offer, the Angriest Whopper. Like the black buns used last fall for the Halloween Whopper, the red bread is flavored as well as dyed. The addition of hot sauce is part of BK’s attempt to make the new sandwich a fireball in beef-and-toppings form. Other components include jalapenos, an “angry sauce” and peppery onion “petals.”
Red Robin’s high-buzz foodie favorite
Believing the mass market is ready for a cult favorite that generates blocks-long lines in New York and Los Angeles, the Red Robin casual chain plans to showcase a ramen burger for two months, starting next week. In case you don’t have an all-black outfit hanging in the closet, a ramen burger is made with Japanese-style noodles formed into the top and bottom of a burger bun, with the patty and condiments sandwiched in between. It’s a must-eat item for sports diners along the coasts, in part because it’s still relatively rare in those trend-setting regions.
Seeing the trendinistas’ fav become a mass-market product prompted Eater to declare the ramen burger craze is over.
Sonic’s new retro beverages
There is nothing remotely trendy about a fountain-style cream soda, which is exactly why Sonic is featuring a new drink menu called Soda Pop Shoppe. The line consists of sodas carbonated either with seltzer or one of the major soft-drink brands, plus what the drive-in chain says is genuine sweet cream. The cream soda can be customized with seven flavors of syrups, including blue coconut and green apple.
The nonalcoholic mixed drinks are available for half price during Sonic’s daily Happy Hour, the 2 to 4 p.m. snack period.
Captain D’s riff on hot chicken
One of the year’s big crazes has been Nashville-style hot chicken, a variety of fried chicken made with a highly peppered batter and served with pickle chips, usually atop some sort of bread. Captain D’s figures it’s the breading rather than the protein that appeals to customers, so it’s offering Nashville Hot Fish for a second limited-time engagement, following what the chain says was a successful test last year.
Captain D’s suggests that it has the cred to spice up its fish Nashville-style because it’s based in the city that invented hot chicken. The item sells for $4.99, with two sides and hush puppies included.