Americans are snacking more often and demanding more nontraditional choices. Younger consumers, especially, are seeking unique items with global flavors, according to Technomic’s Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, with 29% of 18- to 34-year-olds saying they are interested in ordering ethnic snacks at foodservice locations. Snacking is a low-cost, low-risk way for consumers to try new items, and Technomic predicts an uptick in multiethnic snacks such as pierogis, bao buns, arancini and musubi as innovative bar snacks and handhelds. For menu inspiration, take a look at the global items these seven concepts are offering.
Au Bon Pain introduced an updated take on the Czech kolache as an LTO this winter, and it is now part of the permanent menu. The Bacon & Cheddar Kolaches are a savory version of the traditional Czech fruit-topped pastry and are selling well, at two for $5, as midmorning and midafternoon grab-and-go snacks, says a spokesperson for the chain. The kolaches follow on the heels of Au Bon Pain's 2016 launch of Petit Plates, a menu of downsized entrees marketed as snacks.
Bar food is where full-service restaurants can capture more snack business during happy hour and late night. Pie Tap Pizza Workshop & Bar, a two-unit casual-dining concept in Dallas, has a designated snack menu featuring Italian bites to accompany drinks. Spiedini ($10) are skewers of prosciutto-wrapped fontina that are fired in the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the prosciutto.
3. Dosas and frankies
Vermilion, an upscale Indian-Latin fusion restaurant with locations in Chicago and New York, also is capitalizing on pairing snacks with alcohol—this time, for weekend brunchers. The new Dosa Frankie Brunch Bar menu ($12-$15) offers eight stuffings and eight chutneys to fill the airy rice lentil crepes called dosas and the paratha flatbread wraps known as frankies. The latter, a popular Indian street food that also go by the name kati rolls, are composed of grilled paratha wrapped around such fillings as chicken kebab, tamarind shrimp or potato and layered with egg, pickled onion and chutney.
Hawaiian-Asian concept PokeBao, a new fast casual in Miami, is adapting street foods as snacks as well. A separate Chef’s Bites menu features a broad selection of baos—Asian buns filled with ingredients such as braised short rib, mojo pork shoulder and mushroom tofu ($3.50-$4). Also on this menu are items that transform poke into a snack, including Yellowfin Tuna Tacos ($3 each), and non-poke nibbles like Tempura Fries ($3).
As a favorite American snack, the hot dog makes a familiar canvas for global experimentation. One German iteration that is gaining ground stateside is the Currywurst. At Stammtisch, a beer-centric pub in Portland, Ore., the late-night menu features this popular Berlin street food—a fried pork and veal sausage with housemade curry ketchup—for $6, along with about 10 other bar-food options.
Polish in origin, pierogis are now being tweaked by U.S. chefs to jump on current trends. At Baba’s Pierogies in Brooklyn, N.Y., the menu offers classic pierogis stuffed with sauerkraut, potato and/or cheese (five for $8-$8.50), along with variations such as mac and cheese, jalapeno and spinach and feta. Guests can customize their snack order with toppings like sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions, as well as extra dips, including horseradish and blue cheese.
While empanadas are not new to the snacking scene, some operators are giving them different spins to win over all-day munchers. J28 Sandwich Bar in Hollywood, Fla., offers oven-baked empanadas with scratch-made chicken and beef fillings as well as a vegetarian version stuffed with kale and spinach (all $3.25 each). Half Moon Empanadas’ four Florida locations, including one at the Miami International Airport, menu signature empanadas with on-trend flavors. Examples include the Spicy Chicken Cordon Bleu with chicken, mozzarella, bell peppers, ham and hot sauce, and the Spicy Cubano, filled with pulled pork, Monterey Jack cheese, pinto beans, onion and hot sauce ($6.99 for a snack combo with two empanadas, a drink and chips).