Heading into the end of 2018, restaurant kitchens are putting out their seasonal best. Menus featuring late fall and winter vegetables, updated comfort foods, holiday flavors and festive pairings are in abundance this time of year. Here’s a roundup of the new and limited-time items tempting customers right now.
1. Going bigger and bolder
To encourage celebratory gatherings at its restaurants, Applebee’s is menuing Bigger, Bolder Grill Combos at a promotional price. Customers can mix and match two entrees, choosing from five meat or seafood combinations, including baby back ribs, top sirloin steak, grilled shrimp skewers, grilled salmon and grilled chicken breast, all enhanced with sweet, spicy or whiskey-infused sauces. The combos start at $12.99 and are served with steamed broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes, coleslaw and crispy onions.
2. Fireside crowd pleasers
Oversized thermoses hold large-format cocktails guests can sip next to fire pits on the patio at The Salt Line in Washington, D.C. Beverage Director Donato Alvarez has created several hot drinks to chase the winter blues, including a hot toddy made with bourbon, madeira and lapsang honey; mulled cider blended with sherry and brandy; and Irish coffee, a mix of Irish whiskey, brown sugar, coffee and whipped cream spiked with chicory liqueur. Customers dining indoors can sample the menu’s new winter-friendly fare, such as scallop-stuffed acorn squash, eel parmigiana bucatini and grilled beef tips prepared with miso marinated tenderloin and seared sourdough dumplings.
3. Perfect pairings
Pasta and wine pairings aim to bring customers in from the cold at the 23 locations of Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar. Guests can choose from a selection of pastas, such as the concept’s signature Mama Meata Bow Tie Pasta (paired with a glass of pinot noir) or Shrimp Tortellini (paired with chardonnay). The menu includes tasting notes for the wine and food, and prices average $20 for the pairing. Also in the lineup until Dec. 30 are Pasta Tuesdays, a promotion that features pasta dishes starting at $7.99.
4. Pie in holiday dress
Candy Cane Chocolate Cream Pie made its debut at Black Bear Diner, a family-dining chain that specializes in homey comfort foods. The deep-dish dessert features a crust made with crushed candy canes and chocolate sandwich cookies, which is filled with peppermint-chocolate cream and topped with whipped cream and crushed candy canes. It’s Christmas in the shape of a pie.
5. Take a flight
Fast-casual Zoup! Eatery is offering cold antidotes in the form of soup flights. Each flight contains a trio of 4-ounce soup portions served in a toasted, seasoned bread boule that’s divided into three sections. Guests can choose from such winter warmers as lobster bisque, chicken tortilla soup, broccoli cheddar and chicken noodle. The flights are priced from $7.95 to $10.95, with the bread boule an additional $5.99.
7. Sangria with a seasonal accent
P.F. Chang’s went behind the bar to stir up holiday offerings. The Asian-inspired chain launched two new wine cocktails: Royal Red Sangria and Imperial White Sangria. The red version has a base of red wine blended with amaretto, brandy, blood orange puree, orange juice and freshly grated cinnamon with a garnish of orange slices, while the white is a mix of white wine, vermouth, fresh apple juice, orange blossom honey and cinnamon, garnished with apples and star anise.
8. Burger and tots with a twist
Two LTOs at Wayback Burgers go together like Santa and his reindeer. The Horseradish Butter Burger is composed of a double patty with two slices of cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, topped with a dollop of butter infused with horseradish and blue cheese. The butter melts into the burger, raising its flavor profile to zesty heights. Cheesy Bacon Tater Tots, which launched simultaneously, are crisp potato nuggets slathered with bacon bits and melted cheddar. The burger goes for $6.49, and the tots are priced at $3.49 or $5.49, depending on size.
9. Celebrating the Mexican way
Several Mexican-themed chains are wooing customers with holiday specialties traditional to that culture. Both Taco Bueno and Miguel’s Jr. are rolling out tamales, available to eat in or take home. Taco Bueno is offering three different fillings: beef, pork and a sweet pumpkin designed for dessert. Individual tamales are available for $1.29, with tamale samplers and platters priced at $5.99. Miguel’s Jr., an 18-unit concept based in Southern California, is menuing two tamale varieties during the holidays: California Chile and Chile Rojo Pork.
In addition, Taco John’s is bringing back a Christmas favorite, Nachos Navidad. This LTO features red and green tortilla chips covered in nacho cheese, beef, refried beans, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, olives, guacamole and sour cream. As in years past, proceeds from every purchase will be donated to a local charity of the franchisee’s choosing.