Restaurants seemed to take a menu-making vacation after the July 4 holiday weekend, but this week, new items are coming out of kitchens full speed ahead. On offer are ways for customers to beat the heat with cool cocktails, summery salads and lighter sandwiches. Chefs and menu developers are taking advantage of bold spicing, herbal flavors and seasonal ingredients to fight palate fatigue. Here’s a look at the latest items and LTOs launching on menus.
Mediterranean flavors drive the new Chicken Gyro Sub at Firehouse Subs. The sandwich is layered with grilled chicken breast, feta cheese, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, onion and a house-made pepperoncini tzatziki spread. This global direction is new to the brand, offering a light and refreshing twist for the summertime season while still being hearty, said Jay Miller, director of product development. To promote the new sandwich, Firehouse surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out how they pronounce gyro. The top two pronunciations are “guy-rho” (rhymes with pyro) from 23% and “jye-rho” (rhymes with “hydro”) from 19% of respondents.
Two wraps—a new format for Jimmy John’s—launched on the chain’s menu. Each is on the lighter side, filled with a popular salad. The Chicken Caesar Wrap features seasoned chicken, mini croutons, shaved Parmesan cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and creamy Caesar dressing, rolled up in a garlic and herb wrap. Beefy Ranch layers roast beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mini croutons, mayo and ranch dressing in a flour wrap.
Newk’s is celebrating summer with a limited-time barbecue-themed menu. First up is a Q & Slaw Sandwich with chicken, bacon, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and the fast casual’s white barbecue sauce on toasted French bread. The Q salad also focuses on chicken, with the addition of bacon, jalapenos, shredded cheddar, carrots and grape tomatoes on mixed greens, tossed with the same white barbecue sauce. Along with strawberry shortcake, a signature summer dessert, the LTOs run through Aug. 25.
Buffalo Wings & Rings
Three fried chicken sandwich variations are making their debut at Buffalo Wings & Rings. The MVP Ringer is a classic: beer-battered chicken breast topped with spicy mayo and pickles on a toasted brioche bun. The Buffalo Ringer starts with the same battered and fried chicken breast topped with Buffalo hot sauce, bacon, lettuce and tomato, layered on a toasted brioche bun with a choice of blue cheese dip or ranch dressing, while the Korean Ringer is topped with gochujang sauce and Asian slaw.
Modern Market Eatery
Bowls continue to star at Modern Market Eatery, with the new summer menu featuring the addition of line-caught ahi tuna. The new protein is the focus of three new items. The Lemongrass Tuna Bowl is an revamp of the fast casual’s popular pork version, lightened with tuna. The Seared Ahi salad is a combo of tuna with raw seasonal veggies and marinated squash, while the Line-Caught Tuna Bowl features tuna as a topper for a bed of rice and quinoa with sesame ginger dressing and two customized sides. Modern Market also updated its Banh Mi sandwich with blackened chicken thighs.
Two seasonal salads are new on the menu at Daphne’s. The Strawberry Salad returns with its mix of spring greens and honey vinaigrette topped with candied walnuts, feta, fresh strawberries and grilled chicken, while the Salmon Kale-Quinoa Salad starts with shredded kale tossed with quinoa and lemon tahini dressing topped with tomato, cucumber, red onion, red cabbage and wild salmon. Both are served with warm pita tzatziki sauce.
A pair of summer salads was introduced at Metro Diner. First up is the Strawberry Avocado Chicken Salad, which includes herb roasted chicken, avocado, strawberries, candied pecans, bacon, red onion, tomatoes and feta cheese over mixed greens with a poppyseed dressing. The second, a Spicy Honey Chicken Salad, features crispy chicken tossed in a spicy honey sauce, roasted corn, avocado, pickled red onions, radish and mixed greens with a side of ranch dressing.
California-based pizza concept Fresh Brothers added five new salads to the menu. Two are completely plant-based: The Vegan Cobb with chopped romaine, a blend of farro and red rice, diced beets, roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy chickpeas, avocado and artichokes with a white balsamic vinaigrette, and the Beyond Taco Salad made with Beyond Beef. There’s also the Ancient Grain, with the same farro-red rice base, red onion, artichokes, roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy chickpeas, diced salami, fresh mozzarella and a red wine vinaigrette; the California Caprese (arugula, roasted cherry tomatoes, avocado and fresh mozzarella balls topped with sweet balsamic glaze and house-made pesto vinaigrette); and Pesto Chicken (arugula, red onion, roasted cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, diced cucumber and shaved Parmesan pesto vinaigrette.)
The Summer Shenanigan’s menu returned to Bennigan’s, highlighting bites and sips with bold flavors. Leading on the food side are a Flat-Iron Steak Sandwich layered with balsamic-honey red onions and garlic-chipotle mayo on a garlic toasted ciabatta bun, followed by the Mahal-O’Burger covered in pepper jack cheese, drizzled with Sriracha aioli and topped with a glazed grilled pineapple ring and house-made pineapple sweet chili sauce.
On the lighter front is Rita’s Sriracha Shrimp Salad, a toss of greens with house-made sweet chili lime vinaigrette, red bell peppers, carrots, red cabbage, tomatoes and avocado, topped with sweet fried shrimp. On the beverage side, guests have the choice of four new tropical cocktails: the Tiki Passion, Coconut Island, Watermelon Kiwi Fusion and Fire Twirler.
Bangkok is the inspiration for Torchy’s Taco of the Month, called the TukTuk. It’s filled with marinated and grilled Thai fajita beef, jack cheese and cooked cabbage slaw with pickled cucumbers and carrots, then topped with peanuts, mint, Sriracha and avocado sauce, served with a lime wedge. Guests can pair the TukTuk with the featured beverage of the month, Torchy’s Cherry Limeade, made with Tito’s vodka mixed with sweet and sour and a splash of lemon-lime soda and a cherry.
Today is National French Fry Day, and PDQ is commemorating the occasion with a treat that celebrates a favorite fan activity—dipping fries in milkshakes. The Waffle Fry Shake is a hand-spun chocolate shake topped with waffle fries, whipped cream and a cherry. The shake is available in PDQ locations for a very limited time: Tuesday only.
I Heart Mac & Cheese
All-new Cheesecake Bites come to I Heart Mac & Cheese’s menu on July 30. The snack-sized dessert bites feature a cheesecake center, rolled in graham crackers and topped with a cinnamon sugar crust. The chain is also celebrating National Mac & Cheese Day on Wednesday with a BOGO offer on its mac and cheese bowls.
Andy’s Frozen Custard
Blackberries face off against strawberries at Andy’s Frozen Custard this summer. In the “Battle of the Berries,” Andy’s is pitting Grandma Elaine’s Strawberry Shortcake Sundae against the Blackberry Waffle-Jack, and customers can promote their favorite on social media with the hashtags #TeamStrawberry or #TeamBlackberry. The shortcake piles fresh strawberries with warm slices of a buttery cake on top of vanilla frozen custard, while the Waffle-Jack blends juicy blackberries and frozen custard with baked in-house waffle cone pieces.
Fruit Bowl Fusions and Acai Bowls are making news at Yogurtland. The former are available in two different recipes: Street Style and Bionico. Inspired by street cart fruit cups, the Street Style bowl is made with fresh-cut watermelon, mango, pineapple, lime dressing, Tajín spice and chamoy. The Bionico bowl is a combo of fruit and condensed milk with a coconut twist. Each can be customized with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, sweet coconut milk and granola. The Acai Bowls come in two varieties: Strawberry Banana Granola and Peanut Butter, both also topped with fresh fruit and other garnishes.