BJ's, Maggiano's and Firebirds go all in for the holidays

Taste Tracker: White Castle riffs on sliders; the Double Decker Taco returns to Taco Bell; shades of red at Modern Market; new global sauces for Quizno’s and Sweetfin; and Playa Bowls adds seasonal spirit to the menu.
Photos courtesy of the brands

With Christmas inching ever closer, menus are getting decked out with even more holiday spirit. Festive cocktails and indulgent food items are on the rise, many wrapped in colors tied to the season.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse is dressing up the cocktail list with an Espresso Martini, Paradise Pomegranate Margarita and the Tipsy Snowman. The latter is a blend of liqueurs topped with whipped cream and a smiling marshmallow snowman. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill toasts the season with a Champagne Cosmo, a mix of vodka, Cointreau, and cranberry and lime juices, topped with champagne foam and cranberry dust.

On the food side, Firebirds offers celebratory entrees such as Grilled Sea Scallops, Braised Pork Shank and a NY Strip with Crispy Shrimp. Maggiano’s Little Italy welcomes the holidays with dine-in specials including Branzino Crab Imperial, Beef Tenderloin Medallions and Sausage and Peppers. The chain also has Holiday Bundles to carry out and enjoy at home.

Eggs Up Grill catches the holiday spirit with a menu filled with Christmas Cookie Pancakes, Crème Brulee French Toast, Peppermint Mocha Coffee and an Apple Cider Mimosa. Cookie crumbles, gooey caramel and sprinkles are extras on these items that add to the festivities at this growing breakfast-lunch chain.

Red beets, cranberries and butternut squash give the menu a colorful seasonal slant at Modern Market. The Urban Farmer Salad is topped with them all, along with goat cheese, pepitas, blueberries and creamy maple mustard. Also in the current lineup is Jerk Tuna Salad, Southwest BBQ Beef Bowl, Bacon Jam Club, Garlic Mushroom Pizza, and Blueberry Nutella Waffle. Nutella is also the featured sauce at Pieology. It pairs with sweetened condensed milk on a soft, chewy pizza crust.

Click on the video to watch some of these items in action.


Meanwhile, Taco Bell is bringing back its Double Decker Taco after fans rallied for its return. It’s a bean-filled tortilla wrapped around a taco shell and filled with seasoned beef, crisp lettuce and shredded cheddar. The taco is available online only for $2.99 for a limited time.

On the popular bowl front, Sweetfin partnered with Fly By Jing, creators of a Chinese chili condiment, to create the Chengdu Crunch bowl. It features grilled chicken as a new protein option at the raw fish-inspired poke concept. Also expanding into global condiments is Quiznos with its Club Peri Peri Sandwich. The sandwich is layered with grilled chicken, creamy peri-peri sauce (a Portuguese-influenced South African ingredient), bacon, red onion, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos and melted cheese. It takes the all-American club sandwich into international territory.

Sloppy Joe Sliders are back at White Castle, a longtime choice of loyal customers in search of old-time favorites at the chain. The slider-size sandwiches come in three variations: Classic, Smoky and Spicy, topped with ingredients that take a turn from tradition. These include jalapenos, onion crisps and smoky cheddar.

Culver’s is playing off the popularity of hot chocolate, a perennial winter warmer. For this LTO, it’s served cold and creamy, in a Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer and Frozen Cocoa Shake. Both blend vanilla frozen custard with cocoa mix; the concrete is best eaten with a spoon while the shake can be sipped through a straw.

Five holiday-themed items made their debut at Playa Bowls. Only two are bowls—the North Pole Acai Bowl and Avalanche Coconut Bowl. They’re made with healthy ingredients such as flax, blue spirulina, berries and coconut, but also nod to the holidays with the addition of crushed peppermint and cinnamon. The Gingerbread Smoothie and Gingerbread Protein Bites nod even further, adding one of the most nostalgic holiday spices.

And Noodles & Co. caps off the week with a collection of Crisps, the fast casual’s take on classic Rice Krispy Treats. The seven sweets have whimsical names like The Wonderland Crispy, Eight Toasty Nights, Oh Deer, Reindeer, Naughty & Nice and Buddy’s Crispy.

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