Dog Haus, Jimmy John's and Firehouse Subs innovate between the bread

Taste Tracker: Lou Malnati’s and Portillo’s tag team a pizza; drive-thru steaks to go at Aussie Grill; Legal Sea Foods hosts an oyster fest; and Shake Shack tests sundaes.
New menu items
Photos courtesy of the brands

This week’s culinary news touches every menu section, with no particular food or drink category rising to the top. But several chains are focusing creativity between the bread, launching inventive sandwiches.

The Oktoberwurst Sausage from Dog Haus is a limited time edition, layered on a pretzel bun with mustard aioli, caramelized onions, sauerkraut and scallions. Another LTO, King’s Hawaiian Pork & Slaw Sandwich, returns to Firehouse Subs. The carrier is a sweet bun filled with slow-smoked pulled pork, melted pepper jack cheese and sweet and tangy slaw. The chain suggests pairing it with Tropical Cherry Lime-Aid, a new beverage blend of cherry and pineapple.

And Jimmy John’s launched the new BBQ Ranch Chicken Crunch, available as a sandwich or wrap. It’s piled with chicken, crunchy tortilla strips, cheddar, lettuce and tomato and slathered with a house-made sauce that’s a blend of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ and JJ’s own Kickin’ Ranch.

Two Chicago icons—Portillo’s and Lou Malnati’s—teamed up to create the Lou Malnati’s x Portillo’s Italian Beef Deep Dish. The pizza starts with Lou’s signature buttery crust and is topped with Portillo’s slow-roasted Italian beef, plum tomatoes, Wisconsin mozzarella, au jus and either sweet peppers or hot giardiniera. It’s also available to take-and-bake at home.

California Pizza Kitchen is celebrating October as National Pizza Month with the offer of a free take-and-bake pizza to guests who order a pizza while dining in the restaurant. Included is the brand-new Korean BBQ Steak Pizza topped with charred steak, Korean BBQ sauce, melted mozzarella and spicy Sriracha lime sauce.

And not to be outdone, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana debuted the Patata Rustica pizza for fall. It features seasoned gold potatoes and bacon melted into asiago, mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese on Pepe’s signature slightly charred crust.

Aussie Grill by Outback, the casual dining chain’s fast-casual spinoff, is offering topped 6-ounce sirloin steaks from its drive-thrus. The lineup includes BBQ Brisket Steak topped with braised brisket, barbecue sauce and jalapenos; Bloomin’ Steak topped with onion rings and Aussie sauce; and Beef & Reef Steak with crispy shrimp and creamy Cajun sauce.

October is for oysters at Boston-based Legal Sea Foods. The month-long Oyster Festival features local oysters from Cape Cod in preparations such as a Tempura Oyster Skewer, Buffalo Fried Oysters, a Fried Oyster Burger and Smoked Oyster & Octopus Pasta.

It’s also National Pasta Month, and Carrabba’s Italian Grill is all in with four different pasta selections, one for each week of October. There’s Scampi Damien over linguine, Shrimp & Chicken Spaghetti Carbonara, Mezzaluna Carrabba (ravioli filled with chicken, ricotta, Parmesan, Romano and spinach in Alfredo sauce) and Pasta Toscana with Chicken featuring fettucine, vegetables and grilled chicken in a roasted garlic cream sauce.

Rounding out pasta month specials is Piada Italian Street Food. Its Chef Menu Pastas, including Basil Pesto, Carbonara, Marinara and Diavolo, are $5 each on Oct. 17, National Pasta Day. And customers who order all four varieties will be rewarded with a free entree.

Café Rio Mexican Grill is menuing Coconut Shrimp and Baja Citrus Shrimp as protein options in any entree every day in October. The Coconut Shrimp comes with mango salsa and Baja shrimp is drizzled with creamy tomatillo dressing. Ordinarily, they’re only available on Thursdays or Saturdays respectively.

Wrap Bites are debuting at SAJJ Mediterranean. The shawarma-style street food comes in three variations: Chicken Wrap Bites wrapped with garlic spread and pickles and served with garlic dip sauce; Steak Wrap Bites wrapped in hummus, sumac onions and pickles and servedwith tahini dip; and Falafel Wrap Bites wrapped in hummus, tomato-cucumber mix and pickles and served with tahini dip.

It’s time for sundaes over at Shake Shack. The fast casual is testing a Strawberry Shortcake Sundae (sponge cake, vanilla frozen custard, strawberry sauce and rainbow sprinkles) and a Shack Attack Sundae (dark chocolate cake, chocolate frozen custard, fudge sauce, brownie chunks) at select locations. Each is topped with whipped cream, a mini waffle cone and a cherry.

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