El Pollo Loco and Tacos 4 Life go bold with quesadillas

Taste Tracker: Apples star at Wayback but pumpkin endures at Dutch Bros, Ziggi’s, Hungry Howie's and Denny’s; Bojangles and Jinya wing it for football season; and Fogo de Chao goes all in on veggies.
Photographs courtesy of the brands

Pumpkin spice got an early start on menus way back in the beginning of August, but September is bringing other fall flavors to the menu.

Quesadillas are the starting point for El Pollo Loco, where three new stuffed variations are on offer: the Poblano Chicken Quesadilla, Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla and Shredded Beef Avocado Quesadilla. All feature flavor boosts from ingredients such as poblano peppers, pico de gallo, salsa roja and Oaxacan cheese. Tacos 4 Life taps the craveability of bacon in its Bacon BBQ Ranch Quesadilla and features the same ingredient mix in a Bacon BBQ Ranch Taco and Bacon BBQ Ranch Salad.

Football season is underway and that means wings are in demand. Bojangles is meeting that demand with all-new chicken wings, marinated in proprietary spices then fried with a crunchy buttermilk coating. Three flavors are in test: Creamy Buffalo, BBQ and Bo’s Classic. And Asian chain Jinya Ramen Bar introduced Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken Wings, lightly tossed in sweet soy and sprinkled with white pepper sesame seeds.

The new Chili Cheese Krystal is also geared to football fans. The burger, on the menu through Nov. 1, is topped with chili, American cheese, diced onions and mustard on Krystal’s traditional steamed bun.

Have a look

Wayback Burgers also turned to bacon to jazz up an LTO, launching the Sweet Bourbon Bacon Burger topped with cheddar, bourbon sauce and candied bacon. But apple is the chain’s fall flavor of choice for its new Apple Pie Milkshake. Both are on the menu through Nov. 25.

Also shaking up pumpkin’s flavor dominance is a Salted Caramel Shake at Seven Brothers Burgers and three new doughnuts at the Tous les Jours bakery café chain. The latter includes the Mango Cream Doughnut, Vanilla Cream Doughnut and Chocolate Cream Doughnut, all featuring the brand’s signature cloud cream.

Fogo de Chao, the Brazilian steakhouse concept specializing in spit-roasted meats, is spotlighting six seasonal veggie options on its Market Table. There’s Beet Tartare, Fall Hummus, Rainbow Kale and Pomegranate Salad, Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash, Harvest Black Rice and Lentil Soup.

But pumpkin endures. Dutch Bros launched its fall drink lineup, which includes Caramel Pumpkin Brûlée and Pumpkin Pie Frost, the chain’s version of a shake. There’s also the non-pumpkin Sweater Weather Chai, a double shot of white coffee and white chocolate with a signature soft top and cinnamon sprinkles.

Over at Ziggi’s there’s a Pumpkin Pie Latte to sip and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and Gluten-free Pumpkin Bread to nibble. But for those who prefer to go pumpkin-less, other fall flavors infuse a Salted Caramel Crumble Latte, Cinnamon Roll Cake Pop and Maple Waffle Breakfast Sandwich.

Hungry Howie’s is bringing back its Pumpkin Spice Howie Bread—hot, oven-baked breadsticks flavored with pumpkin spice and served with white icing for dipping. And Denny’s welcomes the return of Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes, on the menu until Oct. 24. The fan favorite features pancakes with real pumpkin pie filling and glazed pecans topped with pecan pie sauce.

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