It's no summer vacation for menu innovation
The lazy days of summer are not the reality in most restaurant kitchens. After 15 months of pandemic restrictions, chains and independents are hard at work re-energizing their menus. New dishes and LTOs are steadily launching, running the gamut from breakfast to pizza, salads, sweet treats, spicy drinks and craveable sides. Here are the items powering menus this week.
Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom
Detroit-style pizza is the newest addition to Old Chicago’s menu. The pizza and taproom chain developed the Insanity Pizza, a rectangular, deep-dish pie with a base of fluffy, made-from-scratch dough topped with dollops of sauce and covered edge-to-edge with Wisconsin brick cheese—the ingredient that signaturizes crisp, buttery Detroit-style pizza. There are five varieties to choose from, including The Pepperoni; Honky Tonk (cheddar and brick cheese, pickled jalapeno, chili, tortilla strips and cilantro); Farmer’s Daughter (mozzarella, blistered tomatoes, pesto, brick cheese, baby arugula and balsamic); Da Meatball Shroom (meatballs, brick cheese, madeira sauce, mushrooms, caramelized onions and parsley); and Buffalo Cluck (Buffalo sauce, brick cheese, blue cheese, chicken, onions and ranch). Guests can also customize their own Detroit-style pizza with the toppings of their choice.
A chickpea pizza crust is the latest option for customers at Oath Pizza. The chain teamed up with Banza, makers of chickpea products, to source the plant-based, gluten-free crust, which replaces Oath’s previous cauliflower crust. Oath is the first pizza chain to feature the company’s chickpea crust, which has been available in grocery stores for some time. Customers can choose the crust as a base for a range of toppings, including basil pesto and truffle sauces, traditional and vegan cheeses and fresh veggies.
Noodles & Company
Three globally inspired salads are in test at select locations of Noodles & Company. Created for guests who want lighter, healthy options in the summer months, the new items feature fresh ingredients highlighted by Asian and Mexican flavors. The Asian Apple Citrus Salad is a toss of spring greens and kale with ginger citrus dressing, topped with grilled chicken, diced apple, cucumber, broccoli-carrot slaw and avocado. Mexican Street Corn salad features the same greens tossed in cotija cheese dressing with grilled chicken, roasted corn, Roma tomatoes, avocado, feta, tortilla strips and cilantro. The third in the lineup is a Quinoa Chop Salad with ginger citrus dressing topped with avocado and pistachios.
As part of its Flavor Your World campaign, Saladworks introduced six new recipes that can be ordered as part of a salad, warm grain bowl or wrap. The choices include Asian Crispy Chicken with Chinese flavors, Italian-accented Grilled Chicken Mediterranean, Smoky BBQ Crispy Chicken inspired by Kansas City barbecue, Southwest Chipotle Ranch, Classic Greek and Farmers Market, reflecting California cuisine. In tandem with the campaign, Saladworks is offering its Rewards members the chance to participate in the Flavor Your World Original Recipe Challenge, which runs through July 9. Along with cash and other prizes, winning entries may be featured on the chain’s menu as a limited- time salad, wrap or grain bowl this fall.
Chicken Salad Chick
Pam’s Parmesan Caesar is joining the summer salad lineup at Chicken Salad Chick. The item, a tribute to Pam Ashley, a GM at one of the concept’s locations who died of cancer, pairs the chain’s classic chicken salad with Caesar flavors and Parmesan cheese. Chicken Salad Chick will donate 10% of the salad’s sales through July 15. Also on the roster for summer is Pina Colada Pie.
Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern
A new poke bowl is designed to help customers beat the heat at Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern. The light, cooling seafood item features yellowfin tuna, cucumber, pickled carrots, nori, toasted sesame seed, wasabi mayo and Sriracha. Several new cocktails join the drinks side of the menu. Especially refreshing is Gettin’ Spritzy Wit’ It, a low-proof libation that combines fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemon juice, Aperol, Prosecco and bitters. Wake Up Juice has a base of cold brew coffee mixed with both classic and espresso vodka, simple syrup, Kahlua and bitters. A tequila cocktail, called The Sun Comes up in Mexico, and Put Me in Coach, a bourbon drink with ginger flavors, complete the selection.
Cabo Wabo Cantina
Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas relaunched its breakfast menu. The lineup offers a variety of Mexican-inspired dishes priced at $15.95 each, such as chilaquiles with huevos; a breakfast burrito; huevos rancheros and a breakfast quesadilla with scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado, pico de gallo and cheese and a side of Wabo potatoes. Classics like French toast, omelets, pancakes and steak and eggs are also available. To drink, there’s a selection of brunch cocktails, including mimosas, bellinis, bloody Marys and the restaurant’s signature Paradise Punch.
Beginning Wednesday, Dunkin’s beverage menu will be popping with a new add-on. Popping bubbles, small strawberry-flavored spheres that pop in the mouth, can be added to any iced or frozen drink for an extra charge. Drinks are accompanied by an extra-wide straw for slurping up the edible plant-based bubbles. To coincide with the launch, Dunkin’ created an online instant win game that will run from July 2-31. Customers use their finger to pop a bubble on their screen, which reveals if they’re a winner of a Dunkin’ gift card and other summer swag. The grand prize is $5,000 to put towards a future vacation.
A summer refresher with a spicy kick is the newest thirst-quencher on the menu at Cowboy Chicken. Cucumber Jalapeno Lemonade combines fresh-squeezed lemonade with cucumbers and jalapeno peppers for a sweet and tangy beverage with a shot of heat. It’s priced at $2.50 for regular size, $3 for large and $6 for a gallon.
Del Taco is promoting chocolate beverages for summer. The three Chocodays selections include an Oreo Cookie Horchata Shake, a Mexican Chocolate Shake, also made with horchata, and Mocha Iced Coffee. The QSR is also celebrating “a year of crispy chicken success” with special deals on Crispy Chicken Tacos, a Crispy Chicken & Fries Box and Epic Crispy Chicken Burritos.
Waffle fries are a new addition to Logan’s Roadhouse menu. The crispy potatoes are available seasoned with Logan’s Smokehouse BBQ spice blend or ordered with a simple sprinkle of salt and pepper. They’re available as a side with any of the chain’s mesquite-grilled entrees or as a Loaded Pulled Pork Waffle Fries appetizer. The latter is stacked with pulled pork, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, green onions and a drizzle of ranch. New to the beverage list are several Summer Sips, including a Tropical AF Hurricane Groupie and an Original Roadhouse Rita with a float of dark rum.
Cereal and milk are the ingredients highlighted in Baskin-Robbins’ summer flavor, Milk ‘n Cereal. The ice cream itself tastes like the milk left over in a bowl of cold cereal, infused with the flavor of the cereal. For contrast, every scoop is also swirled with a ribbon of crunchy, sugary cereal. Milk ‘n Cereal was originally developed as a flavor for international markets and turned into one of Baskin-Robbins best-selling Flavors of the Month launched outside the U.S.