Menu favorites get tweaked and seasonal specials return
As we move through January and into February, several menus are offering up new twists on old favorites. Football playoffs call for riffs on wings, pizza and tacos, and chains are getting in the game with their offerings. Plus, there are more choices for consumers seeking healthier options, and winter events such as Lunar New Year are motivating menu makers to launch tie-ins. Lately, there also seems to be a weekly debut of a new fried chicken sandwich, and this week is no exception.
Check out what’s making menu news right now.
Boston Market started out as Boston Chicken, and rotisserie chicken meals are still a menu staple. So, it was only time before the chain launched its first fried chicken sandwich to jump on the popular trend. The Nashville Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich, officially debuting Monday for a limited time, features a crispy chicken breast fillet with smoky Nashville hot sauce, pickles and ranch dressing on a brioche bun. The sauce is a blend of cayenne, chili powder, sugar and garlic with “a handful of secret spices.” The chain is using the same sauce to offer a spicier version of its signature roast chicken. Nashville Hot Rotisserie Chicken is garnished with pickle chips and served with two sides.
Flatbread Pizzas rolled out nationwide at Panera Bread on Oct. 28. Last week, the fast casual added two more options to the new menu category. The new Pepperoni Flatbread features a crisp crust topped with fresh mozzarella, pepperoni and tomato-bell pepper sauce, while the Four Cheese Flatbread is topped with a creamy white garlic sauce and a combo of Parmesan, mozzarella, fontina and feta cheeses. In a move to capitalize on family meal bundles, Panera also introduced two new Flatbread Family Feast value meals. Customers can order two Flatbread Pizzas and two salads for $23 or three of each for $29.
Pizza and flatbreads have been top sellers for takeout and delivery over the last year. To appeal to both pizza fans and vegans, Toppers is now offering a dairy-free, meatless take on its signature Topperstix. The new vegan Topperstix are covered with melted, dairy-free mozzarella and house-made vegan garlic sauce, and served with a choice of dipping sauces, including dairy-free ranch.
Wings are another menu item that soared during the pandemic, and Smokey Bones is making the most of the trend with its virtual concept, The Wing Experience. Dragon Wings are the newest addition on the to-go menu. The flavor profile of the limited-time wings is reminiscent of the Fireball brand of spirits with a shot of heat. The recipe is a blend of agave syrup, honey hot wing sauce, sweet-and-sour, ground cinnamon, cayenne and, yes, Fireball Whisky.
Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express
FAT Brands, parent company of Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express, is also flying the wing route, offering a plant-based version of the fan favorite. Chick’n Vings are meatless wings made with a branded vegetable protein and can be ordered with any of the chains’ 13 house-made sauces. These include Scorchin’ Carolina Fire BBQ, Coconut Jerk, Honey Garlic and Sweet Bourbon
Lunar New Year takes place on Feb. 12 and Panda Express is tying into the annual Asian celebration by bringing back a guest favorite. Firecracker Chicken Breast returned for a limited time, starting last week. It’s part of Panda’s WokSmart menu, and features sliced chicken breast, hand-chopped bell peppers, onions, green beans and whole dried chilies, tossed together with a savory black bean sauce.
Crispy chicken is moving out from between the buns and into a tortilla at Del Taco. The QSR is menuing Honey Mango Crispy Chicken in a $1 taco filled with a crispy chicken strip, lettuce, grated cheddar cheese and honey mango sauce, as well as a $5 Honey Mango Crispy Chicken & Bacon Burrito. Also in the lineup is a Honey Mango Crispy Chicken & Churros Box containing three pieces of crispy chicken strips and mini churros sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, both drizzled in honey mango sauce.
Fancy Schmancy is the name of Torchys Taco of the Month for January. The filling is made with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, fresh spinach, capers, pickled onions and jalapenos, layered with herb cream cheese and chopped dill in a flour tortilla ($6.50). The LTO started out as a potential brunch item and hangover cure, and so Torchy’s is also offering mimosas to add on for $3.50 each through the end of January.
Habit Burger Grill
With the popularity of family meals continuing, Habit Burger Grill created a new iteration that’s geared to off-premise dining. The Chars & Bites Bundle ($25) includes four Charburgers with cheese, four servings of french fries and a 10-piece order of the chain’s new double-breaded Crispy Chicken Bites, available with a choice of house-made ranch or barbecue sauce.
A seasonal menu featuring winter flavors launched this month at Bellagreen. The full-service bistro-style restaurant focuses on fresh, sustainable ingredients, and the dishes reflect that ethos. Two new dinner menus are the Paleo Ribeye topped with avocado chimichurri sauce and served with crispy Brussels sprouts leaves, and a Seared Almond-Crusted Snapper atop lemon-cilantro mashed potatoes with a side of French garlic green beans. Available all day are several seasonal items, including Broccoli & Smoked Gouda Soup, Sticky Chicken Wings, Paleo Salmon Tacos and Pear & Cranberry Salad.
Jamba is expanding its focus on its wellness portfolio in 2021, introducing functional boosts that customers can add to a smoothie. The three boosts are designed to increase immunity, energy or performance, with various combinations of antioxidants, vitamins and functional ingredients. Jamba’s three ready-to-drink shots are also part of the chain’s wellness push. They include ginger, turmeric and wheatgrass, all touting specific health boosters.
Juice It Up
Immunity boosting is also a goal with Juice It Up’s new line of limited-time products. The Mighty C-Immunity and The Supercharger raw juices, available through Mar. 31, both contain the chain’s new Immunity Boost, a combination of elderberry, echinacea, zinc, Vitamin D and other essential vitamins. The Immunity Boost shot can also be added to any of Juice It Up’s smoothies, bowls or juices.