Operators are changing up the summer lineup by updating proven menu wins with new flavors. Bowls, tacos, sandwiches, pizzas and frosty treats continue to lure customers, but they’re showing up with creative condiments and exciting flavor profiles. Operators are tapping ingredients like preserved lemons, hot honey, Buffalo queso and ghost peppers to wake up summer taste buds. On the beverage side, smoky, bubbly and fruity flavors are adding a layer of fun to warm weather refreshers.
Qdoba Mexican Eats
Customers can choose from an array of new salsas, sauces and toppings to elevate burritos, bowls and entrees at Qdoba—all available free of charge. New add-ons such as pickled red onions, spicy jalapeno verde sauce, smoky chile crema and roasted tomato salsa expand the chain’s Flavor Bar selections. Some of the condiments boast combinations that make for complex flavor profiles. The jalapeno verde sauce, for example, blends roasted jalapenos, aji chiles, cotija cheese, cilantro and lime juice into a creamy green sauce, drawing culinary inspiration from the Monterrey region of Mexico.
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Moe’s teamed up with a popular hot sauce company to launch a summer LTO—Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Queso Taco. The item features a taco shell wrapped in a soft tortilla with Buffalo queso in between. Guests can customize with their choice of protein. The queso can also be ordered separately as a side, bowl or cup, or added to any other entree. To help kick off the news, Moe’s is working with Grammy Award-winning artist T-Pain on a video and other content.
Sweet heat elevates the flavor on several new Shake Shack items, including the Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich—a honey-glazed crispy chicken breast topped with habanero mayo and shredded lettuce on a toasted potato bun. The honey glaze itself is a mix of shallots, passion fruit puree, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and the mayo combines pickled and fresh habaneros. Guests who don’t want to go the sandwich route can opt for Hot Honey Fries and Hot Honey Chicken Bites.
To quench fiery palates, there’s a selection of cocktail-inspired Summerades made with juices, fruit zests and teas. The alcohol-free drinks include a Lime Agave Margarita, Pina Punch and Watermelon Mint Mojito. Two indulgent shakes round out the menu: Cherry Pop Shake and Triple Chocolate Chip Shake.
A chef-curated Lemon Chicken Bowl is the latest addition to Cava’s menu. The Mediterranean fast casual collaborated with NY Shuk, a specialty company that markets preserved lemon paste, an ingredient tied to the Levant region. The paste goes into Cava’s new Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette, which is used to punch up the Lemon Chicken Bowl with citrus and umami notes. Along with the vinaigrette, the bowl is composed of spinach, romaine, feta, red pepper hummus, grilled chicken, tomato, pickled onions, cucumber, lentil tabbouleh and fire-roasted corn. Guests can also customize any bowl or salad with the lemony vinaigrette.
Pie Five Pizza
A stuffed crust pizza launched at Pie Five as an LTO, running through July 11. The Parmesan Crunch Stuffed Crust Pizza features house-made dough stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, so the crust bakes into a crispy, golden-brown outer layer. The soft, melty cheese in the outer edge paired with the crunchy crust creates a unique taste and texture contrast. The pizza is topped with Tuscan marinara sauce and additional mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Pie Five claims this is the first stuffed crust on a fast-casual personal pizza.
The Field Roast Signature Stadium Dog, aka The Home Run, is making its debut on Roy Choi’s Kogi Truck. The plant-based hot dog is made from pea protein and is double-smoked over maple hardwood chips to deliver an authentic meaty taste in a vegan frank. The plant-based Kogi dog is topped with Choi’s signature Kogi slaw, cilantro-lime relish, three salsas (roja, verde and naranja), roasted sesame seeds and dairy free-cheese, served inside a toasted bun. The introduction of the plant-based hot dog, which sells for $7 alongside traditional beef hot dogs on the Kogi truck, coordinates with the launch of the Stadium Dog Streetwear collection.
The44-unit Islands Restaurants chain is cleaning up its menu by eliminating products with growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial ingredients and preservatives. The emphasis on cleaner ingredients coincides with the introduction of more customizable menu options, including the new Ghost Pepper or Truffle Fries. The Ghost Pepper Fries are tossed with a hot pepper oil blend, ghost pepper salt and cotija cheese, then served with a machete aioli. Truffle Fries are topped with truffle oil, truffle sea salt and a parsley-Parmesan blend, accompanied by truffle aioli. All Island Fries are cut fresh daily and cooked to order with the skins on.
Now through Aug. 30, the Hog Heaven Breakfast Burrito and Chicken Caesar Salad are available on the menu at fast-casual Farmer Boys. The burrito is composed of cage-free eggs, American cheese, crispy hash browns, house-made salsa, hickory-smoked bacon, pork sausage, and diced ham, rolled in a warm flour tortilla. The Chicken Caesar Salad features grilled chicken, diced avocado, hickory-smoked bacon and Parmesan cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce topped with Farmer Boys’ signature Parmesan-crusted toast.
Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s
Sister quick-service brands Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s launched a BLT Ranch Menu highlighting three new items: the BLT Ranch Chicken Sandwich, BLT Ranch Angus Thickburger and Bacon Ranch Fries. Bacon figures prominently in the trio of limited-time items, with seasonal tomatoes and creamy dill ranch enhancing the chicken sandwich and burger, and plain ranch for the fries. To promote the launch, the chains are teaming up with Heavy Duty, Premiere and 72andSunny to produce a new song, “BLT Ranch Summer.”
Bellagreen is freshening up the menu with six new dishes, all focused on clean, seasonal ingredients. In the lineup are Texas Grilled Peach Salad, a Wagyu Bacon Burger, Paleo Mango Salmon Tacos and Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie. Bellagreen’s director of culinary, Silvestre Reyes, also created two new “From the Chef” menu items that are available after 5 p.m. daily. Dinner guests can choose the Pistachio-Crusted Salmon and Garlic Rosemary Prime Ribeye throughout the summer, in addition to the menu’s regular entrees.
Beverage innovation has been ongoing at Dunkin’, and now a new batch of iced drinks is coming out of the pipeline. The summer sips include Sunrise Batch Iced Coffee, a medium roast brew with notes of cocoa and toasted nuts; Smoked Vanilla Cold Brew with Sweet Cold Foam that tastes like marshmallows; and Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte, using the same new smoked vanilla syrup paired with espresso. In test in select cities is kombucha. Dunkin’s version comes in two flavors: Fuji Apple Berry and Blueberry Lemon.
The Firecracker Blender is Ziggi’s tribute to the July 4th holiday. The beverage, a combination of vanilla base, strawberry puree and blue white chocolate drizzle with a topping of whipped cream and popping candy, is available from July 2-9. Prices range from $2.85 for a kiddie size to $7.90 for a jumbo 32-ounce cup.
For those who want to celebrate July 4th with portable sweets, Pinkbox has several themed treats on hand. Highlights of the all-American lineup include the Hot Dawg (glazed raised doughnut bar iced with chocolate buttercream and drizzled with yellow and red frosting); Watermelon (pink-frosted pink velvet cake topped with watermelon decor); and American Sprinkle (blue frosted vanilla cake topped with stars and stripes sprinkles). The nine Independence Day desserts are available from July 1-4.
Nondairy soft-serve made its debut at the Gott’s Roadside location in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. The oatmilk alternative from Oatly comes in three flavors: Chocolate, vanilla and chocolate-vanilla swirl. The plant-based soft-serve joins Gott’s selection of traditional soft-serve varieties made with dairy ingredients.
July is National Ice Cream Month, and Baskin-Robbins is celebrating with three sea-themed treats. The chain’s new Creature Creations include a dolphin, shark and sea turtle, all available in themed ice cream cakes as well as cup designs and edible white chocolate toppers. Sea-inspired sprinkles are also on hand, which customers can request on the July Flavor of the Month—Beach Day—or any other scoop. Beach Day is a sweet and salty combo of blue sea salt vanilla-flavored ice cream, swirled with crunchy graham cracker “sand” and milk chocolate-flavored, caramel-filled candy sea turtles.