In many parts of the country, winter lingers through at least mid-March and spring ingredients are hard to come by until the end of the month. Although both restaurants and consumers are looking forward to the change in seasons, right now, the calendar is driving menus.
For many operators, that means a focus on seafood dishes for Lent, tie-ins to events such as March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, and the March food holidays of Pi Day (March14) and National Sauce Month. Burgers, pizza and shrimp are rising to the top, but signs of spring are emerging. Peeks of avocado green are showing up at two quick-service chains, lavender is freshening up coffee drinks and Easter dishes are starting to show up.
Two spicy shrimp dishes join the lineup at Newk’s Eatery. The shrimp are marinated in-house with bold flavors, then tossed into Spicy Shrimp Southwest Shrimp Caesar Salad with red and yellow bell peppers, Parmesan cheese and a romaine lettuce blend, then topped with a chipotle Caesar dressing and tortilla chips. Sandwich fans can opt for the Spicy Southwest Shrimp Caesar Sandwich featuring the salad ingredients minus the chips and plus Swiss cheese on a toasted French baguette. The Spicy Shrimp Pizza is also on offer, topped with bell peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, chili oil and cilantro.
“A Taste of the Sea Menu” is running for a limited time at O’Charley’s. On offer are three salmon dishes, including a new Bayou Salmon dish composed of a salmon filet with Cajun seasoning on a bed of rice, topped with shrimp, red and green bell peppers, onions and tomatoes tossed in Cajun cream sauce. Another new addition is Island Salmon flavored with teriyaki and pineapple salsa. Two longtime items are also on the seafood menu: Cedar-Planked Salmon and a Seafood Combo.
Hurricane Grill & Wings
The launch of Burger Madness, a new burger menu, is making news at Hurricane Grill & Wings. In additionto a selection of specialty burgers, including the Cheesy Quesadilla Burger and Juicy Goat Cheese and Bacon Burger, the menu features shareables such as Bacon N’ Cheese Potachos. The limited time Burger Madness menu, running until June 6, ties into the NCAA basketball tournament.
Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes
MooyahBurgers, Fries & Shakes is touting its newest items as “coffee-house-inspired.” Available through Apr. 25 are two LTOs: The Bistro Burger and Coffee Shake. The burger features a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with melted provolone cheese, spring lettuce and creamy aioli. The shake boasts a kick of caffeine from the addition of coffee. Guests are encouraged to try them together.
Opting to go the plant-based route, Bareburger has teamed up with Gathered Foods to menu fish-free tuna burgers. The chain is using the company’s plant-based tuna to offer a classic fish burger and two signatures. The Gulf is a vegan burger topped with fresh vegetables and a spinach-based green goddess dressing and The Bay is a spicy version heated up with jalapenos and chipotle buttermilk ranch dressing.
Meat lovers looking for a burger alternative now have the option of a boneless rib sandwich from Sonny’s BBQ. The Real Deal Rib Sandwich, on the menu through Apr. 25, is layered with off-the-bone baby back ribs, pickles, red onions and fried banana peppers on a bun. It can be purchased as a Big Deal combo with a side and drink for $11.99.
Pi Day is March 14 and to celebrate, North Italia is inviting its regional chefs from 23 locations around the country to create a pizza that reflects each of their cities. The 12 winning pies will appear on the menu from March 14-21, with $1 from each sale going to Food Corps. The chefs are tasked with using local ingredients and themes to create their pizza. Some of the entries already in include a Tasso Ham and Collards Pizza from Nashville and Birmingham; BBQ Porchetta Pizza from Overland Park, Kan.; a Pan Con Lechon Pizza from Miami and a Philly Cheesesteak Pizza from King of Prussia, Pa.
A flatbread crust is the platform of choice for Pizza Guys’ newest menu item. The Street Taco Flatbread is topped with taco sauce and seasoning, grilled chicken, mozzarella and fresh pico de gallo. Customers who purchase it will receive a mini bottle of hot sauce with their order. The Street Taco Flatbread joins three others in the category: Fiery Pepperoni Bacon, Creamy Pesto Artichoke and Grilled Chicken Spinach.
A new breakfast choice—Avocado Toast—is now at Dunkin’ locations nationwide. The item features a smooth avocado blend of four ingredients: avocados, sea salt, black pepper and lemon juice. The mixture is spread on the chain’s toasted sourdough bread and topped with everything bagel seasoning. Dunkin’ is using a special portable box for to-go orders that keeps the toast intact in transit. Also launching across U.S. locations are Grilled Cheese Melts in two varieties.
Avocado toast is also debuting at Robek’s in two savory versions. The Classic is seasoned with lemon and olive oil, chili flakes, pink salt and pepper and served on toasted sourdough bread. The Everything toast balances the avocado with Robeks own blend of everything bagel seasoning and is topped with sliced cherry tomatoes. Launching at the same time is Acai Almond Toast—a sweeter option. It features almond butter topped with a dollop of acai Greek yogurt spread, layered with banana slices and dried blueberries and drizzled with honey.
Dutch Bros Coffee
Lavender is coming back to flavor several coffee drinks at Dutch Bros Coffee. For a limited time through Apr. 30, the drive-thru coffee concept is serving White Chocolate Lavender Cold Brew with Soft Top and White Chocolate Lavender Oat Milk Latte. The cold brew is available hot or iced, crowned with Dutch Bros signature Soft Top—a fluffy, sweet, marshmallow-like topping.