Plant-based burgers were a vegan entry point for many restaurants, but now plants are growing in many new directions on chain menus. Taco Bell started testing a taco filled with a proprietary pea-chickpea blend just last week and Dunkin’ keeps expanding its nondairy milk selection with new varieties. Operators are subbing plant-based meat in everything from Italian beef sandwiches to hot dogs. But fresh vegetables are also showing up in a big way in other seasonal menu items, especially salads. And restaurants are promoting dishes and drinks for Cinco de Mayo. Here’s what’s trending on menus this week.
Nathan’s Famous is launching a plant-based based hot dog formulated with the same flavor profile as the chain’s original. Meatless Farm, a plant-based food company, was able to replicate the recipe of Nathan’s iconic hot dog using all vegan ingredients. Consumers can currently purchase the plant-based hot dogs to cook at home through Shopify. In May, the new item rolls out on the menu at restaurants in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida. For a limited time, select locations will give away one free Nathan’s Meatless Farm hot dog to all customers who wish to try it.
The Chicago-based Buona restaurant group, built on the popularity of its Original Italian Beef Sandwich, is launching a meatless version of the signature. The Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich swaps in seitan for the beef, sourcing it from Upton’s Naturals, a Chicago supplier. The seitan has the same savory flavor profile as Buona’s beef, and the sandwich mimics the original in its build, subbing veggie gravy for meat-based and layering the ingredients on the same French bread topped with hot or mild giardiniera. Giardiniera is a Chicago condiment made with pickled vegetables.
Customers at Dunkin’ can already opt for oat milk or almond milk with their coffee and other beverages—now they have the choice of coconut milk, too. The chain introduced its third plant-based milk in three new Coconut Refreshers: Pink Strawberry with strawberry and dragonfruit flavors; Golden Peach, flavored with peach and passion fruit; and Purple Pomegranate with blueberry and pomegranate. From Wednesday through May 25, customers can purchase the refreshers for a promotional price of $3 each. Also launching is Coconutmilk Iced Latte.
Plant-forward Mediterranean cuisine is at the root of Cava’s menu, and the concept’s Spring Lamb + Feta Bowl is the latest addition to the lineup. It’s composed of roasted eggplant, arugula, herbaceous lentil tabbouleh, spicy green skhug sauce and braised lamb, topped with pickled onions and cucumbers. A drizzle of garlic sauce ties the flavors and ingredients together. Lamb is CAVA’s second most popular meat-based protein after chicken and an important cornerstone of the brand’s Greek heritage and health-focused menu.
A new classic salad menu at Mod Pizza expands the chain’s offerings beyond pizza. Four salads are making their debut: Caesar, Garden, Greek and Italian Chop. All feature Mod Pizza’s signature, house-made dressings. The Italian Chop, a mix of arugula, romaine, mozzarella, Parmesan, salami, red onion, black olives, green bell pepper and chickpeas, is tossed with zesty Roma dressing, while the basic Garden salad gets a sherry Dijon vinaigrette and the Greek is paired with a Greek herb and tahini vinaigrette. Caesar dressing naturally goes with the Caesar. Like Mod’s pizzas, the new salads are completely customizable with unlimited toppings for one price.
Donatos is another pizza concept adding salads to its menu. The Green Goddess Entree Salad is composed of iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, green bell peppers, Roma tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, bacon and grilled chicken, tossed with green goddess dressing, a creamy blend seasoned with an assortment of herbs. It’s also available in a larger size by the name of Green Goddess Party Salad, designed to serve 10. A Green Goddess Side Salad is on offer as well, minus the grilled chicken.
Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse
Salads are coming out of the kitchen at Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse too. The casual-dining brand known for its wings, burgers and beers is running three new salads for a limited time. The Lime Salmon Caramelo features lime-caramelized salmon over spring mix, cabbage-cilantro mix, fried jalapeno coins, pico de gallo and lime-chipotle dressing. Buffalo Blue Salad combines the flavors of Buffalo chicken in a bowl over lettuce, and Grilled Chicken Ava-Keto Power Bowl is a mix of grilled chicken, avocado, garlic-chili broccoli, bacon, hard-cooked eggs, queso fresco, cilantro-cabbage mix and romaine lettuce.
Ingredients in sync with the season make up 12 limited-time menu items at Silver Diner. The new options include Lamb Meatballs served over garlic spinach with tahini-harissa labneh and roasted pepper sauce, a Summer Watermelon & Shrimp Salad, Bruschetta & Eggs with goat cheese, pesto and tomatoes and Peach Pie for 2 with salted caramel drizzle. The lamb meatballs also show up in sliders and in a bowl with hummus and cauliflower pita.
A signature New Orleans sandwich is the inspiration for a new LTO at Quiznos. Called The Big Easy, the sandwich is a take on the classic Muffuletta. It is layered with ham, salami, capicola, melted provolone cheese, red onions, Italian olive salad, lettuce, tomatoes and yellow mustard on a toasted round focaccia roll. The Big Easy will run through July 12.
Last year, Cinco de Mayo celebrations focused on takeout and delivery, but this year, restaurants can offer something a little more. On May 5, Taco Cabana is adding a limited-time margarita and food bundle to the menu, both at a promotional price. The La Bandera margarita, which joins the chain's MargaritaPalooza lineup, is layered with lime, strawberry, mango and blue curacao flavors. It's available at all participating Taco Cabana locations in Texas for $3. The food bundle includes a half-order of Kickin’ Nachos and 12 signature chicken flautas for $19.99.
Lettuce Entertain You concept Bub City is offering half-priced margaritas all day on Cinco de Mayo, along with several food specials. The dishes include Chipotle Rubbed Pulled Pork Tacos, Smoked Brisket Tacos and a BBQ Green Hatch Chili Burrito. The menu is geared to customers dining at socially distanced tables inside the Chicago restaurant or on the outdoor patio.
Taco del Mar
Seafood is the filling of choice for two tacos at Taco del Mar. The Classic Lobster and Seafood Taco is returning to the menu and the chain is introducing the new Tropical Lobster Taco. Both start with chilled lobster and seafood salad mixed with onions, serrano peppers and cilantro piled in warm corn tortillas. The Classic is topped with cabbage, pico de gallo and a tangy Baja white sauce, while the Tropical version is topped with cabbage, mango salsa and cilantro lime vinaigrette.
A trio of sweet endings from Stan’s Donuts ends this week's menu news. The Red Velvet Frozen Hot Chocolate ($4.99) is a blend of rich hot chocolate mix, vanilla ice cream, milk, ice and cream cheese, garnished with cream cheese frosting, whipped cream and donut crumbles. A Cold Brew Float ($4.99) is a simple cold brew topped with vanilla ice cream, while the Chocolate Cherry shake is created with cherries, dark chocolate curls and vanilla ice cream base ($6.99). Patrons who want to add to the decadence can opt for a mini donut or cookie garnish for an extra 99 cents.