Popeyes, Smashburger and Nekter sprinkle the menu with some spice

Taste Tracker: Island flavors make waves at First Watch; Wendy’s and Rita’s get fruity; it’s all about lavender for Caribou Coffee; and more menu news of the week.
Taste Tracker beverages
Photos courtesy of the brands

It’s high season for menu launches as March morphs into April. Some menus are turning up the heat with new spice combos, while others embrace lighter fruit and floral flavors. See it all in action by clicking the video, then read on for more details.

Popeyes released its latest wing flavor: Honey Lemon Pepper. This variation of the chain’s popular crispy chicken wings combines the tang of lemon, the sweetness of honey and a bit of peppery heat from black pepper. Honey Lemon Pepper Wings launch nationally April 1, but can be ordered online or through the app right now.

Chicken gets a blast of heat at Smashburger too, with the introduction of the Mango Habanero Crispy Chicken Sandwich. For this item, a crispy chicken breast is coated in a sweet and spicy tropical-inspired sauce and layered with lettuce and mayo on a soft sweet roll. Tajin is the hot spice of choice at Nekter Juice Bar, where it’s flavoring a Pineapple Tajin Smoothie, Tajin Chamoy Frozen Cucumber Lemonade and Tropical Tajin Fruit Cup.

Tropical flavors are also trending at First Watch, where a new seasonal menu celebrates island-inspired dishes from the Caribbean, Hawaii and South Carolina low country. On offer are Hawaiian French Toast topped with caramelized pineapple; Hacienda Hash with chorizo, potatoes and red bell pepper with smashed avocado and a drizzle of lime crema; Shrimp & Grits with house-roasted tomatoes; Holey Donuts with mixed berry compote and chocolate sauce for dipping; and Tropical Sunrise Juice, a blend of mango, pineapple, strawberry and lime.

Caribou Coffee is exploring floral flavors with the debut of five lavender drinks. Brewing at the coffee chain are Honey Lavender Latte, Lavender Matcha Tea Latte, Iced White Mocha with Lavender Cold Foam and Frozen Lavender Matcha with Bubbles. There’s also Caribou’s signature Honey Lavender Shaker—fresh espresso shaken with real lavender syrup and topped with a splash of oatmilk.

Spring comes to Wendy’s Frosty lineup with the newest addition: the Orange Dreamsicle Frosty. To create this seasonal spin, a spoonful of sweet orange is combined with a classic vanilla Frosty, resulting in a nostalgic and refreshing flavor duo. The Orange Dreamsicle Frosty joins the Chocolate Frosty on menus, replacing the Vanilla Frosty for a limited time.

Bad Daddy’s has a roster of new LTOs, available through May 27. The selection includes a Pizza Burger, Pesto Pasta Salad and Chicken Parmesan Sandwich on the food side, and a Spring Cucumber Refresher Mocktail, Fresh Cucumber Margarita, Tiramisu Shake and Electric Liit on the beverage side. The latter is a powerful mix of vodka, gin, tequila, coconut rum, blue Curacao and lime.

Watermelon is the flavor of the moment at Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard. Sour Patch Kids Watermelon Ice is featured in gelati, where the ice is mixed with vanilla frozen custard and topped with sour watermelon topping. There’s also a Sour Patch Kids Watermelon Ice Blender to sip.

Sweet Paris Crepes has one new sweet and one new savory item on hand. The Very Berry Crème Brulée is a dessert crepe filled with crème brulée, fresh strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, and almonds, while the Chicken Pesto Crepe combines grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, pesto sauce, red bell peppers, olives and mozzarella cheese.

And California Pizza Kitchen wraps up the month with an Easter meal to go. Guests can choose from oven-roasted salmon or marinated chicken paired with lemon piccata sauce, sided with sauteed broccolini, crispy smashed potatoes, Caesar salad, spinach artichoke dip and a baguette. The package is completed with CPK’s classic butter cake and vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert 

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