As we near the end of February, spring is still a calendar month away—and so are the seasonal ingredients that freshen up menus. But menu innovation continues. This week, many chains are taking customer favorites in new directions, tweaking items such as fries, wings and breakfast sandwiches with different flavors and ingredients. Veggie-centric sandwiches and bowls are also making an appearance, as are bite-size sweets. And with the Golden Globes broadcast coming up on Sunday and the Oscars close behind, some restaurants are promoting awards-night meal packages to go.
Einstein Bros. Bagels
The Texas Brisket Egg Sandwich is the latest addition to Einstein Bros. Bagels breakfast menu. The sandwich makes it debut on a new carrier, the Jalapeno Bacon Gourmet Bagel. It’s piled with slow-smoked beef brisket, melted cheddar cheese, cage-free eggs and a smoky chipotle sauce. The meaty sandwich, priced at $6.79, rolls out on Thursday for a limited time.
Jersey Mike’s is going in the opposite direction with a new vegetarian sandwich. The Grilled Portabella Mushroom and Swiss Sub features grilled fresh portabella mushrooms, green peppers and onions with melted Swiss cheese. In continuing its commitment to local sourcing and sustainability, Jersey Mike’s took time to organize a supply chain of mushroom growers across the country, ensuring that the mushrooms are harvested, transported and delivered within days of being picked.
Jack in the Box
Two new varieties of Sauced & Loaded Curly Fries have joined the menu at Jack in the Box. The Triple Cheddar and Slow Smoked Bacon version features fries topped with cheddar cheese sauce, shredded cheddar, cheesy ranch and hickory-smoked bacon, while the Spicy Pepper Jack & Slow Smoked Bacon packs a punch with shredded pepper jack cheese, jalapeno ranch, cheddar cheese sauce, bacon and jalapeno slices.
Also dialing up the heat is chicken chain PDQ, which entered the competitive fried chicken sandwich arena with a spicy version and applied the same fiery flavor to its chicken nuggets. The Spicy Chicken Sandwich features a crispy chicken breast with a coating infused with spicy seasoning. It’s topped with lettuce, dill pickles and PDQ's new signature sauce—a blend of a creamy horseradish base, smoked paprika oregano, garlic and black pepper—all served on a buttered, toasted and steamed potato bun. The Spicy Nuggets are marinated in buttermilk, coated with a spicy breading and cooked crisp. They come with a choice of seven sauces, including the zesty new horseradish blend.
By popular demand, Wingstop brought back three fan favorite “remix” sauces for a limited time. Hot Lemon spikes the chain’s signature Lemon Pepper seasoning with a bit of Wingstop's Original Hot sauce, while Bayou BBQ combines Hickory Smoked BBQ with zesty Cajun seasoning. The last of the trio is Lemon Garlic, which pairs Garlic Parmesan with Lemon Pepper. All are available tossed with bone-in and boneless wings as well as chicken tenders.
Also expanding its sandwich roster is Papa John’s. The chain is taking its Papadias line of flatbead-style pizza sandwiches worldwide. Inspired by the Italian piadina, the Papadia is made with fresh pizza dough filled with a range of ingredients and folded over to create a convenient to-go format. There are 10 varieties to choose from, including Philly Cheesesteak, BBQ Chicken with mozzarella and Italian sausage, pepperoni and cheese. Each of the 23 global markets can choose the Papadias they wish to launch.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ
Ono Hawaiian BBQ returned its $5 seafood special for a limited time. Through April 4, guests can order the Island White Fish Aloha Plate and Grilled Mahi Mahi Plate lunches for $5. The former features a tender white fish filet, lightly marinated and breaded with panko crumbs; it’s served with steamed rice and a mixed salad. The Grilled Mahi Mahi Plate showcases wild-caught mahi mahi flavored with lemon pepper or teriyaki. It’s served over steamed vegetables with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad on the side.
A collaboration between fast casual B.Good and Lentils.org, the promotional board for lentil growers, resulted in the launch of the new Mediterranean Bowl. The bowl is composed of red lentils, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, za’atar hummus and za’atar vinaigrette over a bed of greens. It also marks the return of Eggplant Meatballs, a plant-based customer favorite, that are perched on top. The Mediterranean Bowl goes for $11.
Starting Feb. 24, matcha is energizing two new menu items at Dunkin'. Blueberry Matcha Latte is made with the chain’s sweetened green tea powder blend mixed with blueberry flavor and a choice of milks; it comes hot, iced or frozen. The Matcha Topped Donut turns Dunkin’s signature glazed donut green with a topping of matcha powder.
Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
Bite-size churros are making their dessert debut at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. The mini fried churros are dusted with cinnamon-sugar and agave and served with a side of whipped topping for dipping. They’re available in a 10-piece shareable order at Lime Fresh locations in South Florida.
Great American Cookies
Peanut Butter Cup Double Stuffed Cookies are launching nationally at Great American Cookies, just in time for National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day on March 1. The cookies feature two Reese’s peanut butter cups baked into the chain’s original chocolate chip cookies. The stuffed cookies will be on the menu through March 31, but on March 1, Great American Cookies rewards members will receive double points with a purchase of this treat.
To pay tribute to its 15th anniversary, Yogurtland put a new twist on its original plain tart flavor of frozen yogurt. Small Batch Super Tart amplifies the plain tart flavor profile with an enhanced tart taste balanced with subtle sweetness. The commemorative frozen yogurt flavor is available for a limited time, while supplies last.
Lettuce Entertain You
In celebration of the upcoming awards season, Summer House, one of Lettuce Entertain YouEnterprises’ concepts, is offering a Movie Night Kit for Four. It’s available for purchase from Thursday through Sunday—in time for the Golden Globes broadcast on that Sunday. The package includes two make-your-own pizza kits, Caesar salad, pasta pomodoro, cookie dough scoops to bake, candy and movie popcorn. The cost is $75 for carryout orders only.