Chicken sandwich fever shows no signs of calming down, as two more chains debut their entries this week. New beverages are also making menu news, with restaurants introducing drinks—both with and without alcohol—to celebrate warmer weather. Other categories are focusing on flavor exploration, as pizza, sandwiches, seafood, tacos and more mash up ingredients and add global accents. Scroll through to see the latest LTOs and new items launching on menus.
A Spicy Chicken Sandwich is in test at Portillo’s locations in Illinois and Indiana. It features a spicy breaded chicken breast layered with lettuce, tomato and a hot giardiniera sauce on a brioche bun. The sauce has a base of Portillo’s signature hot giardiniera relish, a pickled chopped vegetable condiment made with bell peppers, green olives, carrots, cauliflower, onions, celery, garlic and serrano peppers. Here it’s blended into a creamy sauce to differentiate this chicken sandwich from the crowd.
The chain known for its wood-fired rotisserie chicken is jumping on the sandwich trend by bringing back its Trail Boss. The sandwich, on Cowboy Chicken’s menu until July 4, features a breaded rotisserie chicken breast, flash-fried and topped with lettuce, mayo, sweet and spicy pickles and house-made ranch dressing. Two new side salads are also on offer. The Southwestern corn and bean salad is composed of pinto beans, black beans, roasted corn, grape tomatoes, red onion, cilantro and jalapeños topped with a zesty dressing, while the updated tomato and cucumber salad includes grape tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro and red onion tossed in house dressing. Customers can wash it all down with seasonal watermelon iced tea.
A monster-sized chicken sandwich launched at Carl’s Jr. to commemorate last week’s release of the Godzilla vs. Kong movie. The limited-time King Kong Chicken Sandwich is a build of two breaded chicken patties, Santa Fe sauce, two cheese slices, lettuce and tomato on a seeded bun. Two limited-time burgers join the sandwich for movie release: the Godzilla Burger (three one-third pound beef patties, three slices of cheese and double bacon) and the King Kong Burger (three smaller beef patties with Santa Fe sauce, three cheese slices, lettuce and tomato.) Both come on a seeded bun, but in Mexico, the chain is offering a black bun.
The Chip Shake Trio rolled out at Dairy Queen, expanding the chain’s shake menu in step with the season. The three new additions include the Raspberry Chip Shake, a blend of soft serve, chocolate shavings, raspberry and milk; the Choco Hazelnut Chip Shake, made with vanilla soft serve, milk, chocolate shavings and chocolate-hazelnut; and the Minto Chip Shake, a combo of creme de menthe, chocolate shavings, vanilla soft serve and milk. All are garnished with whipped topping. Two new slush beverages made their debut, too. The Mango Misty Slush and the Tropical Lemonade Twisty Misty Slush, the latter of which combines mango, lemon-lime and lemonade flavors.
Baskin-Robbins plans to refresh customers with its new Mangonada, a swirl of sweet, savory and spicy flavors. The frosty beverage is a blend of mango puree, chamoy and chile-lime seasoning. The latest nondairy flavor at the chain is Watermelon Swirl Sorbet. Each scoop showcases watermelon ices with a raspberry-flavored candy ribbon.
A pair of springtime sips welcomes margarita season at Applebee’s. The two $5 Mucho Cocktails are the Tipsy Shark and Strawberry Daq-A-Rita. The former is a Pacific-inspired blue cocktail that features tequila, blue curacao, pineapple juice and margarita mix, topped with a gummy shark. The latter is a frozen combo that’s half margarita, half daiquiri, made with tequila, rum, strawberry and margarita mix. Both are served in a signature Mucho glass.
Two new bowls join the lineup at Soulman’s Bar-B-Que, and the restaurant’s Frontier Fries are now on the permanent menu. The Rambler bowl is a mix of spicy potatoes, Texas-style cream corn, shredded cheese, pulled pork, diced hot links and Soulman's barbecue sauce. The Tyler bowl combines french fries, mac n’ cheese, shredded cheese, bacon bits, diced ham and diced sausage. Patrons of the 18 North Texas Soulman’s Bar-B-Que locations can order build-your-own bowl options as well. All can be sided by loaded Frontier Fries—a combo of hand-cut fries, hickory-smoked pulled pork, cheddar cheese and Soulman’s barbecue ranch.
The Pepperoni Pizza Meatball Sub is a new LTO from Firehouse Subs. The hearty sandwich combines the flavors of a meatball sub, pepperoni pizza and garlic bread in one platform. It features Italian meatballs in marinara sauce, melted provolone cheese, crispy slices of pepperoni and Italian seasoning sandwiched in a toasted garlic bread sub roll. The popularity of delivery pizza and the increase in Firehouse’s to-go orders inspired Director of Product Development Jay Miller to create the sub.
In celebration of the opening of outdoor dining season on its patios, Mellow Mushoom launched several new Spring items, available from April 13 through June 14. The Merry Prankster Pie features an herb aioli base topped with chicken, Italian sausage, applewood-smoked bacon, garlic, roasted red and green peppers, mozzarella and aged cheddar. The Maui Wowie Pie has a pesto base topped with mozzarella, ham, pineapple, jerk chicken, banana peppers and applewood-smoked bacon. A Bacon Blue Wedge Salad also makes its debut, along with a Campfire Peach margarita—a sweet-smoky mix of tequila, mezcal, house-made agave sour, peach puree and jalapeno.
Northern Virginia taqueria chain Taco Bamba has launched a lineup of empanadas, with different locations highlighting a different variety. Five versions are on offer, several with Latin flavor mashups. The Jamaican Beef Patty features spiced ground beef, cheddar cheese and coconut habanero sauce, while the Shrimp & Chorizo Fundido is filled with shrimp, chorizo, roasted jalapeno and Chihuahua cheese. There’s also a vegetarian Roasted Cauliflower variety—a combo of spicy cauliflower, Chihuahua cheese, green onions, crema and Buffalo sauce—and the more straightforward Pork BBQ and Bacon, Egg & Cheese empanadas.
The April Taco of the Month at Torchys Tacos is The Scallywag. The limited-time taco contains coconut-battered shrimp, bacon, green chilies, Monterey Jack cheese, pickled onions and cilantro with peach habanero jam on a flour tortilla ($6.50). Customers can pair it with a Scallywag Margarita, shaken up with tequila, triple sec and peach habanero jam. It’s served frozen, rimmed with crushed Cap’n Crunch cereal and coconut.
New seasonal seafood dishes are on the menu at Bonefish Grill. The Angler’s Catch is the casual-dining concept’s take on fish and chips; tempura-battered crispy cod and shrimp are served on a bed of fries with house-made coleslaw. Salmon Caprese is a little fancier, featuring wood-grilled salmon with gnocchi, blistered tomatoes, mozzarella fondue, basil and pesto. There’s also Rockefeller “Butterfish,” showcasing Alaskan black cod topped with creamy spinach and jumbo lump crab meat. Imbibers can sip a Crushed Pineapple Martini, while dessert fans can order up Key Lime Cake.