Summer is not the sleepy season for menu launches this year. Perhaps some new items and LTOs were already in the pipeline pre-pandemic, but it seems that operators are making up for lost time now. The beverage side of the menu is especially active and holiday tie-ins keep on coming.
Bastille Day is July 14, and Lettuce Entertain You’s French concept, Mon Ami Gabi, is celebrating with Parisian flair. At each of the restaurant’s five locations, guests can order up several French-inspired specials, including Classic Seafood Bouillabaisse, Crispy Frogs Legs and Tri-Color Profiteroles filled with ice cream. The items are available for carryout, delivery and/or patio dining, depending on location.
Bowls continue to trend, with Sweetgreen introducing a new Crispy Rice Bowl, a takeoff on the crispy Thai ingredient served by chef Kris Yenbamroong of LA’s Night + Market. The crispy grain is actually a blend of sorghum and rice, accompanied by veggies, greens and chicken and rounded out with fresh herbs and a spicy cashew dressing. Applebee’s brought back its Irresist-A-Bowls in four variations: Southwest Chicken Bowl, Southwest Steak Bowl, Tex-Mex Shrimp Bowl and Homestyle Chicken Bowl.
Furious Spoon, an emerging chain, debuted meal bundles to go, several of which focus on bowls. The Boozy Bundle features two ramen bowls, chicken and pork dumplings and a DIY cocktail kit, while the Going Green Bundle includes two veggie bowls, edamame and two green teas. The Asian concept is also offering a Pong Pack with six beers, ping-pong balls and red Solo cups for those who want to play beer pong with their bowls. Drinkers can also order up a Sake Bomb kit or a margarita kit.
El Pollo Loco introduced Chickenless Pollo, a plant-based chicken alternative, earlier this year, but feedback indicated that customers wanted the product to be used in completely vegan applications. Now guests can request “Make it Vegan” when ordering a Chickenless Pollo taco or burrito, and the cheese and creamy cilantro dressing will be removed.
Also new on the taco front is the summery Prawn Star from Torchy’s Tacos. The chain’s July Taco of the Month combines coconut lime shrimp ceviche with mango, avocado, avocado sauce and cilantro on top of one flour and one crispy corn tortilla.
Refreshing seasonal beverages, both with and without alcohol, are making their debut to quench summer thirsts. Dutch Bros. Coffee rolled out the Sunset Mixer, a blend of coconut milk and strawberry fruit lemonade, and the Hula Mixer, a combo of pineapple and strawberry fruit green tea.
Peet’s Coffee has 10 limited-time drinks on the menu, all with a summery spin. The Citrus Cremesicle Cold Brew is layered with sweetened condensed milk, yuzu citrus puree and a swirl of half and half, while Strawberry Vanilla Cold Brew swaps in strawberry puree for the yuzu. Also on offer are a variety of iced tea shakers, including black tea flavored with yuzu citrus, green tea with pineapple citrus, hibiscus with lemonade and strawberries, and green tea with tropical berry flavors.
The cocktail menu at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is exploding with new choices. Highlighting seasonal ingredients are the Blackberry Kozmo (gin, triple sec, blackberry puree, cranberry juice and lime with club soda), Kentucky Strawberry Tea (bourbon muddled with strawberries, lemon juice and iced tea), Summer Breeze (vodka infused with cucumber, mint and jalapeno, shaken with lime and triple sec) and the Strawberry Basil Margarita (tequila and triple sec muddled with strawberries and basil).