McNoodles, Birthday Cake Milkshakes and Blue Man Goo

Flavor trends and menu rollouts from McDonald’s, Pei Wei and more

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

McDonald's is testing noodle bowls in Austria

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- One theme can be extracted from the flavors popping up on menus this month: big and bold. Operators are going for familiar dishes, but accentuating them with over-the-top heat, comforting indulgences and unexpected ingredients.

Pei Wei Asian Diner is building excitement online for the Oct. 8 launch of its sriracha chicken. The fast-casual concept is releasing new videos each week giving consumers sneak peeks at the creation of the dish, from developing the spicy sauce to accompanying flavors. Click here to see what’s been revealed so far.

Cake and ice cream, all in one. Southeastern fast-casual chain Zaxby’s is offering a Birthday Cake Milkshake for a limited time. The milkshake features a cake batter flavor blended with sprinkles and is topped with chocolate whipped topping.

First White Castle opened its Laughing Noodle prototype, and then Chipotle launched ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Now McDonald’s is testing noodle bowls in its Austrian restaurants. The meal includes noodles with vegetables, chicken and either sweet and sour or curry sauce and costs approximately 4.99 euros, or $6.56, according the Chicago Tribune. The burger behemoth hopes to capture the trend toward noodle bowls, which are increasingly popular in Austria. The test will last for two to three months. McDonald’s Austria also serves bubble teas, curry wraps and toasted, pita-like breakfast sandwiches.

White Castle rolled out a crispy jalapeno cheese Slider, available with beef or chicken, as well as crispy jalapeno cheese fries. To promote the new offerings, the chain launched the “Some Crave It Hot” challenge, in which customers can upload an image of the “hottest slider creation you can concoct” for special prizes including executive chef Phillip Bach’s three favorite hot sauces.

A number of “better burger” concepts are exploring new flavor combinations on their menus, according to Five Napkin Burger in New York is featuring a lamb kofta burger topped with tomato, pepper, cucumber and onion salad with tahini sauce. At The Vortex in Atlanta, the Elvis Burger pairs a traditional beef patty with peanut butter, bacon and fried bananas. DMK Burger Bar in Chicago sells a bison burger with goat cheese, pickled onions and blueberry barbecue sauce, and The Tripel in Los Angeles is serving burgers on pretzel buns.

Likewise, also from MonkeyDish, grilled cheese is being used as a template for signature creations on food trucks from coast to coast. Happy Belly Truck in Atlanta features the Gooey Granny: Gouda and Granny Smith apples with wheat challah. Little Muenster food truck in New York hawks a grilled cheese stuffed with merguez sausage, ricotta gremolata, fontina and fried capers. Boston’s Grilled Cheese Nation serves the “Blue Man Goo” sandwich with blue cheese, fig spread and aged balsamic on raisin pecan bread. Melt Mobile in Stamford, Conn., sells the Montecristo: ham, turkey, Cheddar, Gruyere and Monterey Jack on challah bread, dipped in french toast batter and grilled, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with mixed berry preserves.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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