This year, operators wasted no time changing up the menu with fall flavors and ingredients. Yes, Starbucks led the charge back on Aug. 28 by launching its Pumpkin Spice Latte—the earliest date ever for the drink’s debut. But now that fall is fully underway, pumpkin spice-weary customers can look forward to different seasonal treats on menus. Here’s what’s coming out of restaurant kitchens.
Photographs courtesy of respective operators
An Oktober feast
Soups warm up cooler temps
Brewhouse Cheddar Soup is back for fall at fast-casual chain Zoup. The soup is a creamy blend of cheddar, English pale ale, carrots, celery, onions and garlic, garnished with shredded cheddar and scallions. Customers can order up the seasonal special in a choice of seasoned bread boules, including two new varieties: rosemary provolone and chipotle pepper jack.
An apple a day
Harvest Flavors is the promo for Corner Bakery Cafe’s autumn offerings, with apples as the dominant ingredient. New fall items include Apple Walnut Pancakes, Apple Walnut Oatmeal and Chicken Apple Arugula Sandwich with pesto mayo on toasted pesto-Parmesan focaccia. Apples also are an ingredient in the chain’s Glorious Morning Muffin, but the last item in the line—the Power Greens & Grains Salad—is apple-free.
A sub for beer fans
The latest LTO at Firehouse Subs also has an Oktoberfest accent. The ingredients in the Firehouse Pub Steak Sub include a cheese sauce made with white Belgian-style wheat ale and a blend of sharp cheddar and American cheeses. Sliced steak and crispy fried onions complete the build, all served on a signature toasted sub roll.
Poke gets a chef’s touch
Sweetfin Poke is not exactly touting fall flavors with its seasonal offering, but the chain is collaborating with Hawaii celeb chef Peter Merriman on a limited-time poke bowl with heartier ingredients. The Merriman’s Bowl, available until Oct. 31, combines ahi poke, udon noodles, daikon radish, carrots, green onions and sesame seeds. Merriman is a pioneer in Hawaii’s regional cuisine movement.
Smokin’ fall flavors
Customers at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill can celebrate autumn with seasonal produce and preparations that evoke the scent of burning leaves. Fire-seared boneless short ribs are served over creamy grits with crispy Parmesan-dusted Brussels sprouts leaves, while Cauliflower “Steak” Frites features wood-grilled cauliflower steak with roasted chili hummus, chimichurri and a side of Parmesan fries. Also in step with the season is a shaved Brussels sprouts and spinach salad tossed with pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and an orange-cranberry vinaigrette. The menu reflects guests’ favorites from seasons past, Firebirds Executive Chef Steve Sturm said in a press release.
Cotton Patch Cafe is promoting its fall menu with the tag line “Chicken Fried Road Trip.” Daily specials, running through Oct. 26, feature hand-breaded, deep-fried country classics and signatures typically found on routes throughout the South. Each day of the week features a different dish, including Chicken Fried Steak with Jalapeno Cream Gravy on Monday, Nashville Hot Chicken Fried Chicken on Thursday and All-You-Can-Eat Fried Catfish on Friday. Also back is Chicken Fried Bacon with a new maple glaze. Cotton Patch President Larry Ryback chose the menu items to coincide with cooler weather and offer deals on the chain’s most popular dishes, he said in a statement.
Sweet potatoes go luxe
That other orange food—the humble sweet potato—gets an upscale makeover at Komodo in Miami. The potato is baked, then topped with wasabi butter, tobiko, shaved truffle and gold leaf. The Super Sweet Potato is a good fit for the concept’s hip vibe and edgy menu.
Last but not least
Perhaps pumpkin is worthy of one mention, especially when appearing in a healthier format. Smoothie King has introduced four pumpkin smoothies, each of which is geared to a different health goal—from weight loss to a post-workout energizer to a vegan alternative. All have a base of organic pumpkin with no added sugar and are made with proprietary recipes that follow the chain’s cleaner blending guidelines.