Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Best of FlavorTop 10 Trends

10 Sandwich Heroes Sandwiches invite creativity, from riffs on such classics as club sandwiches and BLTs to new ingredient stars like lamb and braised short rib.

The Wally at Sandfly Bar-B-Q in Savannah, Ga., packs flavor with duck fat-fried chicken fingers, ranch dressing and red cabbage slaw.
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1. Nouveau BLT

There’s a lot of room for innovation between A and Z, especially if you can also hit the salty, crispy, soft and sweetly acidic flavor and texture balance of the original.

Try this:

  • Swap out the three main elements with an elevated version of each, such as pancetta, arugula and roasted tomatoes.
  • Make the sandwich vegetarian with crispy strips of sweet potato or parsnip instead of bacon, and spike the mayonnaise to create a barbecue aïoli.

Menu Examples:

  • B.L.Whaat!: Candied habanero bacon, greens, tomatoes, red onion, roasted garlic aïoli and Swiss cheese —The Lunchpad at Noir Lounge, San Francisco
  • Crispy Chicken BLT: All-white-meat crispy chicken patty topped with two strips of freshly cooked applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato —Wendy’s, all locations (part of the 4 for $4 meal program)

2. Adventures with Braised Beef

Except for French dips, roast beef sandwiches are few and far between—but lesser cuts can be turned into satisfying sandwiches utilizing meat from dinner applications.

Try this:

  • Braise meats in liquids such as Porter beer or Lapsang souchong tea for flavor and flourish.
  • Braise and shred brisket for an inviting Texas take on the traditional pulled-pork build.

Menu Examples:

  • Braised Beef Sandwich: Slow-braised beef, provolone, charred tomatoes on a hoagie —M3, Reno, Nev.
  • Short Rib Philly with caramelized onions, Gruyère cheese —Flores & Sons, Los Angeles

3. Satisfying Veggie Burger

With so much attention being paid to burgers, chefs are taking on the challenges of vegetarian and vegan cravings.

Try this:

  • Experiment with a combination of mashed and shredded vegetables to help mimic the texture of beef; mushrooms in particular add umami.
  • Use a falafel-style patty with Middle Eastern condiments.

Menu Examples:

  • Beachwood Veggie Burger: Brown rice, wild mushroom, cashew, walnut, vegan mayo, avocado, arugula, tomato, ciabatta roll —Beachwood Cafe, Los Angeles
  • Veggie Burger: Housemade with quinoa, sweet potato, roasted mushrooms and black beans, topped with pickled red cabbage and guacamole on a toasted multigrain roll —Not Your Average Joe’s, multiple locations

4. Tartine and Toast Variations

Whether you call them tartines or toasts, these slices of bread sporting layers of flavors and textures are hotter than ever—as breakfast/brunch items, snacks, bar bites or lunch offerings.

Try this:

  • Consider the two-bite version of toasts and minimize the experience into a crostini build.
  • Modern toast preps are merging into hearty open-faced territory with toppers like soft scrambled eggs, crumbled chorizo, braised meats, etc.

Menu Examples:

  • Whitefish Tartine: Egg, radish, celery —GreenRiver, Chicago
  • Chicken Salad Toast with grapes, walnut, tarragon, Greek yogurt aïoli —The Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles

5. Beyond the Club Sandwich

Here’s a classic that provides room for all kinds of variations on the usual theme of turkey or chicken with bacon, iceberg lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Try this:

  • Pile all the desired ingredients (turkey or chicken, cheese, bacon, tomato, mayo, etc.) into a wrap sandwich.
  • Substitute toast with another layer-worthy bread, such as lavash or a flagel (thin bagel).

Menu Examples:

  • Duck Confit Club: Applewood-smoked bacon, roasted garlic aïoli and pommes frites —39 Rue de Jean, Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.
  • Salmon Club: Grilled Atlantic salmon, “salmon bacon,” avocado, butter lettuce, cucumber —Nick & Stef’s, Los Angeles

6. Reuben 2.0

Renewed interest in smoked and cured meats and other artisan deli products has spurred a resurgence in this classic hot sandwich.

Try this:

  • Go with the Rachel, a Reuben made with smoked turkey instead of pastrami or corned beef.
  • Make a vegetarian version using roasted eggplant, topped with sauerkraut, Swiss and Russian dressing, on grilled rye.

Menu Examples:

  • Pastrami Deluxe: Swiss cheese, fried cabbage, pickled jalapeño spread, horseradish mustard, brioche, fries —Yard House, multiple locations
  • Pastrami Russ: Pastrami-cured salmon, Muenster cheese, sauerkraut, mustard, pickle, pretzel roll —Russ & Daughters Cafe, New York

7. Second-Wave Hot Dogs

Burger King’s success with its grilled hot dogs, plus the haute hot dog trend, has focused attention on this under-appreciated sandwich stalwart.

Try this:

  • Benefit from branding by using—and calling out—a popular local or regional dog.
  • Turkey, chicken and even seafood sausages make for a more healthful build.

Menu Examples:

  • The Tony Dog: Local bison hot dog, bison brisket chili, Lusty Monk Mustard, housemade yeast roll —Isa’s Bistro, Asheville, N.C.
  • The Bratwurst with seared garlic onions, Buttface Amber Ale cheese sauce on a pretzel bun with beer mustard—Ram Restaurant & Brewery, multiple locations

8. A Little Lamb

Innovative lamb sandwiches offer big, satisfying flavor, often tied nicely to global flavor discovery.

Try this:

  • Use ground lamb instead of beef for a Sloppy Joe variation.
  • Quick-smoke braised lamb shoulder for a sandwich filling.

Menu Examples:

  • Braised Lamb Sandwich, tomato aïoli, roasted onion, arugula —Snack EOS, New York
  • Shaved Lamb Sandwich with pepperoncini, pecorino, honey mustard —Isa Bistro, Portland, Maine

9. Fried-Chicken Fun

Here’s what happens when the fried chicken trend and the standard chicken sandwich get married and have beautiful babies.

Try this:

  • Go Southern-style slider with chicken-fried chicken and gravy on a biscuit or waffle.
  • Do a katsu treatment, housing a crispy fried chicken thigh and crunchy slaw between two soft pieces of white bread.

Menu Examples:

  • Sweet Onion: Chicken schnitzel topped with pickled cabbage, jicama, radish and cilantro with a roasted beet tzatziki —Schnitz, New York
  • The Wally: Duck fat-fried chicken fingers, pickles, red cabbage slaw, buttermilk ranch —Sandfly Bar-B-Q, Savannah, Ga.

10. All-Day Egg Sandwiches

The fancy-pants egg sandwich has invaded not only breakfast, but now lunch menus as well.

Try this:

  • Combine egg salad with crisp sliced or chopped bacon on a hot griddled roll.
  • Play off the neutral flavor of a fried egg with blue cheese, garlic mayo and smoky ham.

Menu Examples:

  • Brooklyn Egghead: Two fried eggs topped with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and sweet red onion, served on grilled Texas toast —The Vortex, Atlanta
  • Potato Tortilla: Potatoes, onions, egg tortilla, amarillo pepper aïoli —Café Bamba, New York

About The Author

Joan Lang

A freelance writer and editor living in the Portland, Maine, area, Joan Lang has been writing about food for more than 30 years, beginning her career in the financial and B2B press. She formed her own food and editorial consulting firm, Full Plate Communications, in 1989. She is a graduate of the New York Restaurant School and holds degrees in architecture and journalism.