Welcome to Best of Flavor 2016

Welcome to our first-annual “Best of Flavor” edition. The pages of this special issue come together as an inspiring collection of 125 stand-out flavor builds supplied by our readers.

Go to Best of Flavor 2017


Listed in order

1Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf

Haywire offers a Grilled Bacon-Laced Meatloaf with a smoked tomato and poblano salsa, served with mashed potatoes and green beans

2The Right Stuff

The trend in updating deli favorites has pastrami and Reubens leading the pack, and with global mash-ups moving into eclectic ones, the Pastrami Dumpling at Packed is right on the money: spiced and cured brisket, violet mustard and pickled green tomatoes stuffed into a delicate dumpling.

3Deli Delight

Pastrami Dumpling with violet mustard and pickled green tomatoes.

4A Taste of Barcelona

Ataula’s Pepito sandwich is built of luxurious layers of braised veal breast, roasted red pepper confit, veal jus, horseradish cream and Havarti cheese on brioche.

5Burger Trial Balloon

The Bison Burger was only going to run as a weekly special at Brick House Tavern + Tap, reports Tim Griffin, Director of Culinary Innovation.

6Cubano Craving

At Honey Butter, Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp, co-executive chefs and managing partners, are famous for their fried chicken, made extra craveable with a signature side of honey butter.

7Serendipitous Success

Just a few months after opening one of the four SuViche locations in Florida, the pressure was on.

8Skillet Switch-Up

Breakfast skillets are the original bowl builds, really, using potatoes as a base and often crowning the dish with decadent, melty cheese.

9Breakfast, Italian-Style

Breakfast is booming as a daypart, with clever tweaks appealing to today’s diners.

10Crazy for Katsu

Sometimes the Next Big Thing is right under your nose.

11Crisp as a Cucumber

Catelli Duo’s clientele skews female—about 60 percent are women.

12Small but Mighty

Mini is big right now, and the bite-sized Mini Wagyu Burgers at upscale Joseph Decuis satisfy the demand for smaller portions with huge flavor.

13Hometown Beverage

Firehouse Subs Cherry Lime-Aid is sold internationally, but its roots date back to Jacksonville, Fla.

14Alfredo Innovation

Utilizing Alfredo sauce’s longevity as a beloved profile, Fazoli’s put it to work as a flavor bridge in a bolder menu build.

15Toston of the Town

Pincho Factory, a new Latin-inspired fast-casual, is known for a number of things, including its namesake pinchos (skewers of grilled meat), burgers and fries.

16Iconic Original

As Florida’s oldest restaurant, Columbia takes pride in its history as a family-run establishment—and in its longtime favorite dishes.

17Tomatoes & Bacon with a Twist

With the Ghost of Bloody Mary, Kent Beardens, Saint Marc’s Senior Director of Operations, and team have “delivered a radically different presentation.

18Infused with a Kick

At his new L’Amico, house-infused chile oil is a pantry staple for Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel.

19Silky Smooth

Fig & Olive is known for its use of olive oils, sourcing different varietals ranging from the French Riviera and Spain’s Catalonia to Tuscany.

20Sweet-Sour Tart

The oh-so-French Choc-O-Pain bakery and café specializes in sourdough breads and flaky pastries, including the Tarte aux Pommes—a traditional apple tart made with Granny Smith apples in a crust, brushed with butter and apricot glaze.

21Three’s Company

Today’s diners want the chance to sample adventurous flavors in manageable portions—that’s why small plates and dessert flights have taken hold.

22Korean Flavors On Top

Korea’s bold flavors are leading the pack of new global cuisines that are finding a place on American menus.

23Calabrian-Style Heat

Chef/Owner Tony Conte turns to Calabrian chile peppers to round out his veg-centric dish of Ember-Roasted Beets with Calabrian chile kefir, pecans and maple vinegar.

24Beyond the Lenten Fish Fry

To mark the Mexican holiday of Carnaval and the Lenten period that follows, Hacienda and La Señorita Mexican Restaurants wanted to introduce a seafood-centric LTO.

25Take the Cake

With the doughnut craze showing no signs of abating, it’s fun to see what’s next.

26Global Dip Pulls a Double

With trending Middle Eastern spices and easy shareability, muhammara is having a moment.

27Pretzel Bread Twist

The flavor trends in the modern American tavern revolve around keeping dishes familiar but adding touches that elevate the flavor experience.

28High Note

Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith, also known as the Hearty Boys, opened a two-year pop-up with Pastry Chef Gale Gand.

29A Blooming Treat

Fried squash blossoms are a special treat in and of themselves, but the version at both Cucina Enoteca and Cucina Urbana (part of the Urban Kitchen Group) takes them to cult-favorite levels.

30Flavor Bomb

There’s a story behind the deliciously unhinged version of poutine that Crop Rocks serves as part of its bar menu.

31All About the Brine

There’s so much innovation happening in the fried chicken space, and today’s diners are eating it up, responding to this trend’s comfort-food appeal and flavor-forward approach.

32Straight to the Top

Diners may be seeking out healthful options on the whole, but put a plateful of sweet-and-savory indulgence in front of them, and they will respond.

33American Pie

Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizzas are all the rage, with diners responding to the signature dough and distinct flavor of fire.

34Umami on Ice

How apt that the Hachi cocktail falls under the “Umami” section of the beverage menu at Kuro, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

35Cocoa Pow

Chocolate can lend a complexity to savory dishes, but for Mad Greens, it became the flavor star in a surprising LTO application.

36Going Bold

No holding back—that’s the philosophy that made the Pub Burger the “best burger in Pennsylvania,” according to Thrillist.

37Better Together

With the goal of showcasing culinary expertise in the burger category and inspiration from its well-known beverage program, Hard Rock Cafe deftly tapped into the better burger and craft beer trend with last year’s launch of four burger and beer pairings.

38Coleslaw 2.0

Busting the myth that coleslaw is boring, Consulting Chef Kim Zupfer developed two different slaws that take familiar ingredients and kick them up a couple notches for Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.

39Beachy Bar Food

A top seller on the bar menu, Tropical Nachos capture the beachside feel of Baleen Restaurant while delivering a globally influenced flavor combination in a shareable format.

40Craft Beer Bar Meets Vietnamese

To tap into Millennials and other target consumers, upscale craft-beer bar The Brass Tap took a gamble on the growing popularity of the banh mi, exploring the bright, bold flavors and contrasting textures of this Vietnamese street food, looking to increase its veg-centric choices and open up its range of menu items.

41Toast, On Point

With the toast trend continuing its roll on menus nationwide, this Moroccan Scrambled Egg Tartine offers a flavor-forward rendition.

42Modern-Day Pub Grub

Durty Nellie’s has been known for its live music and lively pub scene for years.

43Squid Steals the Show

Modern Italian cuisine in the form of street food is a doubly good thing, and Piada puts the focus on authentic ingredients prepared simply.

44The Root of the Cake

The name of this dish—Beet Forest Cake—was born from the R&D behind it, as the final product took on the look of a traditional Black Forest cake.

45Pho Fix

As a menu item, pho has picked up steam, making it ripe for signature tweaks.

46Truffle’s Midas Touch

Showcasing how umami can make a vegetarian dish utterly satisfying, the beloved Pappardelle con Porcini at Casa D’Angelo features pappardelle pasta, porcini mushrooms, fresh tomato, white wine, herbs and shaved Parmesan.

47Customizing Umami

Steaks are the most ordered item at Sizzler, so expanding that lineup makes good business sense.


Tying in to its theme of hearth-based cooking, the S’mores Soufflé is one of the most successful dishes on The Promontory’s menu.

49American-Style Scones

Monica Kate, Corporate Executive Pastry Chef for Kneaders Bakery and Café, discovered scones while traveling through Scotland when she was 19.

50Swapping for Salmon

Adam Hegsted, Chef/Owner of Wandering Table at Kendall Yards in Spokane, Wash.

51Gochujang as a Go-To

With modern innovation around fried chicken pushing craveability and creativity to new heights, the challenge is finding the right balance of adventure and familiarity with your customer base.

52Upping the Avocado Ante

Guacamole is one of those versatile menu items that appeals to a broad base of diners.

53Uptown Funk

Salt & Straw can best be described as an ice-cream think tank, known for its funky-yet-genius flavor combinations.

54Southwest Sizzle

Bold, herb-based sauces and spices take fish to a new level, boosting flavor while keeping the health halo intact.

55Flavorful Storytelling

“The idea is that everything we do can be articulated as an edible story,” says Executive Chef John O’Leary.

56Port to Plate

It’s hard to improve on the classic scallop wrapped in bacon, but Chef Thomas Chapman has done it.

57Wholesome Bowl

At Nectar Restaurant, the Warm Grains Bowl epitomizes comfort that’s both good-for-you and bursting with flavor.

58Raising the Steaks

Upping the flavor ante and marking a clear point of difference are key in foodservice today.

59Deluxe Fish Taco

Upping the flavor ante and marking a clear point of difference are key in foodservice today.

60Octopus Reaches Out

Now that calamari is a menu standard, octopus offers the next flavor frontier in cephalapods.

61A Fresh Perspective

New on the menu, Boudin’s Forbidden Rice & Sesame Chicken Salad offers diners a nutrient-rich dish inflected with global flavors, all on the foundation of an on-trend ancient grain that delivers a compelling narrative.

62Pudding Always Pleases

With the Chocolate Budino, LYFE Kitchen seems to have grasped the brass ring: creating a signature dessert that nails the feel-good, better-for-you vibe.

63High Heat

Bold and spicy seems to be the order of the day.

64Sweet Ambassador

Chef/Owner Thomas Malz hadn’t imagined that the Yeast Donuts he created would serve as Custom Deluxe’s signature.

65A Taste of Summer

Offering a visual “wow” and creative flavor combinations, the Fluke Kumquat Sashimi introduces a touch of unexpected citrus at the newly opened upscale sushi bar and teppan grill, Roku.

66Sushi Burrito

Many of the items on Sharky’s “Get It Naked” menu are riffs on regular menu items, with low-fat, low-calorie tweaks.

67A Casual Pairing

“Charcuterie boards are pretty common, but you don’t see jerky too often in a restaurant setting,” says Pakpao’s Executive Chef Jet Tila, a familiar face on the Food Network and an expert in Asian mash-ups.

68Lettuce Carries the Dish

Datassential’s 2016 MenuTrends puts lettuce wraps in the top-five fastest-growing appetizer category.

69Toast of the Town

Toast by any name continues to invite innovation.

70Going with Guajillo

Eleftherios (Terry) Natas, Regional Chef of Richard Sandoval’s El Centro D.

71Sweet Inspiration

Piatti’s chef Dylan Giordan was inspired while travelling in Spain by a simple dish of chocolate, sea salt, grilled bread and olive oil.

72A Meatless Fiesta

The Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant are a great example of how far vegetarian options have come in the last 10 years.

73Banking on Banh Mi

When McAlister’s planned its 2016 menu, the deli concept wanted to give guests a sandwich that delivered on their promise to provide a variety of American regional flavors to satisfy any exploratory palate.

74Sphere of Surprise

Head-turning desserts are worth their weight in chocolate, and creating one that is a signature is even more valuable.

75Buffalo Takes Flight

Buffalo Mac and Cheese with aged cheddar sauce, breadcrumb crust and Buffalo chicken.

76Hana Hou Burger

The better-burger trend merged with a playful surfer culture results in creations like the Hana Hou Burger, one of the many creative flavor profiles introduced to the burger category at Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks.

77Reeling Them In

Made from scratch since 1956, the craveable tartar sauce at Bob’s Clam Hut combines heritage and nostalgia with a mixture of mayonnaise, relish, finely chopped carrots and onions, it’s served with every order at this iconic Maine seafood shack

78Bowled Over

Looking for a flavor-forward dish that answered the need for a gluten-free, dairy-free, healthy menu option, Executive Chef Melissa Mangold landed on the Belton Asian Rice Bowl.

79A Botanical Experience

The Negroni Bianco has been showing up on forward-thinking cocktail menus, playing up the botanical side of the classic Negroni.

80Crossing Oceans

Snapper & Shrimp Curry: with seasonal vegetables and basmati rice.

81Doughnut Rebellion

When Agustin Mejia, Clyde Frazier’s Pastry Chef, decided to replace the Ricotta Donuts with churros, there was trouble.

82Kebab Burger

America’s collective hankering for burgers isn’t going anywhere, but something new has crept in: a desire for a leaner, feel-good burger experience.

83Sake Freshens Up

Cocktails get an instant update with the addition of fresh produce.

84Pickled Blue

Pickled Blueberry Balls coated in shrimp paste, blueberry paste, ginger purée, freeze-dried blueberries and panko; with pumpkin-sesame seed butter, blue gastrique and blue agar

85Seasonal Skillets

Tomato, Peach and Fontina Skillet Dip with grilled baguette slices.

86Educational Pop-Up

College dining has come a long way in the last decade.

87Savoring Spring

With rave reviews from diners every time it’s on the menu, the local lamb entrée at El Dorado Kitchen is a best-selling special.

88Grape Expectations

Sweet and savory flavor plays find a welcome home on flatbreads, which continue to dominate shareable menus.

89BBQ Chicken Pizza, Reinvented

The sweet-savory barbecue chicken pizza has long been a standard bearer for modern pizza innovation.

90Beyond Carrot Sticks

Burnt Carrots with chimichurri and yogurt sauce.

91Spirited Chicken

Sammy’s is known for its owner and namesake, rocker Sammy Hagar, and for its Beach Bar Rum.

92A Pudding for All Seasons

Combining the juicy freshness of watermelon with a rich, soul-satisfying pudding seems like a study in contrasts, but the flavor and texture combination are in perfect harmony.

93High-Impact Honey

At this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the National Honey Board (NHB) served up a one-bite wonder of Honey-Brushed Pear Crostini, which proved to be a crowd favorite.

94Green with Flavor

Vast variations in clam chowder make it an ideal menu item for signaturization.

95Currying Flavor

At a coastal resort known for its culinary edge, the expectation for quality, flavor-forward seafood offerings is pretty high.

96Custom Cookie

Millennials and Centennials are looking for personalized touches at every turn in foodservice.

97Cross-Cultural Pie

Chef K.

98Bowling for Thai Flavors

Thai Peanut Curry Bowl with yakisoba noodles, chicken, red onions, broccoli, Asian slaw.

99Devil’s in the Details

Arctic Char with Brussels sprout leaves, quinoa, carrot, red pepper, almonds, celery leaves, parsley and sherry-mustard vinaigrette.

100Vegan BLT

It takes culinary gumption to swap out bacon with sweet potato, but that’s what Rafi Taherian, Associate VP of Yale Dining, did when he created the S.

101Caramel Comes Clean

Responding to the shift toward transparency in ingredients, Caribou Coffee is striving to incorporate clean-label items, starting with real vanilla syrup and recently adding real caramel sauce.

102Nuts for Chorizo

Queso Fundido with California Walnut "Chorizo"

103Wood-Fired Up

Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails offers a wood-fired salmon using an almond wood for the oven, making it less smoky, lighter, and allowing the flavor of the dish to really come out.

104Mastering the Marseille Classic

“Throughout my career, I’ve made several versions of bouillabaisse,” says Serge Devesa, Executive Chef of The Willard InterContinental Hotel.

105Clean & Fresh

Corner Café poaches its Alaskan Halibut in olive oil with a small sachet of herbs, and serves over a cauliflower “tabbouleh” with finely chopped parsley and preserved lemon, toasted pine nuts, sultanas and olive oil.

106The New Italian Sandwich

The piadina is the next “it” sandwich, folding all the best of Mediterranean flavors into a toasted flatbread.

107Fishing for Tradition

The Friday fish fry is a tradition for so many Americans.

108Butter Makes it Better

Steakhouse Butters Bistro: Caramelized Shallots & Bleu Cheese; Béarnaise; Sriracha; Roasted Garlic & Fresh Herb; Bacon & Bleu.

109Second to Naan

Masala Fish Sandwich: New England pollock, arugula, cilantro-mint chutney, tamarind-date chutney, coleslaw, naan.

110Coming Up Roses

Pork, Beets, Roses: Beet and rosewater purée, ash-roasted pork belly, edible soot, honey goat cheese.

111Bagel and Lox, Upgraded

Everything Spice-Crusted Salmon with celery root slaw, Creole mustard, tomatoes, capers and lemon.

112A Win with Lobster

Maine Lobster with Turkish pasta and local beans.

113Crunchy and Creamy

“We heard that we owe it to ourselves to try the fried avocado.

114Globally Loaded Fries

The loaded fries/poutine trend keeps gaining momentum, fueled by its insanely craveable combination of french fries, sauce, cheese and toppings.

115Campus Home Run

Watching flavor trends play out on college campuses is a smart way to see what’s coming down the pipeline.

116Floral Counterpoint

Perhaps it’s a surprise that a light, floral cocktail like the Lavender Southside would invite demand in a meat-centric concept like Fogo de Chão.

117Big-Flavor Vegetables

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been developing more and more vegetable-based small plates to meet the increasing demand from our guests,” says Gabriel Caliendo, VP of R&D/Corporate Executive Chef for Lazy Dog restaurants.

118Good Use of Jus

Executive Chef Greg Gettles of farm-to-table Piedmont Restaurant in Durham, N.

119Lining Up for Pho

Responding to the modern demands of college dining, where enlightened students seek out global flavors and healthful cuisine, the University of Colorado Boulder has built a reputation for flavorful, globally diverse, from-scratch, campus dining offerings.

120Pickles at Play

As one would expect from a Disney property, meals at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort (Boatwright’s Dining Hall & River Roost Lounge) often come with entertainment.

121Digg In

Dugg Dozen: Burger toppings include hickory-smoked bacon and crispy onion straws.

122Farm to Sea

Grilled Ribeye with pickled Romanesco, black truffle and pea tendrils.

123Raiding the Pantry

Necessity is the mother of invention, and for Nick Tall, The Purple Palm’s Executive Chef, it helped guide him to one of the restaurant’s most successful and popular dishes.

124Raising the Potato Bar

In honor of the store’s 125th anniversary last year, Macy’s brought back its heralded Stuffed Baked Potato Bar to its restaurants, a concept born at the store in 1926.

125Next-Generation Curry

U Food Grill's salad combines grilled chicken breast, red seedless grapes and a tikka masala sauce.

Listed by contributor

Agua Caliente | Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute & Wandering Table | Spokane, Wash.

American Egg Board

Ataula | Portland, Ore.

Avocados from Mexico

Babbalucci | New York

Baleen Restaurant | Naples, Fla.

Baskin-Robbins | based in Canton, Mass.

BD’s Mongolian Grill | Based in Burnsville, Minn.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse | based in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Black Angus | Based in Los Altos, Calif.

Bob’s Clam Hut | Kittery, Maine

Bonefish Grill | based in Tampa, Fla.

Boudin SF | based in San Francisco

Brick House Tavern + Tap | based in Houston

Buffalo Wild Wings | based in Minneapolis

California Table Grape Commission

California Walnut Board

Cantine | Austin, Texas

Caribou Coffee | based in Minneapolis

Casa D’Angelo | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Catelli Duo Osteria & Wine Bar | Voorhees, N.J.

Choc-O-Pain | Hoboken & Jersey City N.J.

Clyde Frazier’s | New York

Cold Stone Creamery | based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Columbia Restaurant | based in Tampa, Fla.

Cooper’s Hawk | based in Orland Park, Ill.

Coquette Patisserie | Cleveland

Corner Cafe | Atlanta

Crop Rocks | Cleveland

Custom Deluxe | Biddeford, Maine

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort | Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Draft Republic | La Jolla, Calif.

Dugg Burger | Based in Dallas

Durty Nellie’s | Palatine, Ill.

El Centro D.F. | Washington, D.C.

El Dorado Kitchen | Sonoma, Calif.

Farm Bar | Chicago

Fazoli’s | Based in Lexington, Ky.

Fig & Olive | Based in New York

Fire, Food & Drink | Cleveland

Firebirds | based in Charlotte, N.C.

Firehouse Subs | Based in Jacksonville, Fla.

First Watch Restaurants | Based in University Park, Fla.

Fogo de Chão | based in Addison, Texas

Freebirds World Burrito | based in Austin, Texas

Garden Restaurant Corp. | based in San Diego

Gloria’s | based in Dallas

Hacienda & La Señorita | Based in South Bend, Ind.

Hacienda Colorado | Based in Denver

Hard Rock Cafe | based in Orlando, Fla.

Harraseeket Inn | Freeport, Maine

Hawkshead | South Haven, Mich.

Holland America | MS Konigsdam

Honey Butter Fried Chicken | Chicago

Houlihan’s | Based in Leawood, Kan.

Idaho Potato Commission & Macy’s Restaurants | based in Cincinnati

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana | Darnestown, Md.

Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks | based in Carlsbad, Calif.

Joseph Decuis | Roanoke, Ind.

Kabuki | Based in Los Angeles

Kennebec Tavern | Bath, Maine

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants | Based in San Francisco

Kneaders Bakery & Café | Based in Orem, Utah

Kuro | Hollywood, Fla.

Kyma | Atlanta

L’Amico | New York

La Madeleine | Based in Dallas

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar | based in Huntington Beach, Calif.

LYFE Kitchen | based in Memphis, Tenn.

Mad Greens | based in Golden, Colo.

Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative & Evo Kitchen + Bar | Portland, Maine

McAlister’s Deli | based in Ridgeland, Mo.

Meat & Livestock Australia

Meat & Potatoes | Pittsburgh, Pa.

Naples Yacht Club | Naples, Fla.

National Honey Board

National Pork Board

National Watermelon Promotion Board

Nectar | Cincinnati

NKD Pizza | Based in New Orleans

Ocean Prime | based in Columbus, Ohio

Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa | Austin, Texas

Packed | Chicago

Pakpao Thai | Dallas

Pearl’s Oyster Bar | based in Oklahoma City

Piada Italian Street Food | based in Columbus, Ohio

Piatti Italian Restaurant & Bar | based in San Rafael, Calif.

Pincho Factory | based in Miami

Roku | West Hollywood, Calif.

Rubio's | based in San Diego

Saint Marc USA | Huntington Beach, Calif.

Salt & Straw | based in Portland, Ore.

Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill | based in Mill Valley, Calif.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill Based in Westlake Village, Calif.

Sizzler | based in Mission Viejo, Calif.

SpritzBurger | Chicago

Stanford University | Palo Alto, Calif.

SuViche | based in Miami, Fla.

The Belton Chalet | Glacier National Park, Montana

The Bonney Read | Asbury Park, N.J.

The Brass Tap Craft Beer bar | based in Tampa, Fla.

The Cheesecake Factory | based in Calabasas Hills, Calif.

The Federal Bar | Long Beach, Calif.

The Mushroom Council & Graffiti | New York

The Overlook at Crow’s Nest | Denali National Park, Alaska

The Promontory | Chicago

The Purple Palm Restaurant & Bar | Palm Springs, Calif.

The Willard Intercontinental Hotel | Washington, D.C.

Trabocco | Alameda, Calif.

Tupelo Honey | based in Asheville, N.C.

U Food Grill | based in Burlington, Mass.

U.S. Apple Association & Piedmont Restaurant | Durham, N.C.

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

Union League Club | Chicago

University of Colorado | Boulder, Colo.

University of Massachusetts | Amherst, Mass.

Urban Kitchen Group | based in San Diego, Calif.

Weights + Measures | Houston

Wild Sea | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Yale University | New Haven, Conn.

Yalla Mediterranean | based in Pleasant Hill, Calif.

Zoë's Kitchen | based in Plano, Texas