Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
July 17, 2022

Restaurants can extend the fried chicken sandwich craze with continued attention to what is resonating with patrons and what answers their heat cravings in exciting, unexpected ways.

Key learnings on what may drive future spicy iterations of the beloved fried chicken sandwich has led to the following four areas of focus where menu developers can keep patrons yearning for more. Each is paired with menu sightings, serving up inspiration for modern applications.

The new trend in combining flavorful heat with either double-fried chicken or other methods of crispy textured coatings/batters/breadings dials up the crave factor in fried chicken sandwiches. It’s also giving operators ample room for signature moves, delivering both heat and texture in creative combinations.

ON THE MENU

Fried Chicken Sandwich: Rice flour-battered, twice-fried, on a potato roll with root vegetable and green apple slaw, harissa, pickles
The Long Island Bar, New York

Nashville Screamin’ Chicken Sandwich: Buttermilk fried chicken breast doused in Nashville sauce and loaded with jalapeño slaw, ranch dressing and pickled red onions on a brioche bun, finished with a fried whole jalapeño
Slater’s 50/50, based in Southern California

“Hot” sauce-coated fried chicken lusciously soaks into every textured crevice of chicken, injecting deeper flavor that grabs diners’ undivided attention.

ON THE MENU

Chicken & Waffle Sandwich: Brown butter waffle, crispy chicken breast topped with powdered sugar, smoky chipotle maple syrup and honey mustard
The Village DC, Washington D.C.

Spicy Chikin Sandwich: Crispy fried boneless thigh dipped in “Sichuan nom nom” (housemade Sichuan chile oil), topped with spicy mayo and pickle on a brioche bun
Meshikou, Columbus, Ohio

Iterations on Nashville hot will resonate with heat-seeking patrons. An even bigger flavored heat opportunity could be combining the heritage of Nashville hot with the global appeal of Korean (gochujang), Eastern Med (s’chug), North African (harissa) or Caribbean (jerk).

ON THE MENU

The Cry Bird: Ghost pepper-dipped, angry-dusted fried chicken, shredded lettuce, red pepper jelly
Flip The Bird, based in Beverly, Mass.

Hot Moroccan: Fried chicken, fiery harissa sauce, red cabbage slaw, Alabama white sauce
Twist Hot Chicken, Peoria, Ariz.

Instead of doubling down, triple down on the heat, but deliver it with complexity of experience. Amplify the fried chicken with a heat-spiked crunchy slaw or pickled vegetable, plus introduce a spicy aïoli. It’s a simple, effective way to deliver a trifecta of sandwich comfort and craveability. Take it one step further and smoke the fried chicken for a deeper layer of flavor building.

ON THE MENU

Buttermilk-Fried Chicken Sandwich: Serrano-dill slaw, spicy aïoli, brioche bun
The Corner Office, Denver

Sichuan Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich: Chile aïoli, pickled daikon
CHIKO, Washington, D.C.

About The Author

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ROB CORLISS is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu. [email protected]