Remember when a garnish only served as a pop of color? Now, it’s yet another way to deepen a flavor story, signaturizing a menu item with a memorable finishing touch. We’ve seen lots of innovation with high-impact finishes in bowls and salads, as well as burgers.
The sandwich, that all-American hero with a superpower of morphing into any flavor profile under the sun, is the perfect format for unexpected finishes—ones that add a bit of savory crunch, acidic bite or lingering heat.
At the fast-casual chain Curry Up Now, the Tikka Masala Burrito is the top seller, and most diners’ entry point to Curry Up Now’s innovative approach to Indian cuisine. Creamy chicken (or paneer) tikka masala fills about a third of the 1.5-lb. burrito, along with fenugreek- and turmeric-scented rice and chana garbanzo masala. The finish? Craveable crunchy yellow onions. Modern grilled cheeses stand out with strategic textural contrasts, too.
The Grilled Cheeserie in Nashville menus the Buffalo South, starring pepper Jack, pulled organic chicken, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese aïoli, and pickled celery on country white sourdough. Straws and strings are an on-trend textural go-to, adding surprising crispiness to sandwiches.
Crispy onion strings bring pleasing crunch to Arby’s New Texas Brisket Sandwich, piled atop smoked brisket and Texas-style barbecue sauce, while potato sticks add crunchy interest to the “Pan con Italian Beef” sandwich, filled with short rib, charred onions, provolone, Giardiniera and cumin-garlic aioli, at Halves & Wholes in Miami.
Battered jalapenos and onion rings are other trend-forward add-ins for sandwich texture. The Hot Mess fried chicken sandwich at Fowl Play in Palo Alto, Calif., is layered with Roquefort cheese, dressing, lettuce and tomato and topped with beer-battered onion rings.
At casual dining spot Cotton Blues in Hattiesburg, Miss., fried jalapenos offset the cool-fiery jalapeno coleslaw in both the BBQ Chicken Sandwich and Slow-Roasted BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.