This year restaurant chains took the concept of extreme food to a new level, from donuts-as-bread to crazy cheesy crusts.
Extreme foods are nothing new. Remember KFC’s Double Down of 2010? But this year restaurant chains took the concept to a new level. “We’ve seen operators from different segments roll out buzzworthy food mash-ups that shock and delight curious customers,” says Laura McGuire of food research firm Technomic. Case in point: the cronut (see above)—a doughnut/croissant hybrid. Whether these items left you drooling or repulsed, extreme food items keep restaurant concepts top of mind by generating news. We took a look at seven of them from the past year.
Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich
Can’t decide between an egg sandwich or a glazed doughnut in the morning? Dunkin’ Donuts DNKN solved this eternal struggle for breakfast lovers in 2013 with the creation of its Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, comprised of bacon and a pepper-fried egg nestled between two sides of a glazed doughnut. Dunkin’ started testing the doughnut-sandwich combo in the Boston area before rolling it out nationally. It became a permanent menu item in June on–of course–National Donut Day.
Notable Review: “This thing comes in at a scant 360 calories. A bacon egg ‘n cheese croissant packs a whopping 480. It is borderline nutritionally irresponsible NOT to eat this thing.” – Thrillist
Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger
Like the Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, this gem is a lifesaver for the indecisive. Jack In The Box JACK launched the burger/grilled cheese hybrid on its new late-night menu (9pm-5am) in September. The Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger can be ordered a la carte, or if that’s not enough for you, as a “Munchie Meal” that includes two tacos and “Halfsies”–half curly fries, half regular fries. At 1,679 calories and 97 grams of fat, that should tide you over until morning.
Notable Review: “The burger portion was pretty good, but when combined with the grilled cheese crown, it really exploded with satisfactory goodness.” – Man Reviews Food
The Mexican fast food joint proved it could make anything into a taco this year with the Waffle Taco–a waffle encompassing scrambled eggs and sausage (syrup available on the side). Don’t be surprised if you haven’t come across this creation. It’s part of Taco Bell’s larger efforts to break into the breakfast market — about 800 restaurants currently serve breakfast, with a goal of launching the meal nationally in 2014.
Notable Review: “Once I got far enough in to have a composed bite, the party was over. If they could, my taste buds would have called the cops.” – Serious Eats
While Jack in the Box decided on grilled cheese as the platform for its meat patty, Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar opted for pizza. Offered for a limited time, it was a half-pound Angus burger wrapped in either a pepperoni pizza or a five-cheese pizza. The brand’s Canadian sister chain Boston Pizza introduced the creation in March, and then Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar launched its version of the Pizzaburger in its 40 U.S. locations in August. It ended the offer in October.
Notable Review: “The first few bites were exquisite in their alienness — here was the familiar sensation of beefy burger, but also wait… what’s that? Pizza too? What the hell? It’s like my taste buds were telling my brain, “How can this be? This isn’t supposed to happen!” – WordsByNowak
The Lake Forest, California-based chain launched these monsters at its 550 restaurants in November. These are serious burritos, weighing in at between 14 and 18.5 ounces each–in some cases double the size of some of the other burritos on Del Taco’s menu. One variety, the Epic Steak and Potato Burrito, is stuffed with carne asada steak, fries, cheese, sour cream, and bacon, clocking in at 1020 calories.
Notable Review: “[L]et’s consider this important question: is it at all possible for a fast food burrito to be called truly, truly epic? Damn straight.” – Food Beast
Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza
Pizza Hut ran a limited time offer from April through May that was a cheese lover’s heaven and a lactose intolerant person’s nightmare. In the Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza, the regular pie was surrounded by 16 “dough pockets,” which were basically pizza dough filled with a combination of five cheeses, that could be removed and eaten on their own or attached to the slice. Pizza Hut told Fortune it took the company a year to develop and that it tested more than 50 cheese combos.
Notable Review: “The future of American pop food seems to be products based on the fever dreams of a madman, if stuff like the new Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza by Pizza Hut is anything to judge by.” – Chow.com
Hand-Scooped Strawberry Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich
You can’t forget dessert. After a four-week market test, this mega-sweet treat launched in July as a limited time offer. The move inspired late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel to quip that the restaurant company was reading his dream journal. Even though it had a limited run, don’t despair. Carl’s Jr. says there’s a chance it could eventually return to the menu. The idea evolved from the chain’s first hand-scooped ice cream sandwich made with over-sized Oreos. Carl’s Jr. employees then started walking through supermarket aisles to find the next “carrier” for its ice cream.
Notable Review: “With the demise of the cupcake, are Americans looking at an era of dessert innovation as restaurants jockey for supreme pastry domination? Or perhaps Carl’s Jr. is merely looking to capitalize on the fact that Americans love anything (anything) that comes in sandwich form?” – Eater