ENTRÉES AND EXITS
There's a problem all restaurants eventually face: How to create new, delicious dishes without damaging the brand and alienating existing customers? Sometimes the answer is a thoughtful tweak to a longtime favorite. Other times it's inventing something completely new. From Unicorn Frappuccinos to Citrus Harissa Salmon Burgers, we compiled some of the best and worst new menu items of 2017.
BEST: JACK IN THE BOX'S ALL-AMERICAN RIBEYE BURGER
In October, Jack in the Box became one of several fast food restaurants offering premium burgers. The All-American Ribeye Burger consists of grilled ground ribeye beef patty, Havarti cheese, grilled onions, tomato, mayo, and a red wine glaze sauce on a toasted potato bun. At about $6, this fancy burger is worth a try.
WORST: STARBUCK'S UNICORN FRAPPUCCINO
It's hard to know what Starbucks was thinking when it developed the Unicorn Frappuccino, a sugar-packed, color-changing coffee drink with more calories than a McDouble. The drink changed flavors as you stirred it, turning sweet to sour. If that sounds awful, don't worry: Like unicorns, you won't be seeing this drink around anytime soon.
BEST: MCDONALD'S SIGNATURE SRIRACHA
Topped with baby greens, white cheddar cheese, tomato, and a signature sriracha sauce, McDonald's sriracha burger brought a genuinely new flavor to wide release this year. At $5, it's more expensive than other sandwiches on the menu, but this tangy quarter-pound burger might just become a favorite. Plus, the sriracha sauce makes a great alternative to ketchup for your fries.
WORST: BURGER KING'S FROOT LOOPS SHAKE
Just because two things are great doesn't mean they should be combined. Case in point: Burger King's Froot Loops milkshake, which is supposed to give customers the essence of one of their favorite childhood cereals, but misses the mark with a bland dessert with soggy cereal chunks.
BEST: ARBY'S SMOKED ITALIAN PORCHETTA SANDWICH
Arby's expanded the range of flavors on its menu this year with its smoked Italian porchetta sandwich, featuring sliced smoked pork loin porchetta, banana peppers, Italian seasoning, red onion, tomato, lettuce, smoked provolone, a red wine vinaigrette, and garlic aioli on a toasted Italian roll. One YouTuber summed up the new item well: It's like an Italian sandwich and a Cuban sandwich "got it on."
WORST: CHIPOTLE'S NEW QUESO
When Chipotle introduced its queso in September, people were decidedly unimpressed -- a review in USA Today called it "pungent, veggie-speckled cheese soup." Many criticized it for lacking the gooey consistency of traditional queso. The problem, it seems, was that Chipotle was trying to be health-conscious and opted not to use processed cheese, the main ingredient in true Tex-Mex queso.
BEST: RED ROBIN'S CITRUS HARISSA SALMON BURGER
It's difficult for a burger restaurant to expand its menu in a way that's tasty and not wildly unhealthy. But Red Robin introduced a good option for people trying to cut down on red meat without sacrificing flavor: the Citrus Harissa Salmon Burger, a lightly blackened 6-ounce salmon fillet with roasted red pepper harissa aioli, lemon wheels, citrus-marinated tomatoes and onion, and fresh arugula, all on a toasted telera bun.
WORST: WHITE CASTLE'S CRAB CAKE SLIDER
White Castle should stick to what it does best -- onion-and-pickle burger sliders -- and avoid incorporating seafood into its menu. Does anyone think eating a Crave Case of seafood sliders is a good idea? One YouTube reviewer suggested when to eat the new item: "If you're really desperate, and White Castle's the only option you have on Friday during Lent."
WORST: BURGER KING'S RODEO KING
Burger King's Rodeo King burger has several things working against it: It costs almost $7. It packs in 2,270 milligrams of sodium. Worst of all, it fails to bring anything new to the restaurant's menu. Still, the sandwich's tangy Rodeo BBQ sauce is pretty tasty, so consider ordering the cheaper Rodeo products on the menu.
BEST: CHICK-FIL-A'S SPICY CHICKEN TENDERS
The success of Chick-fil-A can be attributed in part to its willingness to keep it simple. Still, every menu needs updating from time to time, and these spicy chicken tenders are a perfect addition. They feature "a spicy blend of peppers," but otherwise follow the recipe of the regular tenders.
WORST: ARBY'S DEEP-FRIED TURKEY CLUB
Arby's claims its limited-edition turkey club was "deep fried to perfection," but not enough to justify a steep $8. This hearty sandwich is topped with "pepper bacon, cheddar, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and other stuff that makes it a club," but ends up just being too much food and not enough flavor. That's a problem because, as one reviewer put it: "There isn't much room for error if you're charging this much for a sandwich."