Four indie food trends stolen by chain restaurants

Categories: Foodie News
Applebee's: Corporate posers
The Simpsons famously asked, "If you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from?"

Entertainment is built on stolen ideas, of course. But so, it seems, is the food industry, especially in recent years. Indie food trends--from food trucks to lobster rolls--aren't immune to being co-opted by big businesses. So we present four indie food trends stolen by chain restaurants and invite you to share others that come to mind.

Food Trucks

Applebee's has rolled out a food truck, according to our sister-paper Westword. A bunch of other big business chains are jumping in on the action, too: Cousins Submarines, Tasti D-Lite, and Toppers Pizza have rolled out food trucks across the country, as have big Twin Cities companies like Barrio.


Ruby Tuesday cocktails
Ruby Tuesday serves craft beer and recently won an award for its bar. If you look at its menu, it actually has a good selection of craft brews, topped by Dogfish Head 60 Minute India Pale Ale and Flying Dog Old Scratch. They're not the only ones: The Atlantic recently pointed out that restaurants from Chili's to Outback Steakhouse are embracing high-end cocktails.

Lobster Rolls

McDonald's Lobster Roll: Kind of gross.
McDonald's, Au Bon Pain, and Quiznos serve lobster rolls. Subway used to but gave it up once it realized its lobster kind of sucked.

Mini-blizzards at DQ

Here's one we can get behind: Dairy Queen recently unveiled its "mini-blizzard," a "small" version of its infamous Blizzard shake. The large Blizzard large is 1,360 calories of awesome. The mini is "only" 390.

It's hard to complain about this one--though no one who's worried about their health would get a mini-Blizzard, anyway.

City Pages food truck map
Food truck owners to restaurateurs: Blame yourself, not our trucks, for business problems

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Big Herb Dickerson
Big Herb Dickerson

for some reason, i've never enjoyed flies, sidewalk garbage and diesel fumes while eating.  Oh, and i like to sit down when i eat too.  so WTF is the deal with food trucks?


A) I will take Tasti D-Lite in any form or place I can get it.  B) McDonald's in Maine has had lobster rolls forever - not that they taste anywhere near decent, but they're not copying.  C) Anything Applebee's does makes me sick.  D) Barrio is not a chain and having a food truck is no worse than Cafe 128 or Cupcake.

Patent Attorney
Patent Attorney

Street food hits Montreal; Masterchef losing its flavour; roof-raising bar

Tacos on the trot in a city of long lunchesFor half a century Montreal has embraced fine dining and rejected street food. But a humble taco truck might just be the first shot fired in a foodie revolution. Montreal's lack of street vendors can be traced back to Jean Drapeau, the bombastic mayor who ruled the city for almost 30 years until 1986. He took to eradicating street food as if it were a cockroach in a kitchen. "Street food was outlawed for bureaucratic reasons," explains Hugue Dufour, a Montreal chef who recently relocated to New York to open M. Wells, a hip diner with a menu that includes tamales stuffed with foie gras, hot dogs and rabbit, and fried frog's legs. "In Montreal the health department wanted to be able to visit a physical building and stick a sanitation rating to the window. They didn't want to have to run after food trucks," Dufour says. Hilary McGown teamed up with Marc-Andre Leclerc last year to create Grumman 78. The pair bought a boxy old German truck from the fire department, gave it a $24,600 makeover and repainted it in the original shade of chartreuse green. The big green truck has been a smash hit all summer, serving innovative twists on the Mexican staple snack, including banh mi-style braised pork tacos and a vegie version featuring black beans spiced up with cumin, wrapped in a soft corn tortilla and topped with pickled onions, fetta, radishes and coriander. The Grumman venture mirrors the taco truck trend that has been sweeping the US for several years, particularly in Los Angeles, Portland and New York. Unlike those cities, where food trucks are a long-established tradition, Montreal's is the first of its kind.


I saw the McLobster Roll in Maine in 2001. it's not new for them, at least regionally.

Mac Wilson
Mac Wilson

Dairy Queen is selling a smaller version of their own, signature food - how is this, in any way, stealing from an "indie food trend"? Also, no one else has ever sold lobster rolls? Cheeseburgers and hot dogs were once "indie food trends".


I saw one in Boston in 1999, so yeah mclobster roll = old.

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