urban lunch. It’s fast, and it’s a good deal,” says
Salvatore Gisellu, executive chef/partner.
Caesar salad is a popular choice with the
pizza. In fact, all salads sell well, especially
those with some protein added, according to
Gisellu. Guests who come in just for pizza
often choose the signature black and blue
12-inch pizza with basil pesto, wood-fired
sirloin, baby portobellos, caramelized onions
and blue cheese, for $12.90.
At Asador, a Dean James Max restaurant
in the Renaissance Dallas Hotel, chef David
Trubenbach offers a varied all-day menu
based in large part on what’s available from
his local farmers and other suppliers. The
achiote grilled chicken breast sandwich for
$12 is popular, especially with women. It begins
with chicken marinated in achiote, jalapeño
and onion. Then it’s grilled over an open fire,
and served on a grilled baguette with avocado,
cucumber, tomato, smoked bacon and lemon aioli.
The restaurant’s granja chopped salad is
a menu staple and a bestseller. The base is “a
local lettuce mix, determined by what our
farmer has to offer,” Trubenbach explains.
PHOTO CREDIT: Top left, Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group
When planning his menu, Spike
Mendelsohn, chef at Good Stuff
Eatery, Washington, D.C., tries to
include a selection of burgers that
appeal to everyone’s palate. Each
burger has a different flavor profile,
from the Blazin’ Barn, which
embodies some Vietnamese flavors,
to the Colletti’s Smokehouse, which
has chipotle barbecue sauce and
fried Vidalia onions.
When selecting such a variety of
dishes, balance also comes into
play. Azmin Ghahreman, chef/owner
of Sapphire Laguna, Laguna Beach,
Calif., says a lunch menu should
include dishes that “are hot and
cold and appeal to gentlemen and
ladies. Also, we serve global cuisine,
so we would only have one Italian
dish on the lunch menu.” And, he
adds, “Never serve anything you
wouldn’t want to eat yourself.”
Variety and balance are two elements
of planning a successful lunch menu.
Knowing what your customers are
eating is another. That’s a principle
Lisa Hemenway, owner of Fresh by
Lisa Hemenway, Santa Rosa, Calif.,
lives by. “Our menu is based on our
most popular items,” she says.
John Piccolino, top toque for the
Smith & Wollensky Las Vegas unit
and corporate executive chef for
the Boston-based restaurant group,
agrees. “Our chefs keep track of
what’s selling and not selling,” he
says. Piccolino then adjusts the
John Piccolino is both top toque for the Smith
& Wollensky Las Vegas unit and corporate
executive chef for the Boston-based restaurant group. The core menus are the same at all
nine units. Individual chefs create their own
specials, and customer favorites may vary
from location to location.
In Las Vegas, Smith and Wollensky’s
signature split pea soup is a perennial favorite.
On the menu for $6, it starts with chicken
stock and split peas, and includes applewood-smoked bacon, onions, pepper, celery and
roasted garlic oil.
The restaurant’s flatbreads, at $12 each, also
sell well. Varieties include chili, shrimp and
avocado; spicy beef, pepper and onion; buffalo
chicken and Gorgonzola; and the bestselling
vine-ripened tomato and mozzarella. Heartier
lunch eaters have made the restaurant’s truffled
macaroni and cheese ($11, serves two) the most
Finally, when it comes to lunch-menu
planning, Salvatore Gisellu, executive
chef/partner at Urban Crust Wood
Fired Pizza, Plano, Texas, advises
that items should always be high-quality and competitively priced.
Lunch combos are always popular, and the
urban lunch at Urban Crust Wood Fired Pizza
in Plano is no exception. Offered for $8.90,
Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the
special includes a 6-inch pizza with one topping or the daily panini, with soup or a Caesar
salad and the restaurant’s signature iced tea or
a soft drink. Most guests opt for the pizza, and
Italian sausage is the most popular topping.
“We do 120 to 150 covers a day for lunch.
From 35 to 80 of those customers choose the
LEFT: At the Smith & Wollensky Las Vegas location, vine-
ripened tomato/mozzarella flatbread is a winner among the
restaurant’s flatbread choices.
RIGHT: Asador’s achiote grilled chicken sandwich wows the