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Latin Breakfasts

Latin Breakfasts

¿Qué Es Para El Desayuno? (What’s for Breakfast?)

The United States is a Latin-food loving country. We snack on Doritos and quaff Coronas while watching any of dozens of Hispanic baseball players on TV, get a dulce de leche coffee to sip while doing errands, listen to Shakira on Spotify, grab a burrito at Chipotle, go to Javier Bardem movies and then return home to watch Sofía Vergara on Modern Family.

This year’s National Restaurant Association survey of American Culinary Federation chefs showed ethnic-inspired breakfast items were still among the top “hot” U.S. food trends. And Latin foods are unquestionably the No. 1 type of ethnic food Americans eat. A few supporting facts:

  • Salsa became the top selling condiment in 1992, outselling ketchup by $40 million
  • According to 2013 research done for the Tortilla Industry Association, tortillas now outsell hamburger and hot dog buns in the U.S.
  • The Hispanic population of the U.S. currently stands at 17 percent of the total, with the U.S. Census Bureau predicting that number to reach 30 percent by 2050.

According to consumer research firm Packaged Facts, U.S. sales of Hispanic foods and beverages totaled $8 billion in 2012 and are expected to reach $11 billion by 2017. Food manufacturers are vying to get their share of those figures with items like the extensive line of El Monterey Breakfast Supreme Burritos using sausage, bacon, cheese, potatoes, tomatoes and/or chilies with the scrambled egg fillings. Jimmy Dean Delights Southwest Style Breakfast Bowl features chicken chorizo, chilies and onions, and Chi-Chi’s Breakfast Burritos are filled with eggs, bacon, hash browns and cheeses.

Restaurants have certainly played their part in the American love affair with Latin breakfast foods, as even the most “American” chains include zesty examples:

  • Sausage Burrito ‒ McDonald’s
  • Southwestern Breakfast Burrito ‒ Burger King
  • Steak and Egg Burrito ‒ Jack in the Box

Some chains get more authentic:

  • Chorizo Tortilla Omelet with three-eggs, American cheese, chorizo, fire-roasted peppers & onions, tortilla chips, pepper jack queso and pico de gallo ‒ Denny’s
  • Salsa Verde Burrito of scrambled eggs, bacon, onions, American cheese, melted Cheddar cheese, tots and Salsa Verde (roasted tomatillos, onions, jalapeños and roasted garlic) ‒ Sonic
  • Western Egg Sandwich made of egg, bacon, Cheddar cheese, chipotle sauce and a mix of green peppers, red peppers, tomatoes & red onions on a bagel ‒ Bruegger’s Bagels

And some restaurants get very creative:

  • Baked Poblano Pepper and Egg with Pumpkin, Quinoa & Salsa Rosa ‒ The Breslin, NYC
  • Cuban Eggs made of hardboiled egg whites stuffed with peppers, onions and egg yolk covered with tomato sauce and cheese, baked and served over rice ‒ Thornton’s, Boston
  • Pork Belly Chilaquiles, crunchy tortillas, scrambled eggs, tomatillo-serrano sauce, Samuel’s cheese and tatume squash ‒ Xoco, Chicago
  • Border Benedict of green chili Cheddar corn cakes, topped with chorizo, two poached eggs, queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado ‒ Wild Eggs, Louisville

The wonderful thing about Latin flavors is that they make favorite comfort foods ‒ like traditional breakfast dishes ‒ adventurous without losing their comfort. Latin spices awaken the taste buds and easily create new experiences out of familiar foods.

Yet tortillas, tacos and burritos have become so mainstream most Americans no longer think of them as “ethnic.” The same thing happened with pizza and pasta: at one point they seemed exotic but now they are simply the answer to, “What’s for dinner?”

When Latin first started to make inroads onto menus, operator interest in changing the breakfast menu was tepid ‒ it was felt the morning daypart was too habitual for tinkering. But things have changed. According to Datassential, breakfast burritos are menued by 12.8 percent more operators than four years ago, and chorizo penetration has risen by 18.2 percent in the same time period. Operator opinion has reversed and Latin influences are being mined for their continued appeal to the adventurous American palate. Some day the answer to, “What’s for breakfast?” will be an offhand, “Chilaquiles.”

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