Stuff it with a hot dog, layer it with pulled pork, plop a grilled burger on top or just grab it out of the bread basket.
We are speaking of pretzel rolls, the crusty new darlings of the restaurant world. You'll find them on menus all over Long Island, from Blimpie to the trendiest new restaurant, Jewel.
To Tom Vaccaro, dean of baking and pastry at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate Hyde Park, these rolls represent "the next generation" of soft pretzels. They're actually made with the identical ingredients as their forbears, which have a long history in Germany. But whereas a classic pretzel is rolled into a long tube and twisted into a heart shape, a pretzel roll can be formed into a more solid -- and sandwich-friendly -- "kind of football.'' Or just into a round bun.
It's with good reason chefs love these versatile rolls. "There's a nice textural contrast," Vaccaro said, "a soft chewy center and that beautiful dark brown crust" imbued with what he calls "a little tone of sharpness." That, he said, comes from dipping the pretzel in a food-grade lye solution before baking it.
Vaccaro first encountered pretzel rolls in the United States about 15 years ago, but it wasn't until more recently that they achieved such popularity.
Back in 2009, Blimpie, a sandwich chain, launched a pretzel bread promotion based on market research pointing to a nascent trend. So says Steve Evans, vice president of marketing for the parent company, Kahala. "Since then," Evans said, "we've seen a huge increase in pretzel bread across the restaurant industry."
Six months ago, Spiro Nikolopoulos, manager of the Moriches Bay Diner, had his first encounter with pretzel bread at an eatery in Ephrata, Pa. "I fell in love and brought it back to the diner," Nikolopoulos said.
To Niko Pilalis, who just opened Your Mother's House Kitchen & Bar in New Hyde Park, the notion of bringing in pretzel rolls for burgers and sandwiches was a no-brainer. "Everyone is looking for the next new craze," Pilalis said.
It wasn't stylishness but, rather, the aroma wafting off a pretzel truck in Manhattan that made Carlotta Iacono-Jones into a pretzel fanatic. Iacono-Jones, who co-owns The Grind Cafe in Wading River with her mother and sister, is now making pretzels from scratch for use in breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
Pretzels are germane to the German-American bill of fare at The Village Lanterne in Lindenhurst. Baked the old-fashioned Bavarian way at the co-owned Black Forest Bakery next door, they show up in the bread basket, in appetizers and as the basis of sandwiches and burgers. Currently, said manager Susan Murray, the restaurant is working on a pretzel bread personal pizza. "We can pretzel anything," she said.
Get your pretzel bread here
You never know what form your next pretzel will take: a warm twisted classic, a plump roll or a burger bun. Find out at the following places:
143 N. Wellwood Ave., Lindenhurst
Pretzel twist Small pretzel rolls in bread basket; larger pretzel rolls and buns used for burgers, hot dogs, knockwurst and a variety of sandwiches ($9.95-$12.95); bratwurst and cheese-stuffed pretzel appetizer ($6.95); classic soft pretzels served with Bavarian cheese dip ($11.95).
Pretzel twist Appetizer of warm pretzel served with mustard and cheese gravy ($4.99); also "mother's pretzel croque" sandwich, with ham and Swiss, and "honky tonk" burger served on pretzel bun; ($9.99-11.99)
2034 N. Country Rd., Wading River
Pretzel twist Stuffed pretzel roll sandwiches include pastrami, eggs and cheese, a turkey Philly, chicken and Cheddar, Buffalo chicken, and a BLT with avocado ($7.99-$8.99).
1815 Broadhollow Rd., Farmingdale
Pretzel twist Ballpark hot pastrami sandwich and "lumberjack" burger topped with pulled pork and bacon, both on pretzel rolls ($11.99-$14.99).
400 Broadhollow Rd., Melville
Pretzel twist Pretzel bread is served with the "duck in a jar" appetizer ($16); also available in bread basket on request.
42 E. Main St., Bay Shore
Pretzel twist As an appetizer, a soft pretzel is stuffed with mozzarella or blue cheese. ($6)
Pretzel twist Grilled chicken, baby spinach and fresh mozzarella sandwich as well as steakhouse pot roast sandwich ($9.95). Also, an entree of filet mignon with blue cheese plated atop pretzel bread. ($17.95).
2015 New Highway, Farmingdale
Pretzel twist Bavarian pretzels in bread basket. Pretzel bread used for sandwiches: roasted turkey, "Munich melt" steak, Black Forest club and Reuben, or others, on request. ($11-$16)
516-280-3976; and other locations, blimpies.com
Pretzel twist Turkey, bacon and Cheddar ($4.99-$7.79). Any sub may be made on a pretzel roll.
33 W. Sunrise Hwy., Merrick
516-379-2222 and 13 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre
516-678-1290 georgemartingroup.com and
152 W. Park Ave., Long Beach
Pretzel twist Soft pretzels served, gratis, in bread basket with spicy mustard.
1226 Old Country Rd., Westbury
516-228-5176; and other locations, rubytuesday.com
Pretzel twist Pretzel roll used for turkey burger and Buffalo chicken burger ($8.49-$8.99).