The Most Unusual Food Mashups You Can Find At Restaurants

Chefs all around the world love surprising their diners with unexpected dishes that blend flavors and textures you would have never thought to put together. This kind of experimentation has existed for millennia, as humans around the world met and traded cultural traditions and foodways with each other. Pizza wouldn't exist without the fusion of Italian, Middle Eastern, and South American ingredients and techniques. The classic American hamburger is actually the result of centuries of fusion cooking blending Mongolian, German, and U.S. cuisines. Even today, fusion experiments continue to lead to delicious discoveries like the fact that Korean and Mexican cuisines pair so perfectly, it feels like they were meant to be together.

But there's fusion and then there's the spaghetti donut. Instead of pulling different flavors and traditions together into a dish that feels as coherent as a bulgogi burrito or barbecue nachos, some chefs surprise by creating mashups that refuse to fuse. But somehow, the dish still works anyway — or does it? You can decide for yourself by ordering one of these unusual mashups available on restaurant menus around the world.

The donut burger at Red's True Barbecue

Red's True Barbecue serves up a menu of all the staples you'd expect to find at a barbecue restaurant: ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, and so on. But head to the burgers and dogs section of the menu and you'll find an unexpected offering: the donut burger. As you might guess from the name, the donut burger tucks your standard burger ingredients — including a beef patty, cheese, bacon, and onions — between two glazed donuts. For the vegetarians out there, you can ask for a veggie version.

Reviewers who have tried the restaurant's most famous menu item have said it's "weird how good it was" and that it "might sound sickly but it was absolutely delicious" (via TripAdvisor). The sweet and savory elements don't exactly fuse together but they do balance each other. The strange combination has become such a crowd favorite at Red's that it now allows guests to swap the traditional brioche bun on other burgers with glazed donuts.

Heirloom LA's lasagna cupcakes

If you've ever bit into a cupcake and thought, "I wish there was meat in this," this lasagna cupcake available at Heirloom LA was made for you. If you're like most cupcake fans who've never had that thought cross their mind, the unusual treat created by Tara Maxey and Matt Poley is still worth trying.

Heirloom LA's signature dish features hand-rolled pasta with layers of cheese, Béchamel sauce, and a rotating selection of seasonal ingredients like sausage, braised short rib, or lamb ragu. Vegetarian varieties include pumpkin, tomato basil, or roasted seasonal veggies.

The savory cupcake has been a hit for over a decade in the Los Angeles food scene because it turns the rich and hearty lasagnas that Heirloom also sells in standard casserole dishes into a bite-sized, handheld snack. According to the Hollywood Reporter, even American icon Oprah Winfrey is a fan and reportedly claimed the lasagna cupcakes "will change your life."

Sundae Donut's donut popcorn milkshake

If a donut burger feels like a step too far, you might prefer this dessert mashup created by New York's Sundae Donuts. The donut popcorn milkshake is a decadent treat featuring a milkshake topped with a glazed donut sprinkled with popcorn (and sprinkles). The milkshake itself is ice cream infused with birthday cake donuts and rainbow sprinkles. It's sweet. It's crunchy. It's a lot.

Sundae Donuts is famous for its creative donuts and over-the-top desserts that are as Instagrammable as they are delicious. Alongside classic donuts like Boston Cream or vanilla sprinkle, you'll find signature flavors like Fruity Pebbles or S'mores.

The elaborate milkshake is being served up at their location inside New York's Citi Field so you can attempt to eat this beast without making a mess while catching a Mets game. But you'll probably need help polishing one off, as the towering donut popcorn milkshake has been described as a "dessert and meal all in itself" (via MLB). For a less filling option, Sundae Donuts is also selling the popcorn donut by itself.

Pop Pasta's spaghetti donut

Pop Pasta is home to the original spaghetti donut, created in 2014 by Luigi Fiorentino, the pasta shop's founder. The unusual donut is a modern twist on the frittata di spaghetti, a Neapolitan recipe created as a way to use up leftover pasta by baking it into a sort of pie.

Fiorentino grew up eating spaghetti frittata and wanted to reinvent it for a modern audience. The donut combines spaghetti, cheeses, and homemade pasta sauce baked into a donut that can be eaten on its own or, thanks to a new collaboration with City Saucery, dipped into a vegan salami spread.

Over the years, Pop Pasta has expanded its menu to include macaroni and cheese donuts along with other spaghetti donut flavors including carbonara, vodka sauce, and cacio e pepe. When you want a bowl of pasta but don't want to be tied down to a table, grab a spaghetti donut. You can stroll through a park, enjoying your newfound freedom thanks to this handheld version of the traditional Italian pasta dish.

Cafeteria's mac and cheese spring rolls

Cafeteria is an upscale twist on the classic American diner, so it's probably no surprise that it serves up a curiously elevated, if strange, twist on the humble macaroni and cheese. The mac and cheese spring rolls feature a light, flaky wrapper just as you would find on a traditional spring roll. But instead of crisp spring veggies, you'll bite in to find rich, creamy macaroni and cheese.

Make it even cheesier and creamier by dipping the roll into the warm, melted smoked gouda dipping sauce before taking a bite. The mashup dish turns macaroni and cheese into a light, handheld appetizer while preserving all the warmth and satisfaction you expect in comfort food.

After you've polished off your plate of mac and cheese spring rolls, you should still have enough room in your stomach to try some of the other creative offerings on the menu. Other comfort foods getting a contemporary twist at the New York restaurant include Yodels and French toast. The Yodel — the popular store bought treat from Drake's — is reimagined as a red velvet cake roll served up with a vanilla milkshake and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. Meanwhile Cafeteria's French toast ditches traditional white bread for a flaky croissant that's battered in a crunchy cornflake crust.

Macaron Parlour's Cheetos macaron

Macaron Parlour is a New York-based patisserie where visitors can come to try a dizzying variety of macaron flavors, include some of the more traditional options like pistachio or raspberry. But you'll also notice some flavors you never expected to see, like the Cheetos macaron.

This is one of those food mashups where your first instinct might be to say that this thing shouldn't exist. But reviewers on Yelp have called it "pretty damn good" and "funky, but satisfying" (via Yelp). The recipe features a traditional almond flour meringue for the shell that's stuffed with a white chocolate Cheetos ganache. Then, the whole thing is dusted with cheesy Cheetos powder so that you can still end up with the signature orange-stained fingertips you get after eating a bag of Cheetos. Admittedly, not everyone who tries the Cheetos macaron is a fan. The sweet yet cheddar-y flavor profile is more of a niche taste, but it's one worth trying and popular enough that it's stayed on the patisserie's menu for over five years.

Baskin Robbin's chicken and waffles ice cream

In March, Baskin Robbins launched a new limited edition flavor to its ice cream line up: Chick'n & Waffles. The ice cream itself is buttermilk waffle flavored and features chunks of crispy chick'n bites and a maple syrup flavored swirl. For the vegetarians out there, the chick'n bites are not made with real chicken so you're clear to try this strange savory treat.

The popular ice cream chain is well-known for its innovative ice creams, having churned out over a thousand flavors in its decades of serving the frozen treat. Past lineups have included other bizarre options like dill pickle, jalapeno, and ketchup. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not every strange flavor has been a hit. But a few unpopular debuts haven't discouraged the franchise from experimenting. That's good news for fans because, as weird as chicken and waffles ice creams sounds, it's actually a pretty genius idea. The classic brunch dish is already an example of the unusual harmony of sweet and savory so it only seems right that an ice cream version would come out eventually.

Everglazed's Thai food inspired Thailicious donut

The Thailicious Donut is one of the newer decadent yet unusual offerings on the menu at Everglazed. The loaded donut is a tribute to the nuances of flavor that make Thai cuisine so distinct and delicious. It's a glazed donut topped with black sesame icing, charred pineapple, sesame seeds, cilantro, and a dollop of creamy chili-lime-garlic peanut butter. The donut itself is airy and soft, forming a counterbalance to the rich toppings piled on it.

If you want to try the unusual donut, you'll have to head to Disneyworld in Florida, which is where Everglazed is located. The gourmet donut shop is a popular breakfast or lunch stop, serving up a selection of classic and "funky" donuts alongside burgers and sandwiches. For an extra dollar, the staff will even substitute the traditional bun for a griddled glazed donut on any sandwich. Our recommendation: make the swap on the Grilled Cheeeeeese — yes, that's how it's spelled on the menu — to recreate the viral grilled cheese donut that made Everglazed famous back in 2021.

Fatima's shrimp Cheetos crunch wrap

If you thought Taco Bell was the only one doing weird things with Mexican food, you haven't met the shrimp Cheetos crunch wrap from Fatima's Grill. A tostada is topped with layers of beans, shrimp, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, nacho cheese and, of course, Hot Cheetos before being wrapped in a soft flour tortilla and grilled.

The unusual dish is far from the only unique mashup on the menu. The LA eatery serves a full lineup of Lebanese-Mexican fusion dishes, like the shawarma breakfast burrito or the shish tawook style chicken appearing in tacos, quesadillas, and tortas. But the added twist is that customers can add Cheetos or Hot Cheetos to any dish as a crunchy topping or stuffing.

What began as an unusual but optional add-on developed into a growing menu of Cheetos-infused dishes. From a Hot Cheetos quesadilla to the cheeto burrito asada, just about every section of the menu is graced with a Cheetos-laced option. And if you see something on the menu sans Cheetos, you can always ask them to add it on. The strange concept has propelled the humble LA taco shop to national fame and the owner recently began adding new locations around the country, including Detroit and Brooklyn.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya's chili cheese takoyaki

Austin's Kemuri Tatsu-Ya is part Texas smokehouse, part Japanese pub, offering creative fusions of hearty Japanese and Texas comfort food. The chili cheese takoyaki is just one of the more unique examples of this unusual culinary marriage. Traditional takoyaki is a classic pub snack found at bars across Japan. It's typically made of minced octopus, green onion, and pickled ginger that's formed into a ball, rolled in a light batter and fried to a crispy, flaky finish. 

That's what you'll find at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya except the crispy dish is topped with beef chili, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno. That distinctly TexMex topping is rounded out with additional Japanese flavors in the form of Kewpie mayonnaise — a Japanese variation on mayo that uses only yolks rather than whole eggs for a richer flavor — and Bonito, the smoked, dried shavings of tuna. As odd as the pairing might sound, it's a surprisingly humble and accessible dish that even the fusion skeptics in your group will probably enjoy. It's warm, hearty and tailor-made to eat alongside a cold beer or a chilled sake.

Red Eye Café's scotch egg banh mi

If you find yourself at New Jersey's Red Eye Café and you're feeling adventurous, ask your server for a Highlander. What you'll get is a banh mi—a Vietnamese sandwich served on a crisp baguette—stuffed with pickled veggies, cilantro, mayonnaise, Sriracha, and two scotch eggs. The scotch eggs are hard boiled and then coated in a pork and shrimp sausage mixture before being deep-fried and sliced in half to better fit in your banh mi. It's a spicy, creamy and filling fusion of English and Vietnamese flavors that's easy to eat on the go.

The unusual sandwich is just one piece of this New Jersey café's surprisingly international menu. Diners will also find chilaquiles and ramen cooking alongside burgers and pancakes in the kitchen. You can even try the café's take on the Elvis, a toasted peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich with optional bacon. It's classic diner fare with just enough twists and unexpected mashups to keep things interesting.

SumoMaya's oatmeal brûlèe

Most people wouldn't think of oatmeal as dessert. Outside of the oatmeal raisin cookie, which is a divisive treat in its own right, you rarely find it in on the dessert end of a menu. But this oatmeal brûlèe is the weird mashup that could give you a whole new perspective on the high fiber ingredient. You'll find it at Arizona's SumoMaya, a fusion restaurant blending Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. The restaurant has become a popular brunch spot in Scottsdale. The dish features creamy oatmeal that's been caramelized and topped with fresh fruit before being sprinkled with chocolate and coconut flakes.

It's one of the tapas-style restaurant's many creative shareable plates available during its bottomless brunch. Other unique mashups you can order as a follow-up to the oatmeal brûlèe include pancake tacos, pork al pastor Pad Thai, Korean fired chicken torta, and a generous selection of signature sushi rolls.

The Stinking Rose's garlic ice cream

If you were asked to pick the least likely flavors to end up in ice cream, garlic would probably be one of the first you come up with. The pungent aromatic flavor is almost exclusively used to brighten up savory dishes. But at San Francisco's The Stinking Rose, just about everything is made with garlic, even the ice cream.

The restaurant's garlic ice cream is actually from Gilroy, a small town in California that was once of the key garlic producers in the country. While the town's economy has diversified beyond garlic since the early 20th century, it still really, really loves garlic—so much so that it's hosted an annual garlic festival every year since 1979. It was at that festival that garlic ice cream first rose to fame. It's a vanilla ice cream enriched with roasted garlic. Roasting helps mellow out a lot of the sharpness in garlic that might make you hesitant to try this dessert, but it's definitely still an acquired taste.

At The Stinking Rose, the garlic vanilla ice cream is topped with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce but if you're in northern California during the summer, you can head to Gilroy's garlic festival and try other garlic-infused ice cream flavors like pistachio, roasted almond, or pecan praline.