2022 Fast Food Menu Comebacks That Took Over The Industry

One of the major culture-wide trends we've seen over the last year is a resurgence in the popularity of things that were cool in the '90s and '00s. This likely has a lot to do with the fact that millennials, who were growing up during these decades, now have more spending power than any other group in America (via Hanson Dodge). And what do they want to spend those hard-earned paychecks on? Things that remind them of their much simpler childhoods, of course.

Like many other industries, fast food restaurants have realized this and are bringing back menu items that were popular 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. Below, we've rounded up the biggest fast food menu comebacks of the last year. These returns took the industry by storm, and, in some cases, were so successful that they led to record-breaking earnings for a particular restaurant. Of course, not every item on our list was available in the '90s and early-'00s, but many of them were. Read on to see how many you remember from your younger years and count up how many you've been able to try since they've been back.

Enchirito - Taco Bell

Those of us who were lucky enough to be eating at Taco Bell between 1970 and 1993 will likely remember the original Enchirito with fondness. A cross between a burrito and an enchilada, the hearty entree consisted of ground beef, refried beans, and onions wrapped in a massive flour tortilla and topped with cheddar cheese, a red enchilada-esq sauce, and precisely three olives. According to Press-Telegram, the unique item was supposedly created by a crew member named Tom Jones in the late '60s, after he had eaten something similar at a restaurant on the East Coast and realized the potential for the dish in the Mexican chain restaurant.

After tinkering with Jones' original recipe a bit, Taco Bell began serving the Enchirito in the early '70s. It came packaged in a special tin designed to make leftovers easy to reheat. It was a best-seller until the early '90s when it was unceremoniously pulled to make room for new items. Following an outcry from diners, the Enchirito made a brief reappearance from 1999 to 2003 (via HuffPost), though, according to fans, this rebooted version wasn't as good as the original.

In the fall of 2022, Taco Bell ran a poll asking customers to choose which former menu item they'd like to see make a limited return. Diners overwhelmingly chose the Enchirito and the burrito/enchilada mashup popped back up on menus in mid-November. Unfortunately, it was only available through the end of that month.

Cajun Rice - Popeyes

Popeyes has been killing it with their menu lineup lately if we do say so ourselves. Take their chicken sandwiches, for example. When the Southern-style fried chicken item hit the menu in the spring of 2019 it inspired an all-out craze, with folks driving to dozens of restaurants in search of the hard-to-find meal. The franchise's seafood boxes and desserts have also taken a major step up in terms of quality and flavor. But not every menu-related decision the fast food chicken joint has made in recent years has been one we could stand behind.

At the start of 2021, Popeyes quietly discontinued its Cajun rice side. It's not entirely clear why the decision was made — the company simply said it was listening to customer feedback and trying to improve the menu — but the longstanding combo addition vanished overnight. Plenty of fans weren't happy with the company's move, noting that the dirty rice was their go-to side dish over more widely-popular items like french fries or mac and cheese.

So imagine our delight when the restaurant announced it was bringing the rice back as a part of its 50th anniversary celebration. In a company press release (via Business Wire) Popeyes wrote that they'd "recognized the flurry of emotions [the removal] caused among disheartened fans" and were ready to make things right. Unfortunately, the side was only for a limited time in 2022.

McRib - McDonald's

One of the most storied items on the McDonald's menu, the McRib has developed something of a cult following over the four decades it's been available. Development of the sandwich began back in the 1970s when the National Pork Producers Council asked a University of Nebraska professor to come up with a reconstructed pork product they could pitch to McDonald's, per NPR. He gave them the boneless rib-shaped patty and the rest, as they say, is history.

The McRib hit McDonald's menus in the early 80s, but its first run didn't last very long thanks to competition from the also-recently-introduced Chicken McNuggets and rising pork prices. By 1985, the original sandwich was gone, not to make its first real comeback until the mid-'90s. In the early 2000s, a fake farewell tour and competing "keep it on the menu" campaign (both started by the fast food joint) established its lore as one of the company's best items. Since then, the sandwich has gone on and off the menu, unceremoniously disappearing and then popping back up as a limited-time option.

In 2020, the McRib returned to McDonald's for the first time in eight years. It quietly slipped off the menu again sometime during the craze of the pandemic, only for the company to announce it was back for a final time in 2022.

Mexican Pizza - Taco Bell

Taco Bell has a weird habit of removing some of its most popular items from the menu for no discernable reason. Just like with the Enchirito, the fast food spot got rid of its Mexican Pizza without any forewarning, leaving plenty of fans grieving the loss of their favorite guilty pleasure.

The Mexican Pizza, or, as it was originally called, the Pizzazz Pizza, per Thrillist, first landed on Taco Bell menus in 1985. The entree had layers of ground beef and refried beans sandwiched between two flour tortillas and topped with pizza sauce, cheese, olives, and green onions (the latter two ingredients disappeared sometime in the '90s or early '00s). It was a best-seller for several decades, particularly among the crowd who preferred that their Taco Bell come in an easy-to-eat form. 

In 2020, the item was taken out of rotation in an effort to streamline offerings and cut down on waste. Fans were understandably crushed and even went so far as to start a Change.org petition to bring the item back. The petition earned over 170,000 signatures, doing its job to catch the attention of several Taco Bell execs. In the spring of 2022, the restaurant brought the Mexican Pizza back, but after running through a six-month supply of ingredients in eight weeks had to (temporarily) remove it from the menu once again, as noted by Today. However, as of September 2022, Mexican Pizza is back for good to the delight of foodies everywhere.

CurderBurger - Culver's

The story of how the Culver's CurdBurger came to be is one of the strangest stories in fast food history. Here's the tale in a nutshell: On April Fools Day 2021 the fast food chain announced that it would be combining two of its best-selling products — deep-fried cheese curds and the Deluxe ButterBurger — into a single, mouthwatering sandwich. It was, of course, intended to be a joke, but fans were so excited about trying the fictional entree that the restaurant decided to make it for real. So on October 15, 2021, which just happens to be National Cheese Curd Day, the restaurant released a limited number of CurderBurgers.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the item was a huge hit. Culver's director of menu development said that CurderBurger day was the second-busiest day in the chain's history and that several individual locations had hit all-time sales records, per Thrillist. Thanks to the success of that initial release, the restaurant decided to bring back the sandwich again in 2022. This time, guests had about three weeks (from October 12 to 31) to try out the cheesy delight rather than just a single day.

It doesn't seem as though the CurderBurger is set to become a permanent menu item just yet. However, if sales stay high we can feel pretty safe about assuming we'll get to chow down on it at least once a year.

Breakfast Bagel Sandwiches - McDonald's

The McDonald's breakfast menu has a chokehold on America that really no other restaurant can compete with. From the perfectly crispy, greasy hashbrowns to the Egg McMuffins, McGriddles, and hotcakes platters, there's just nothing quite like a McDonald's breakfast. The fast food retailer began serving the morning meal in the 1970s, and quite a few menu options have come and gone in the decades since. But there's one, in particular, that disappeared for a while that really upset fans, and that's the Breakfast Bagel Sandwiches.

The entree was exactly what it sounds like: eggs and cheese with your choice of steak, ham, or veggies stacked between two halves of a plain bagel. Per Supermarket News, the sandwiches first popped up on menus in 1999 and then disappeared in 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. From what we can gather, the elimination didn't happen because the bagels weren't selling well but because the restaurant was focused on streamlining its menu.

Amid backlash from diners, McDonald's quietly snuck the item back on menus towards the end of 2022. There is a catch, though — the bagels aren't available nationwide (at least not yet) but only in select markets. 

Pretzel Bacon Pub Sandwiches - Wendy's

In 2013, Wendy's introduced eaters to the pretzel bun. A little chewy, a little soft, and a lot salty, the buns were an instant hit with diners who fell hard for the roll's unique taste and texture. In 2020, the burger chain stepped its game up, transforming its simple pretzel bun burgers into drool-worthy pretzel bun pub sandwiches.

The Pretzel Bacon Pub Sandwich had an artisan-made pretzel bun, a beer cheese sauce, strips of thick Maplewood bacon, crispy onions, sliced muenster cheese, honey mustard spread, and pickles atop the fresh (never frozen!) beef patty. In short, the entree was part of the Made to Crave line and was one of the most deluxe sandwiches you could order at a nationwide fast food chain. It also didn't last very long. The item hit menus in 2020, just before the pandemic took off, and was gone by 2021 (via Restaurant Business).

Then, in 2022, the chain announced the larger-than-life sandwich was coming back. Wendy's said the goal is to always listen to what fans want to see from the restaurant and that it had been made very clear that one of those things was the Pretzel Bacon Pub Sandwich. If beef isn't your thing, the chain also has a chicken version of the entree which, we've heard through the grapevine, is just as good as the original.