Just one bite of a Reuben will immediately reveal whether or not you’re a fan of caraway, the anise, pepper, citrus-packed — and often polarizing — seed that’s been added to rye bread historically for its digestion benefits. And just as the Romans fostered the ingredient’s growth by spreading its seeds throughout Europe more than 5,000 years ago, chefs and bartenders today are hard at work ensuring this spice rack underdog gets its due, extending its recognition beyond the traditional Indian, Eastern European and North African dishes for which it’s become best known.

It was a penchant for rye flour that inspired Karen Hatfield of Los Angeles-based Sycamore Kitchen to create the bakery’s signature chocolate chip rye cookie — made with rye flour, all-purpose flour, crushed caraway powder and a sprinkling of caraway seed on top. “We wanted to put a really small spin on them,” Hatfield says of her plan. If you don’t know it’s there, you might not even detect it — but it’s that little something special that gives it a nutty and aromatic flavor.” Hatfield attributes the cookie’s success primarily to the introduction of caraway to brown sugar, a tried-and-true match as evidenced by rye bread itself, which also calls for molasses (a combination that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream experiments with in their Cherries Kickapoo, a marriage of blackstrap molasses, caraway, and roasted red cherry sauce). And while the cookies are a year-round offering, Hatfield feels that caraway, in its traditional sense, is reminiscent of fall and winter. “It’s a hearty flavor,” she says. “It has a very fulfilling quality to it, and people generally think of that in colder months.”

One such individual is King + Duke beverage supervisor Bradley Wyatt, who created the Catcher — a stirring of Riverboat Rye, caraway-infused Dolin Blanc, lemon, honey and Aquavit — as a way to welcome autumn in Atlanta without diving head first into a cold weather quaff. “We wanted to add something to the drink to give it more weight,” he explains. For the riff, Wyatt heats up a half cup of caraway seeds in a pan to release their aromas before steeping them overnight in a 750-milliliter bottle of Dolin Blanc. The inspiration to incorporate the seed was rooted in the public’s preexisting appreciation for a boozier take on the ingredient: rye whiskey. “Ryes are so popular,” Wyatt notes. “People love them because of their spicy, bready quality.”

Still, the spice continues to find its home in traditional applications. At Nashville’s Chauhan Ale & Masala House, which is set to open later this month, chef Maneet Chauhan will braise lamb shanks for nearly five hours with shajkeera, an Indian spiced milk made with caraway, cinnamon, and bay leaf, and at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, chef Martin Brock channels his Bavarian roots with obatzda — a cheese spread with caraway, brie cheese, beer, paprika and red peppers. The dish, which Brock added to the menu in honor of Oktoberfest, is just one example of the caraway-laden dishes he encountered during his upbringing outside of Munich. “I grew up in a big family on a farm, where we butchered a pig every couple of months,” he says. “My mom and my grandma used caraway for braising pork — it goes really well with this.” Still, Brock admits that the flavor took some getting used to. ”For me, it’s like having olives or capers for the first time,” he says. “I didn’t fall in love with it instantly, but the more you have it, the more you appreciate it.”

The Sycamore Kitchen 143 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323-939-0151, thesycamorekitchen.com

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams multiple locations, jenis.com

King + Duke 3060 Peachtree Road NW at W. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305, 404-477-3500, kinganddukeatl.com

Chauhan Ale & Masala House 123 12th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37203, 615-779-3770, chauhannashville.com

Blue Ribbon Brooklyn 280 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215, 718-840-0404, blueribbonrestaurants.com