Hungry for a little something special? Lots of restaurants have a "secret menu" -- a list of unofficial offerings available to those in the know. And it's not just fancy, four-star establishments, either. Plenty of fast food eateries will customize orders, provided you ask nicely and smile. But there are a few places where secret menus have become the stuff of legend.
Are you ready to join the off-menu club? Then check out our selection of five restaurants with secret menus.
Let's start with the least secret of all our secret menu locales: In-N-Out Burger. This fast food franchise, hugely popular throughout the southwestern United States, has a number of offerings you won't find on their in-store menu. Their unpublicized options include a grilled cheese sandwich, "Protein Style" (no bun) and "Animal Style." This last item can be applied to any sandwich, resulting in a mustard-cooked beef patty, extra spread, lettuce, tomato, pickle and grilled onions. Rumor has it that you can also get Animal Style fries, which involves cheese, spread, grilled onions and pickles. Better get a fork, just in case!
In-N-Out's secret menu also includes a few meat-heavy options, designed to sate even the most carnivorous of diners. The 3x3 and 4x4 burgers each include that number of hamburger patties and cheese slices. Not enough? Order the 100x100. Just make sure you bring a couple of friends to help.
So why are these dishes less-than-secret? Because you can find most of them on the In-N-Out Web site. But no matter how open the secret, it still tastes pretty sweet.
Internet rumors abound as to whether a secret menu even exists for Dairy Queen, one of America's classic stops for sweet treats. Some people claiming to be in-the-know insist that there's a big notebook in each DQ that contains recipes and prices for long-ago menu items. Some of the old-timey favorites include the Lavender Blue Sundae (a blueberry marshmallow concoction), the Jack and Jill Sundae (marshmallow and hot fudge) and the Chocolate Chip Blizzard, which uses the chocolate hard shell coating instead of chocolate chips. Other items supposedly on the secret DQ menu include the Banana Split Blizzard and Peanut Buster Parfait, but a check of the Dairy Queen Web site reveals they're still official menu items. Even so, it's possible that not all DQ locations will list the items, so you may have to ask.
Chipotle is famous for burritos that are as big as your head. Their standard menu also offers burrito bowls, tacos and salads, all with a variety of customizable toppings. But what if you're craving something not on the menu?
According to many Chipotle patrons, that's not a problem. As long as they have the ingredients, you can request any kind of dish. One secret-menu favorite is the "quesorito" -- a quesadilla filled with your choice of their burrito toppings and pressed in the tortilla warmer. You can also get fully-loaded nachos instead of just the listed chips and guacamole. Customers have even reportedly ordered single tacos and teeny-tiny burritos (made with the soft taco shells). It's even rumored that this secret-menu free-for-all is corporate policy. So, the next time you're at Chipotle, ask -- and you just might receive.
Most folks are a little picky about their coffee. They like it how they like it, whether that means a plain, black cup of joe or a latte with three Splendas and a dash of nutmeg. Even a menu as extensive as Starbucks can't contain all the possible combinations of milk and espresso. So, as long as the baristas have the ingredients, it's rumored that they'll make whatever you like.
Some secret-menu favorites include the Cake Batter Frapuccino (a Vanilla Frap with almond flavoring added in), the Black Eye (regular drip coffee mixed with two shots of espresso) and the Biscotti Frapuccino. This last concoction involves buying a separate biscotti at the cash register and having the barista blend it into any flavor frap that you choose. Not complicated enough for you? Some Starbucks customers have even reported bringing in their own supplements for the barista to add.
Another open secret about Starbucks is the "short" drink size -- at 8 ounces, it's four ounces less than the "tall" size and not normally listed on the menu. So, if you're in need of an itty bitty pick-me-up, give your barista a wink and order the short.
Jamba Juice has a reputation for using healthy, fresh ingredients in its shakes and smoothies. You can make them even healthier by adding Boosts, which are shots of vitamins and extracts designed to help immunity, digestion, energy and more.
But let's say you walk into a Jamba Juice feeling a little less virtuous. Do you have to settle, or can you score something that would horrify your nutritionist? Apparently, the sugar can be all yours. Most Jamba Juice locations have toppings and mix-ins more appropriate in a candy shop, such as gummy bears and Fruity Pebbles. Some of their secret menu smoothie recipes include PB&J, Strawberry Shortcake and Push Pop. Sources differ on whether the reasons for the secrecy are related to candy brand copyright infringements, or if Jamba Juice just doesn't want to tarnish its healthy rep. Either way, the sugar is under wraps -- but there for the taking if you ask.
Lots of other restaurants are rumored to have their own secrets menus, so try your luck at a few places and see what happens. Who knows what fantastical culinary wonders you'll unlock?
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- Conradt, Stacy. "10 Secret Menu Items at Fast Food Restaurants." CNN. Sept. 28, 2009. (Jan. 15, 2011)http://articles.cnn.com/2009-09-28/living/mf.10.secret.menu.items_1_jamba-juice-menu-grilled-cheese?_s=PM:LIVING
- Coupon Sherpa. "24 Secret Restaurant Menus Revealed." March 3, 2010. (Jan. 15, 2011)http://www.couponsherpa.com/ask-coupon-sherpa/secret-restaurant-menus-revealed/
- Goodale, Gloria. "At fast-food joints, try the secret menu." Christian Science Monitor. Oct. 19, 2007. (Jan. 20, 2011)http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1019/p13s01-lifo.html
- In-N-Out Burger Website. "Secret Menu." (Jan. 18, 2011)http://www.in-n-out.com/secretmenu.asp
- Marco, Meg. "The Really Big Guide to Secret Menu Items." Consumerist.com. February 26, 2007. (Jan. 13, 2011)http://consumerist.com/2007/02/the-really-big-guide-to-secret-menu-items.html
- Mighty Foods. "Trend: Secret Menus (Jamba Juice)." June 1, 2006. (Jan. 17, 2011)http://www.mightyfoods.com/archives/2006/06/trend_secret_menus_jamba_juice.html