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Feb 21, 2013 07:28 AM

Secret Menus at Restaurants

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  1. I think this is so much hype and bs. Places that indulge in this kind of chicanery turn me off. What is the appeal of buying "secret" menu items? Seems like many other people know about them. And even if only 10 people in the world knew about them, again, what is the appeal? I'm one of only 10 people that can get a lettuce-wrapped burger at In-N-Out! I'm special! Woohoo!


    18 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      I agree that its mostly hype but I don't think there's any chicanery involved, Gimmickry; yes but not chicanery. It's a clever way to bring in new business. What I always get at I'n'O is their 4x4 with chopped peppers. Neither item is on the main menu.

      1. re: mucho gordo

        I still maintain it is chicanery as it is deceptive when the "secret" menus are posted all over the Internet by the companies themselves. There's nothing secret there.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          It's just a fun little thing! Why are you getting bent out of shape about it? Chicanery, deception...jeez.

          1. re: Violatp

            For the record, I just checked Panera's new secret menu and it looks really good.

              1. re: Violatp

                ITA the Panera "secret" menu looks really tasty.

              2. re: Violatp

                Not bent out of shape. Just passionate about my view. It's all in the spirit of debate. I just find this practice cheap and deceptive. Believe me, I'm not losing sleep over it. :)

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Now In-n-Out presenting their fries as actually good, *that's* chicanery and deception! :-D

                  1. re: Violatp

                    I've never been to INO...can't remember ever seeing one in my travels around here. Are the fries really bad?

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      No, not really, unless you don't like shoestring style.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        It's a deeply divisive subject. Like Republican vs. Democrat, Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift, peanut butter vs chocolate...


                        1. re: Violatp

                          "Like Republican vs. Democrat, Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift, peanut butter vs chocolate..."
                          Independent. Neither. BOTH.

                          There. Solved those pressing world issues. ;-)

                          1. re: Violatp

                            Wait, how did peanut butter vs chocolate make that list? That's like saying Laurel or Hardy, Butch Cassidy or the Sundance Kid, in the morning or in the evening...;-)

                            1. re: chowser

                              Ha! I really hate peanut butter. :-)

                        2. re: Violatp

                          LOL, there's a "secret" to getting good fries from In-N-Out. Order them Light Well.

                    2. re: ttoommyy

                      It certainly isn't deceptive in the case of In-n-Out. They call it their "not-so-secret menu," and post it on their website. It's just a means of keeping the menu in their outlets simple. It keeps the line moving. If everything were up on the board, customers who do not already know what they want would spend more time deciding.

                      1. re: 4X4

                        You betcha. 4 patties, 4 pieces of cheese, grilled onions and chopped hot peppers. Sounds like a lot but think of it as 2 double cheesburgers on one bun.

                  2. Years ago we had a steak house that had a secret Korean menu. If you asked they would bring it to you, wake grandma up and get her to cooking. To this day it was the best Korean food I've ever had.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: kengk

                      Most Chinese restaurants have a semi-secret menu. They sometimes write on white boards or paste them up on the walls, the secret part is that they are written in Chinese. So you have to be able to read it to order. Now, depending on where you are, they will have bilingual menus or bilingual posters up on the wall.

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        I don't think it's really a 'secret' menu. It's just one that would appeal to Chinese customers only; dishes not geared to American tastes.

                        1. re: mucho gordo

                          Sometimes it is secret. Years ago some Chinese friends suggested we go to a nearby restaurant for lunch, which I dismissed as a "chop suey house." They said not to worry, they knew the cook. We went and got actual Chinese food not on the menu and not even on the wall.

                      2. It's like a written Burger King have-it-your-way menu. You really could have those choices regardless but it gives you the idea. As long as you're willing to pay for it, you could order a Mac-Filet o'Fish chicken fries sandwich without the cleverness of the name like Animal Style.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chowser

                          That "have it your way" is a crock of you know what. I asked for the burger rare and was told they can't do it. I asked for grilled onions. No, they don't do it.
                          I never went back.

                        2. Anyone else remember Ninfa's in Houston, a couple of decades ago? The Queso Suisso was my favorite.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: shallots

                            Remember, I was a regular at the original on Navigation, plus the Gulf Freeway and Echo Lane locations. I had a deal going with waiters at two locations, free Ninfaritas and usually free flan. Massive tips were involved, a win/win for everyone. The "original" is still there, but I no longer go, a different menu and valet parking, please. I never had the queso, but crab enchiladas were an off menu favorite. Ninfa's sons have a small chain going, and just opened a Tex Mex palace on Navigation next door. It's called El Tiempo, our go to Tex Mex place.


                          2. Quite frankly I am sick of all the secret crap. There was an article in Eater SD about a few places that indulge in secret menu items. One needs to know certain ways to ask for things, etc... And the restaurant "might make it for you..." I'm done. I'm just done. Secret menus, restaurants that "refuse" to serve certain items or "refuse" to provide certain utensils because it threatens their moral high ground, places that are booked months in advance and require you to pray to their FB page for available space or tickets....I'm so tired of it. I love food. I love a wide range of dining experiences, but the mid range experience is becoming some of weird land of "being in the know" and the high end is pretty much unattainable, save for special occasions IF I can get a reservation. I tried to make a res at FL, literally at the earliest possible minute for a date 3 months out, and they were "booked." Really? At 12:01 am?

                            What happened to excellent food and excellent service being a restaurant's focus. end of rant.