Secret restaurant menu items are a hot trend — one of Yahoo!’s top stories of 2013 was about the top secret topic — but are they all they’re cracked up to be?
The FW.com recently posted Starbucks’ “secret” menu, which includes a dozen off-the-menu offerings you can supposedly order at the popular chain. Included in the mix is a “Raspberry Cheesecake” (a White Chocolate Mocha with a couple of pumps of raspberry), and a “Biscotti Frappuccino” (translation: buy a biscotti and ask the barista to blend it with your frappuccino). But let’s face it, aren’t these super secret special requests really just special orders?
Remember the old Burger King commercial, “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us?” It sounds like most of these “secret” menu items are just that, and just about any chain will let you “have it your way.”
See the classic Burger King commercial here.
When Buzzfeed posted a sampling of McDonald’s secret menu — which includes such creative combos as the Mc 10:35 (a mid-morning sandwich that’s half Egg McMuffin, half McDouble) and the Big McChicken (a Big Mac made with chicken instead of beef) — McDonald’s reps declined to comment on the hush hush menu items, instead saying, “Our fans like to customize our menu in many unique ways. It’s important to remember that participation varies from restaurant to restaurant as McDonald’s franchisees are independent business owners.” (Indeed, a call to a Pittsburgh-area McDonald’s about the legendary Mc 10:35 garnered this response from a bewildered employee: “I don’t even know what that is.”)
Panera Bread’s “secret” menu is the worst kept secret in the business; heck, last year a press release was even sent out about it. The bakery-café’s hidden list of off-the-menu dishes are nutritious options that come straight from corporate, all made with protein-rich ingredients with limited processed carbs. And while the items won’t be displayed on the chain’s menu boards, a quick mention of the “Hidden Menu” will get you in on the secret selections, which include “Power” egg white bowls and salads.
Ditto for In-N-Out Burger, which has its not-so-secret menu posted on the company’s website. Yes, there really is such a thing as Animal Style, and it comes with a mustard-cooked beef patty. In-N-Out also has a secret grilled cheese, but just about any burger joint will serve up a cheeseburger without the burger — all you have to do is ask.
According to Foodbeast, Burger King has one “hidden” menu item that should probably stay hidden. The Suicide Burger boasts four whopping hamburger patties with all of the Whopper trimmings. And an order of “frings” will net you a combo of fries and onion rings, without the pesky hassle of having to order both. Or, you could just order both.
Secret menu items aren’t limited to big chains. In suburban Philadelphia, employees at Steel City Coffeehouse are routinely asked to whip up special drinks that aren’t on the official menu. Jason Sylvester, a manager at the popular coffee shop, said he often directs customers to the specialty drink board and lets them get creative: “I let them know that they are more than welcome to mix any flavors and have me make any drink they want,” he said. Sylvester also added that sometimes customers ask for copycat drinks from big name chains, but said the chain coffee shops “make their drinks a little differently.” Steel City eventually added a new macchiato to their menu due to the large number of special requests, turning an off-the-board request into a bona fide menu item.