“Secrets, secrets are no fun unless you tell everyone,” my childhood friends used to say. Now I’ve stumbled upon some secrets, and I’m going to tell everyone. Witnessing whispers among friends or family is always intriguing, but what does it mean when you see a customer at your favorite restaurant mysteriously order a meal you’ve never heard of? It means there’s a secret menu ready for your discovery.
The History of Secret Menus
In-N-Out Burger birthed the concept of a secret menu in the 1960s. Popular variations of their standard menu items were ordered so frequently they were given names, but not frequently enough to be given a place on the official menu. The company never intentionally created a list of unexposed products, but through word of mouth, and later social media, widely distributed knowledge of these items spread among customers. In the 80s and 90s, the 4×4 (four beef patties and four slices of cheese) and the Flying Dutchman (two beef patties and two slices of cheese, no bun, produce or condiments), among others, were trademarked. Today these items are listed on their website but still can’t be found on any physical menu board.
What’s better than chowing down on your favorite cheeseburger? Chowing down on your favorite cheeseburger knowing you were awesome enough to have obtained just the right code words to get it. Following the exciting underground buzz created by In-N-Out’s flexible concoctions, secret menus have been adopted by many popular restaurants and fast-food joints as a marketing technique. They’re created and subtly advertised to bring customers “in the know” and make them feel like insiders. Dedicated clientele who follow their favorite eateries on social media networks are rewarded for their loyalty because these news outlets are used to release updates about secret menu items. And because we all find some guilty pleasure in good gossip, the news typically spreads like wildfire.
These items haven’t been added to the official menu so their nutrition facts are also allowed to exist under the radar. And if you’re going to a drive-thru with a nutritionist friend, you might want to keep it that way. The prime example of a secretly dangerous option is the Monster Mac at McDonald’s; with 1,390 calories. It’s the typical cheeseburger multiplied by eight. The Mc10:35, available only around that time when the kitchen switches from preparing breakfast to lunch, gives you a McDouble inside an Egg McMuffin. A cheeseburger times four is the “Suicide Burger” at Burger King and the “Meat Cube” at Wendy’s. These compete with Chipotle’s Quesarito, a 1,370 calorie burrito wrapped within a cheese quesadilla. And although Jamba Juice is known as a health-food chain, even they have loopholes leading to candy-based smoothies.
Have no fear, healthy ones! Secret menus have expanded to accommodate your dietary preferences as well. Panera Bread offers six “power bowls” that are high protein, veggie heavy, low carb and low calorie options. At Popeye’s you can order “naked chicken” to receive a meal with breading-free poultry. Red Robin offers the petite burger, a standard cheeseburger at half the size. Make Jared proud by ordering from the secret stash at subway; chose from the ultimate veggie sandwich or flatbread egg white Florentine among other hidden options. Even at In-N-Out, order your burger “protein style” to replace the bun with a lettuce wrap.
Without getting overwhelmed at all the new take-out possibilities, expand your fast-food horizons by checking out these not-so-secret menus online. Humor those taking your order and foster your creativity; because who knows? Your creation may be the next thing on the tip of everybody’s tongue.