Every fast-food employee’s dream: Customers coming in and asking for elaborate items that can’t be found on the established, plebeian menu.
This week, the website #HackTheMenu is getting renewed attention as a self-proclaimed one-stop resource for finding so-called “secret menu” items from all your favorite fast-food chains. #HackTheMenu isn’t a new website; we covered the secret menu resource back in 2014, but the recent buzz is thanks to the forefront of digital journalism: a viral TikTok.
To be clear, we’re not against menu hacks. We’ve highlighted our favorite secret menu items over the years, from the Poor Man’s Big Mac at McDonald’s to the Chipotle Quesarito. But before we dive into more of the best secret menu items, let’s recap what secret menus are and how you can order from them without being a complete jerk to fast food employees.
What’s a secret fast food menu?
First, what a secret menu is not: A confidential resource full of forbidden knowledge that sets you apart from every other sucker who eats off the boring, normie menu and will launch your career as a food blog influencer.
What a secret menu is: A list of unofficial ingredient combinations that aren’t on-menu, but are technically possible for a restaurant to make for you. #HackTheMenu explains that “while some secret menu items were created by the restaurants themselves, most of the secret items were invented by customers and passed on by word-of-mouth.” This means there’s a decent chance that the person taking your order is not trained to know what the heck you’re talking about (more on that soon).
Secret menu items range from simple modifications to the sort of concoctions that are better left unnamed. For instance, as Kristin Salaky points out in Delish: “If a restaurant has buffalo sauce and chicken, the people working there can probably make you a buffalo chicken sandwich.” On the other hand, if you stroll up to a Starbucks and ask for an off-menu “Birthday Cake Frappuccino,” you can’t expect your barista to know that you’re expecting them to blend a birthday cake pop into your drink.
How to avoid being an asshole
Our main gripe with secret menus is exemplified in that viral TikTok, when creator Matty McTech describes these menu hacks as “items they don’t want you to know about.”
Let’s think about that. Who is the “they” we’re talking about here? Are “they” a large corporation that you’re pulling one over on? Or are “they” perhaps the minimum wage employees who have only worked at this Burger King for two weeks and have no clue what a “Suicide Burger” is, but do know that you’re holding up the line for a string of customers who are about to let out their frustration when they finally get to order?
If you’re going to use these menu hacks, don’t call them by whatever name some random customer invented and submitted to #HackTheMenu. Make sure you know exactly what you’re asking for, so that you can explain the specific modifications to the person taking your order. Otherwise, you risk looking silly at best, and infuriating at worst.
How to #HackTheMenu
#HackTheMenu is “dedicated to providing you with details, recipes and prices about the most interesting and tasty secret menu items available at all of your favorite fast food restaurants.” Click on a restaurant logo for any of the 20 popular fast-food chains, which includes heavy-hitters like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chipotle, browse through the secret menus, and click on specific items to see details like available locations, the final price, and a description of how to actually order the item.
Again: Pay less attention to the invented names of these items, and instead focus on the additional steps and ingredients that you’re asking a real person to whip together for you. And maybe don’t do it during a huge rush.
What are some of the best things on secret menus?
Now that you know how not to be an asshole, here are our favorite menu hacks:
- Double-wrapped burrito at Chipotle: For enlightened individuals that know the warm tortilla is the best part of the burrito. When you’re first asked for your order, request two tortilla shells to be warmed together.
- The Incredible Hulk at Taco Bell: This is essentially asking for a lighter five-layer burrito. Request guacamole instead of the usual nacho cheese sauce, get rid of the extra inner six-inch tortilla shell and sour cream, then make it fresco.
- McCrepe at McDonald’s: Simply order Hotcakes and a Yogurt Parfait. Proceed to add the Yogurt Parfait into a folded Hotcake for a delicious breakfast “McCrepe.”
- Burritodilla at Chipotle: A smaller alteration of the Chipotle Quesarito that allows the consumer to eat without the mess of a behemoth burrito. Ask for a burrito to be grilled up like a quesadilla. Make sure to ask for half the amount of fillings so it doesn’t overflow.
- Butterbeer Frappuccino at Starbucks: Order a Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino (ideally made with whole milk for the best consistency). Add three pumps each toffee-nut syrup and caramel syrup. Top with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.
- The not-so-secret Animal Style Burger at In-N-Out: I’ve never been to this California icon, and even I know about “Animal Style” burgers. The good news: Since the secret is out, you’re able to order “animal style” directly. The bad news: You need to be in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, or Oregon.