Secret to fine dining not always found on menu

Did you know some restaurants have what they call “secret menus”? I had never heard of them, but apparently that’s the point.

I discovered this the other day when I accompanied my friend Steve to one of those places where you have to order your meal off a huge board. The restaurant wasn’t that crowded, which meant nine employees were standing around with nothing to do but pounce on the first customer who wandered in the front door.

“You! Way back there, just getting out of your car. What can I get you today?” she bellowed.

I think there should be a yellow line on the floor that you can stand behind to indicate you haven’t got the foggiest idea what you want to order and that you’d just like to be left alone for a few moments to decide. I was considering the “Pick Two,” but whenever I pick two they tell me it’s not the “right” two. Panicked, I got a ham on rye.

“Do you want Black Forest, Bavarian, Cuban or Virginia ham? And what kind of bread? We have nine choices. And do you want it toasted? And I need to know what country you want the mustard to come from. And how about cheese? We have 12 types ….”

At that point, Steve was getting impatient and stepped in front of me. “I’ll have the chicken and feta chopped salad with spicy hummus and cilantro.”

“Wow, that sounds great,” I said. “I don’t see that on the menu.”

“It’s not on the regular menu. It’s on the secret menu,” Steve responded.

“Yes, it must be,” interrupted the young lady at the register, “because I’ve never heard of it, either.”

Suddenly, the manager came over and took my friend aside. “How did you hear about this item? It’s supposed to be a secret.”

“I saw it on your website,” said Steve. “It’s something you don’t advertise in the restaurant, but it’s still available to order.”

“That’s true, sir, but no one is supposed to know about these items, or the next thing you know, everyone will want them. And that’s the last thing we need. We’re trying to run a business here.”

The next week we stopped at a popular burger place, and Steve was still on his game. “I’m going to have the Hypocrite Burger,” he told me, explaining that a Hypocrite Burger was a veggie patty topped with bacon.

Apparently, he spoke too loudly, because again a manager stepped in. “Where did you hear about that sandwich?” the manager asked. “It is so secret, it isn’t even available yet.”

“OK,” Steve said, with a huge grin on his face, “then I’ll have the Land, Sea and Air sandwich.”

“You’re making that up,” the manager said. “There’s no such thing.”

Steve went to his smartphone and Googled the menu item. Sure enough, there on the secret menu was a burger, chicken patty and fish fillet on one sandwich.

“Wow, they didn’t even tell me about that one,” the manager admitted.

As we left the restaurant, Steve jokingly said, “Next time I’m here I’m going to order the vanilla soft serve with chicken nuggets swirled in. I know they have it.”

The manager checked his smartphone then jotted something on a napkin. I hope he doesn’t take Steve seriously. It would be really hard to keep something that delicious a secret.