Everyone knows that Connie’s Mexico Cafe at 2227 N. Broadway serves big beef burritos, deep-fried tacos and loaded Monterreys. They’re listed right there on the menu.
But only people in-the-know (which now includes, you, readers of Dining with Denise) are aware of Connie’s “secret” menu items, available only by request. Among them: owner Carmen Rosales’s extra-hot green “rocket sauce” and steak queso-dillas, a take on a standard quesadilla but held together with an extra-large portion of melty white cheese.
Many restaurants, from fast-food to fine dining, have secret menus of dishes or preparation styles that aren’t listed on the regular menus but are available if the diner knows to ask for them. Some restaurants have only a few secret menu items. Others have a long list. Most were born from a special customer request that spread through word of mouth or were invented by employees who get creative with kitchen ingredients. Some are dishes that were listed on menus in the past then taken off, although the kitchen is still able and willing to prepare them.
Here’s a list of some of the secret menu items available in some Wichita restaurants. Let me know if you’re aware of others. But shhhhh, don’t tell anyone else. These secrets are just between us.
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The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas: Only regulars at The Anchor, Schane Gross’ bar and restaurant in Old Town, know this secret: You can go next door to the Douglas Avenue Chop Shop and buy a steak, and the kitchen crew will cook it for you if you purchase sides.
Beautiful Day Cafe, 2516 E. Central: It’s not even a year old, but Beautiful Day Cafe already has developed a secret menu item that regulars crave: a vegetable moussaka with steamed veggies.
Bocco Deli, 3010 E. Central: It’s not on the menu, but regulars love Bocco’s Rachel sandwich, made with mesquite smoked turkey, mozzarella, pepperoncini, red slaw and roasted red pepper sauce.
Churn & Burn, 548 S. Oliver: This ice cream shop, which makes its ice cream instantly using liquid nitrogen, offers off-the-menu specials throughout the year, and some of them are available any time. Among them: The C&B raspberry white mocha, the green tea latte, the almond Joyland mocha, the Caribbean Italian soda and the butterscotch Bump Up latte.
Delano BBQ, 710 W. Douglas: This Delano barbecue restaurant has a big menu, but it also serves a sampler platter that features all of its meats and three sides. Fried ribs also are available, and in the summer, it also serves “carnival style” fried ribs, which have a sweet, funnel cake-like coating.
Doo-Dah Diner, 206 E. Kellogg: Only regulars know that the fried chicken strips served atop the chicken and waffles also can be ordered without the waffle but with a side of fries. Also, the Outside In Burger is on the menu and is stuffed with American cheese and jalapeno bacon. But chef Patrick Shibley is willing to stuff it with mushrooms and blue cheese instead.
Espresso to Go Go, 102 N. St. Francis and 120 E. First St.: Warren and Ann Tandoc run the kind of whimsical coffee shop that’s likely to have several secret drinks available, but in the spirit of the secret, they don’t discuss it. However, when Alton Brown visited Wichita in October 2014, he famously blogged about his dining adventures and noted a drink from Espresso to Go Go’s secret menu: The Sid Vicious, made with seven shots of espresso mixed with five sugars. A co-worker also told me about a drink called Velvet Thunder that he swears is the best thing the coffee shop serves and involves caramelizing the sugar in the drink before adding half and half and espresso shots.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard, several Wichita locations: Freddy’s has a secret menu, too, and it includes a burger dog, which is a steak burger topped with a Vienna hot dog, plus a BLT sandwich and a BBQ burger. Any sandwich on the menu also can be served as a lettuce wrap or on top of a bed of lettuce as a salad. The custard menu also contains several secret creations, including the Nutter Butter concrete, an employee-devised dessert that combines custard, crushed Nutter Butter wafers and peanut butter.
Il Vicino, 4817 E. Douglas: The employees at this College Hill pizza place have invented several of their own dishes, and they sometimes share those ideas with customers. A few that have caught on: removing the Alfredo sauce from the penne Alfredo and substituting it with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts; a chicken Alfredo pizza; and a Caesar salad sandwich, which puts all the ingredients of the Caesar salad on bread with chicken.
Little Saigon, 1015 N. Broadway: As I reported last month, Little Saigon has at least two off-the-menu specials that were invented by KSN meteorologist Dave Freeman and his lunchtime cohorts. One is referred to as “The KSN” and features fried rice piled high with the restaurant’s signature char-broiled pork. The other, “The KSN 2,” includes a modification made by health-concious Freeman: a smaller portion of the rice and pork with a side of steamed veggies.
Meddys, 7906 E. Harry: This Mediterranean restaurant serves a tempting off-the-menu dish: an open-faced kefta on pita, which features ground beef mixed with onion, parsley and Lebanese seven-spices chicken that’s spread on pita, grilled, then topped with cherry tomatoes, parsley and tahini sauce.
Molino’s, 1064 N. Waco, 7817 E. 37th St. North. This Mexican restaurant’s vegetarian diners have created a secret menu all their own. Among the unlisted items available: a pirata filled with cauliflower instead of meat, a fried tamale with grilled veggies and an over-easy egg on top, and street tacos filled with grilled veggies instead of steak, chicken or pork.
The Monarch, 579 W. Douglas: The staff has come up with several off-the-menu specialties at this bar, including a grilled cheese sandwich with cream cheese and a hot link on it; fried goat cheese balls with marinara sauce for dipping; a Philly cheese steak flatbread, which features cream cheese, sauteed onions, roasted red peppers, smoked brisket and cheddar cheese baked on naan bread; and a Buffalo chicken wrap made in a spinach tortilla.
Pig In Pig Out, 1003 E. 13th St.: It’s not on the menu, but plenty of customers know about this barbecue restaurant’s Fireman’s sandwich, a giant made with pulled pork or brisket plus hot links and turkey. It’s never been on the menu, owners say, but they sell it all the time. A newcomer to the secret menu is the “Toastbuster,” which features choice of meat and the restaurant’s mac and cheese served on Texas toast.
Public at the Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island: This gastropub tops its banh mi pork sandwich with a mixture called “yum yum,” made of pickled mung bean sprouts, carrots and scallions. But Public’s staff has learned that yum yum is good on top of the restaurant’s brisket tacos as well, and diners can try them for themselves. Also, Sunday brunch diners can order $5 mimosas, but if they ask for a double, it’s only $8.
Taste and See, 255 N. Washington: Chef Jason Febres took his Latin hamberguesa, topped with a fried egg, avocado and cilantro aioli, off the menu, but he’ll still make it by request. He’ll also make smoked salmon Sriracha mac and cheese with watercress and crab. That dish was once a special, but customers have requested it ever since, and the kitchen is happy to oblige.
Ziggy’s Pizza, 3700 E. Douglas: This pizzeria has a regular named Luke who invented one of its secret menu items: chicken wings coated in the restaurant’s Buffalo sauce that’s been blended with barbecue sauce and Tabasco. People who know about the wings call the sauce “Ziggy’s Blend.” Other regulars have invented a decadent pizza sauce that combines marinara, buffalo or barbecue sauce with the restaurant’s cream cheese spread. “The result is a creamy, tasty pie that will change your outlook on pizza, and maybe life,” said co-owner Jamie Verbeckmoes.
Fast food options: Several websites are dedicated to uncovering secret menus at fast-food restaurants. Among the frequently mentioned options: extra-crispy fries at Five Guys; nachos at Chipotle; apple pie Frappuccinos and eight-ounce “short” sized drinks at Starbucks; chicken cordon blue sub at Subway; Sonic’s pickle-os and purple Sprite; Arby’s “meat mountain” sandwich; Wendy’s Barnyard Burger with beef, spicy chicken and bacon.