#949 Ordering off the menu at fast food restaurants

McDonald's Neopolitan Shake

[digg=http://digg.com/food_drink/Ordering_from_the_secret_menu_at_fast_food_restaurants] Ever had a neopolitan milkshake from McDonald’s?

One where they layer the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors in the same cup, creating a thick, icy, slow-moving light-brown-swirls-with-pink-flecks taste sensation? Yeah, my friend Chad was a regular customer of those. Of course, when he was working at McDonald’s he got sick of the regular menu pretty quickly and started tinkering in the back like a mad scientist with his coworkers, developing exotic, unstable, and unpredictable meal creations with the ingredients on hand. Yes, there were failed attempts, like the Chicken McNugget Flurry, but sometimes they struck gold and created a new off-the-menu line extension. I guess this is fairly common, because there are reports of online McDonald’s employee communities, where insider recipes such as the McBrushetta and McPancakeBatterFunnelCakes are shared.

Now, my world opened up when I first realized with Chad that you could order off-the-menu at fast food restaurants. Since that time I’ve learned about a few other secret options around. Like for instance:

Wendy’s – The Grand Slam. If the single, double, or triple hamburgers at Wendy’s just don’t cut it for you, just go all out and order the massive four-patty grand slam. Also known as the Classic Quadruple or The Meat Cube.Freshly squeezed and piping room temperature

McDonald’s – Fries with Big Mac Sauce. Lots of people put fries right on the burger, which I agree tastes delicious. But this technique allows you to switch things up a bit and put some of your burger’s best feature right on your fries. Try to ignore protests from your arteries, and just ask for that a little cup of Big Mac Sauce on the side for dipping.

Starbucks – The Red Eye. A cup of coffee with a shot of espresso dumped in. Now, I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but apparently you can even upgrade this to two shots which is called a Black Eye.  I presume upgrading to three shots is called a Jumpy, Unblinking Eye.

Most Fish & Chip places – Batter Bits. I knew a girl who was all over these. She’d lean in and guiltily ask in a hushed whisper and the guy behind the counter would nod slowly and hand over a wet, greasy paper bag full of all the batter drippings that fell into the oil by accident. Yeah, this is the bottom of the barrel of off-the-menu stylings. It ain’t always pretty out there.

In N' Out's famous animal-style burger

In-N-Out Burger – Animal Style Hamburger. The well-known ‘secret menu‘ at In-N-Out features this heavenly gem — their regular burger patty cooked in mustard, then topped with extra pickles, extra spread, and grilled onions. Yessir, In-N-Out will whip anything up — including messy Animal Style Fries or even a 100×100 order (100 patties and 100 slices of dee-licious cheese.)

Subway – The Pizza Sub. Apparently this one’s like sasquatch. There are scattered sightings everywhere and a few grainy videos that may have been tampered with. Another favorite from Subway, though not technically a menu item, is simply ‘the old cut’, where they dig a trench in your bread instead of just slicing it, leading to better cold cut and veggie distribution. Also known for causing The Wing Effect, where your bologna hangs out the sides of your sandwich for some tasty pre-nibbles.

McDonald’s – Big Mac with Quarter Pounder patties. One last McDonald’s fixture — the ol’ bun-heavy Big Mac surgically altered to become a meat-heavy Big Mac with Quarter Pounder patties instead. Now you’re much less likely to get that dreaded All-Bun first bite.

Starbucks secret short cup

Starbucks – The Short Cup. Even though the smallest size on the Starbucks menu is a ‘Tall’, they do offer a secret ‘Short’ size behind the counter. Perfect for that between-coffee-breaks coffee.

Now, I’m only one man, so I’m sure there are hundreds of great off-the-menu gems that I’ve never heard of or know about. But that’s the beauty! There are all these little surprises just waiting to be discovered. What possible fast-food mouth love will we discover next?

Ordering off the menu at fast food restaurants is a great deal. Maybe you’re the loyal customer looking for that new taste. Maybe you have strict dietary restrictions so it’s either off-the-menu or no-menu-at-all. Or maybe you’re just a grumpy guy who makes flippant off-the-menu requests with a deep scowl and a foot-stomp.

But whatever the case, whatever your background, whatever your taste, I think we can all agree that it sure is nice getting a little something special for lunch now and then.


A 100x100 burger at In 'N' Out

 Photos from: here, here, and here

358 thoughts on “#949 Ordering off the menu at fast food restaurants

  1. I get the kid’s hot chocolate at Starbucks because it’s just the right size and price (maybe $1.10).

    Great blog!

    1. When I worked at Starbucks, we’d actually make a baby hot chocolate in a 2-oz espresso cup. We’d whip cream it and shake on chocolate sprinkles and hand them out, gratis, to tiny children who were too small for a whole 8-oz drink. But I was there in the 90s, there are probably rules against that sort of thing now. I quit in 99 because the rules were stacking up so high.

  2. When I used to work in a chinese food place, we had one lady who would come in and order the batter bits from our sweet & sour chicken. No actual chicken for her! Only artery clogging batter bits, as many as we could scrape together.

  3. While the Chicken McNugget McFlurry may not have earned one of these coveted spots ‘off’ the menu, the Wendy’s Chicken-Nugget Frosty-dip is almost as good as the Wendy’s Frosty-Fry combo. Crispy and salty and creamy and chocolate-y … it may seem a contradiction of flavors for your unsuspecting taste buds, but it’s surprisingly delicious!

    And then there’s the Starbucks Chantico that came in a mocha-colored cup even smaller than the secret short… that heavenly, delectable liquefied chocolate truffle. So sad that they pulled it off the menu a couple years ago, but occasionally you can still find a barista that will bend the rules and make it for you.

  4. In-N-Out will do it protien style too. Just ask for any burger protein style and they will deliver a hot fresh burger sans the bun, but wrapped in a fresh, cool lettuce leaf.

  5. When I was a kid they doled out the ketchup sparingly so I compensated by dipping my fries in the Neopolitan milkshake…. 20 years later it is the only thing I will order from MC D’s the once a year I go there

  6. Where I live, the Pizza Sub is on the menu. It is listed under the “Local Favourites” section. I order it every time I go to Subway or Quizno’s.

    1. Sorry, scrolling through the old entries and thought I’d comment. Oh, man. I love the pizza sub too. But I make sure they put the cheese and the onion together in the oven. Mmmm…

  7. I believe that if you order a large soft drink from Burger King, then you are entitled to free refills. Don’t tell anyone else, though, for it’s a secret so secret that Burger King don’t want anyone to know about it.

    1. Burger King is the best for off-the menus because of the have it your way slogan. never buy a whopper Jr. Buy a regular burger and add the whopper jr. ingredients (lettuce, tomatoe, onion, pickles, mayo, ketchup)
      This ends up being 2 dollars cheeper.
      Also, ask for no salt on the fries and they will definately be fresh because they have to make a new batch without salt.
      They used to have the BK club… its so good and you can still get it. its just the original chicken sandwich +bacon +tomatoe +cheese.

      I used to be a manager there. i know what its about!

      1. Ah yes. I was going to comment with the asking for no salt on your fries thing, but you beat me to it. Works like a miracle and only takes a few minutes more.

  8. I used to work at Subway years ago and remember doing ‘the old cut’ for customers.

    I would also make one batch of ‘Jalapeno Italian Herbs and Cheese bread’ after they officially discontinued it after a month or so. It was the same as the Herbs and Cheese but with 8 jalapeno’s cooked in under the cheese.

  9. When I worked @ Subway back in 96′ I experimented with the said Pizza Sub. My boss got pissed cause I was using the dough sticks wastefully in my attempts. It became to involved to be practical.

  10. Most fast food joints around here have drink dispensers in the dining area and only fill cups for you if you purchase through the drive-thru. Makes no sense to get anything larger then a small if your eatting in. Even better would be getting a 32oz ice-tea for $1 and using that cup.

  11. At Starbucks it is all about the dopio (2 shots of espresso) over ice. You add the milk yourself and get a ice latte for $1.90 instead of straight off the menu for $4++ ;)

  12. there is also an all american at mcdonalds.
    its just a burger with pickles and ketchup.
    thats all my gf gets from McAwesome.

    1. I live in a small town in Australia that promptly declined me.

      When I asked, the answer was “No, what a waste of chicken!”

  13. I am too scared to go into my local fast-food places and ask for anything ‘off the menu’ however I do like the sound of a Neapolitan milkshake though.
    I remember when my neighbour was younger he wasn’t a great fan of burgers from McDs and instead used to order a toasted bun which they used to put through as a 99p ice cream.

    1. Just had an idea for an off-menu item at Maccas – toasted bun with soft-serve ice cream filling. Mmm… it’s a race to finish it before it all melts! A slice of cheese would be the special.

      In the Philippines you could get this concoction from the ice cream street vendors roaming the neighbourhood with their carts.

  14. I can say with certainty that I’ve seen the subway pizza sub. I used to make them! Not for me but for one specific customer that would come in and request it. We even had a special button on our register for him.

    Also, I worked at McDonalds and it was fun to make food concoctions. Best thing by far is the poor-mans-bigmac. You order a double cheeseburger with “mac-sauce” and lettuce (lettuce is free! tomatoes are not, but you don’t put tomatoes on it anyway) and you can ask for diced onions if you like. The ONLY difference between the 3$ sandwich and this $1 sandwich is the sesame seed bun!

  15. Actually they SELL the big mac with quarter pounder patties up here in Alaska, it’s called the Mc Kinley Mac, it’s like a dollar or two more expensive than the regular one.
    However, everytime I’ve tried to eat it, I’ve almost thrown up…

  16. In Japan batter bits (or ten-kasu – Tempura dregs) are an ingredient used in other things – typically okonomiyaki (Japanese omelette). And they say it’s a healthy diet!

  17. Here in the UK (Northern England at least) we call Batter Bits ‘Scraps’ – they’re so nice and complement the meal perfectly :)

    I’ll be sure to persuade the McDonalds staff to make me one of those 1/2lb Macs too! (wasn’t it an official menu item once, called the Mega Mac?)

  18. @ Tracy

    Actually starbucks can’t make the chantico. They don’t actually have the ingredients for it any more.

  19. I had a stint at Jamba Juice and they have a couple of interesting drinks off the menu.

    Try Strawberry Shortcake
    Red or White Gummi Bear
    Pink Starburst
    Raspberry Rainbow
    and a couple of others. Just don’t ask the cashier directly about the menu. We have orders to deny the secret menu’s existence. :-)

    1. I am at Jamba… yeah, you can substitute just about anything on the menu with something else. Not to mention if you know how to substitute, you can get a custom drink of your own making. People do it all the time.

  20. The Red Eye from Starbucks is essentially just a Depth Charge (never heard of it called a Red Eye) from any other coffee joint. And at most any other coffee shop its on the menu usually grab them from Caribou.

  21. Another favorite secret item at In-n-Out is the Flying Dutchman. This one will really get an older associate excited to make your order too as it’s a rare order. It’s a cheese and grilled onion sandwich with the burger patties for the “bread”. They serve it in the paper sleave no lettuce, no bun. Old School baby…

    You mentioned Animal Fries, for those not ready for that kind of action you can get just cheese fries.

    I used to love the old cut with Subway and never understood why they stopped as it made their sandwiches stand out. If you get a meatball or other messy sub like the teriaki chicken the old cut is a must.

  22. The “Batter Bits” as you call them are actually (or were) quite common in Yorkshire, UK.

    Commonly called “Scraps”, you’d have a bag of these for free, usually a single scoop thrown into a greaseproof bag and ate on the way home from school. If you were lucky, you’d sometimes get the tail end of a fish!

    Not so common now unfortunately, but were a daily occurance back in the late 70’s and early 80’s if you wanted a quick nibble while walking home.

  23. Try order Pepsi without the water at Burger King. It’s the sirup which is mixed with water at the location. Had a friend who would only drink this sirup. “Pepsi but hold the water”. He also went only to Burger King, Coca Cola sirup was just not the same he claimed.

    1. Ugh, take me to your Burger Kings. All of ours only carry Coke products. I gotta go to Arby’s if I want my Pepsi fix.

    2. KFC/Pizza Hut/Taco Hell (I mean, Taco Bell)/Long John Silvers/A&W (if you have them) all fall under the same umbrella company, and are all signed with Pepsi products in the States. Arby’s also is signed with Pepsi Co., as are a few fancier restaurants. McD, BK, Sonic, Dairy Queen, and most other smaller companies have their contracts with Coca Cola. Not that I eat out much or anything. I just tend to prefer Pepsi products, but they’re not as commonly offered at fast food places. I get my Diet Pepsi fix (yes, I’m a diet drink weirdo- the others are tooooo too syrupy….even Diet Dr. Pepper is too syrupy for me…) from QT (QuikTrip), a gas station found commonly in the area I live in, and they have their 32oz drinks on sale for 59cents now, so I’m hitting them up all the time. Hey, it’s cheap!!

      Anyhow, I don’t see how ANYONE can get (or drink) just the syrup. The syrup is hooked to a machine in the back from a huge box. The syrup comes in huge bags to which a hose is connected that filters them through the carbonation system so that they come through the fountain as the carbonated drink. After working at a fast food place for way too long, and seeing how the system works, I don’t see any way a person could hand someone a cup of syrup. The systems have to be calibrated by the company frequently to make sure the syrup to carbonated water ratio is correct, and the only way to get the syrup out would be to disconnect the system from the back room and somehow siphon just enough syrup out of the bag to serve someone a cup of syrup. It just doesn’t seem feasible. And why would someone want the syrup anyway? The drink itself is syrupy enough!!

      I call FAIL.

      1. If you press the lever underneath in just slightly but not all the way back like you normally would do then it will leak just the syrup, as the syrup trigger is before the water one, we used to do this to get a hit of sugary goodness on a long shift!

  24. Starbucks also has a double expresso shot called an Undertow. It usually run around $2.30-2.50. Also some McDonalds that have the automated order machine you can order a Double Big Mac.

  25. An even better Subway secret item would be the Subway Quesadilla. It involves the Subway Wrap (which was not long ago switched to the equivalent of a tortilla shell) then load chicken/steak along with shredded cheese and all the veggies you want onto one side, then fold the tortilla in half. Then pop the whole thing in the toaster for a melty inside and crisp outside. Add or dip into chipotle sauce for the extra mexican flare.

    1. We dont have the wraps anymore. We only have flat breads. So that isn’t an option anymore. Just like pizza subs aren’t an option if the Subway is next to a Dominos. :-) Also I know in my store we are NOT allowed to do the “old cut” anymore because the company wants us to do the new cut for a reason….blah blah blah.

      1. Still have the wraps in Canada!

        I eat them regularly.

        I miss the old cut….

        The new cut is..impractical .

  26. My friends who used to work at Arby’s made Big Montanas way before they were ever a menu item.

    Apparently, if you can catch the eye of the guy making your sandwich, the universal sign for “hook me up with some extra roast beef” is to put your hands about a foot apart, like this: | | then move them together like you’re squishing a giant sandwich.

  27. Long John Silvers: Ask for an order of ‘crumbs.’ Those are the batter bits, and every LJS I’ve been to calls ’em by the same name, though they’re not on the menu.

  28. Where I live the pizza sub is on the Local Favorites menu as well.

    I grew up in a city that had no White Castle. We could go into McDonalds and get a cheeseburger or hamburger with grilled onions, steamed bun plus pickles and get a nearly “slider” substitute. Mac sauce in a cup is a standard with the McDonalds here. Some stores charge you a little, others don’t.

    Also, the batter bits at fish places around here you can ask for “extra crunchies” to get.

    1. I wish Texas had White Castles…..

      I can’t wait til July, when we go to St. Louis, and I can have White Castles…

      We have Krystal Burgers here, but they’re just not the same!!!

  29. McDonald’s has a few other hidden little treasures.

    Root Beer Floats (most employees don’t even know this, but it’s in some systems!)
    Plain biscuits
    Plain griddle cakes
    Sandwiches WITHOUT the bun

    You can get side dishes of pretty much ANYTHING, like:
    Sausage, Meat patties, Chicken patties, eggs (scrambled, folded, or round), condiments, bacon, canadian bacon…just to name a few.

    There’s also been the occassional still frozen products for take home travel, like hotcakes and cinnamon rolls.

    Also, Cinnamon rolls and hotcakes (just regular, no sausage or eggs) are available ALL DAY, because they just need to be heated up and they can be served.

    I worked there a while. I’m pretty lame like that.

  30. I forgot Taco Bell. There was an old favorite called the Chilito. You can still order it, and some stores have put it back on the menu under the name “Chili cheese burrito”. Also, if you find one that will try things for you, get a tortilla and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture they put on the twists, roll it up and steam the crap out of it till the sugar is good and melted. It makes a nice little cinnamon roll.

      1. I miss them so much – not on the menu here up north. I’ve even asked for it at a few places and they had no idea what to do.. I’ve even called it a Chilito and they look at me funny. I did find one place in Ohio that had them on the menu. I ate there for lunch 3 times out of 4 that I was there that week…

  31. Here’s another Starbucks treat:
    The Marble Mocha Macchiato. It’s a mocha with a layer of white, milk, and dark chocolate syrups. The flavor changes as you drink it! It’s delicious and every starbucks I’ve asked for it at has made it though it’s not on the menu.

    The marking they put on the cup is “MMM” for “Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm yum!” ;)

    1. I used to work at a Starbucks, and my favorite off-menu creation was a pumpkin chai tea latte (just a regular chai tea with the pumpkin syrup). Also, white chocolate chai and eggnog chai are also delicious =)
      ps. favorite for summertime: lemonade and the strawberry frapp syrup = strawberry lemonade!!

      1. yum! I love the strawberry lemonades!
        (and they can be served shaken or blended depending on your preference :)

  32. The best is folded egg at McDonalds. Like a scrambled egg rather that a bite of white, a bite of white. Scrambled and folded and delicious on a breakfast sandwich.

  33. FYI, the “old cut” at Subway was called the “classic cut” internally – at least at the Subways around where I lived. They had signs up teaching employees how to do both cuts, so older employees could learn the old and newer employees would be able to do the classic cut if requested.

    Unfortunately they no longer teach new employees about the classic cut, and every time I’ve had one try they always fuck it up and end up ruining the bread.

  34. Tia, you reminded me of 2 more from McD’s.

    Where I live they don’t have root beer, but you can get coke floats and sprite floats…sprite floats are really good.

    Also, the orange drink you can buy a gallon of the syrup for a reasonable price and make it at home. I love that stuff.

  35. Not sure what you mean the pizza sub. There use to be a menu item called the pizza sub back in the early 90’s. It was basically just pepperoni with meatball marinara sauce. From your description though I think you mean how the bread is sliced. Again, back in the 1990’s and earlier that is the way Subway used to cut the bread. They would cut what was essentially a triangle wedge out of the top for the length of the loaf and fold all the sandwich ingredients into the the bread vs how the they just slice and pile now. It made for a much puffier and tastier sandwich.

  36. Great post! I knew about In-and-out burger, but not about the rest. I don’t eat fast food as much as a used to out of a fear of cardiac arrest in my middle age, but I can just imagine the tastes of some of those gems. Quarter-Pounder Big Mac? Come on, who doesn’t want one of those. Or the Big Mac Sauce for fries. Anyway, thanks for the great post. Keep up the good work and I hope you’ll visit our site for your political fix of the day. Have a great day.
    Jerame Clough
    -Next Gen Politics

  37. Also, Jamba Juice has a huge selection of secret items.

    My favourite is Strawberry Shortcake, but there are also some like White Gummy Bear :]

  38. My 9-year old son is an “off menu” professional! His favourite is Subway…honey oat bread, chicken teriyaki strips, bacon and white cheddar toasted with a squeeze of mayo…done!

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