The first time I heard about a secret menu, I was standing in line at Jamba Juice and my friend told me to order a Pink Star. As an upright, rule-abiding smoothie drinker, I was puzzled. (“Pink Star? That’s not on the menu!”) Aforementioned friend quickly explained that some fast-food chains have a selection of off-the-menu items available only by request. The catch: you have to know what to ask for.
True, ordering a Pink Star (tastes like a pink starburst—it’s true) at Jamba Juice might impress your less savvy friends. But the fact is many secret menu items are off the books for good reason. Take Subway’s pizza sub—topped with tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese—which was promptly pulled when Subway started advertising its healthy menu options. Or Burger King’s aptly named Suicide Burger (four patties, four slices of bacon). It’s no surprise that, when restaurants began disclosing nutritional facts, they ditched the heaviest meals faster than you can say “heart attack.”
BUT—before you trash the secret menu forever, know this: There are a few restaurants where the secret menu actually offers healthier choices. What are they? I’m so glad you asked . . .
Panera has one of the better publicized off-menu lists, and this one is all about low-carb treats for veggie-lovers. The following dishes are available at all Panera locations in the US. Just tell them you’re ordering from the Hidden Menu and they’ll take it from there.
- Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey (roasted turkey, egg whites, baby spinach, roasted peppers, and basil pesto)
- Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak (two eggs, seared top sirloin, sliced avocado, and tomatoes)
- Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad (chicken, baby spinach, romaine, tomatoes, apple-wood smoked bacon, diced eggs, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil)
- Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad (roasted turkey, baby spinach, romaine, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil)
- Power Chicken Hummus Bowl (chicken, cilantro jalapeno hummus, baby spinach, cucumbers, diced tomatoes, red onions, lemon, and cilantro)
- Power Steak Lettuce Wraps (seared top-sirloin, lettuce, cucumbers, diced tomatoes, red onions, basil pesto, and lemon)
Trying to eat low-carb? Ask for any of their burgers “protein style” and they’ll be happy to swap out your hamburger bun for iceberg lettuce.
Starbucks has an extensive secret menu full of decadent drinks, but if you’re looking to cut back on calories, you really should know about their secret drink size: the short. This unadvertised 8 oz cup is just the thing for anyone aiming for better portion control. Slightly less expensive than the 12 oz tall, the short saves calories and cash.
Go on then—give these secret options a whirl. I promise you’ll feel pretty cool. Like a secret agent. (And if you’re really going for the full experience, wearing sunglasses and giving a fake name wouldn’t hurt either.)