Special orders rarely upset the fast food and made-to-order power drink restaurants these days and off-the-menu ordering from so-called “secret menus” has become an art form fueled by word-of-mouth and online social networking.
Corporate franchises such as Starbuck’s, In-N-Out Burger, Jamba Juice and even mom and pop cafes like the Zephyr, are quick to embrace the growing popularity of off-menu ordering. Some secret menus are so well known that they are not really secret any more.
Alejandro Palma, a manager at the Starbuck’s across from PCC, said that off-menu items such as the Harry Potter inspired “Butter Beer,” the “Snicker Doodle,” the “Banana Cream Pie” and the “Horchata” have often been requested.
“Every hour, we get about five customers who ask for secret menu items,” Palma said. “And recently, because they go in fads, the most popular item is a Cotton Candy Frappuccino. That’s a really good one with Raspberry.”
Many secret menu items involve high doses of caffeine that are often simple modifications to official items that Starbuck’s barista’s are trained to create.
Palma was not the least surprised to hear of the high-shot content of a “Liquid Cocaine,” which boasts four shots of espresso, equal shots vanilla syrup and milk.
“Four is not really a lot in our world!,” Palma laughs. “To give you an example, a Venti Iced Double Shot gets five shots of espresso. It’s just called a double shot, but it has five shots. We can make all these drinks, it’s just that we don’t get trained on them. So, every week we’ll get one that we’ve never heard of and say ‘Well what is that?’ so they’ll look it up and find the recipe and then we’ll make them for them.”
At the In-N-Out Burger on Foothill Boulevard and Craig Avenue, the long drive-thru lines are unhampered by off-menu orders.
“Animal Style” will prompt that a beef patty is grilled with mustard, topped with pickles, tomato, diced grilled onions and a slathering of the house “spread.” “Animal Fries” are similar, with french fries covered in melted American cheese, the same grilled-until-caramelized onions and the spread.
Ashley Hamlin, psychology, said that many PCC students frequent the Jamba Juice bar on Lake Street where she works and order secret menu items.
“We get anywhere from 30-40 [students] every day,” said Hamlin, noting that the most popular custom drink is the “White Gummy Bear” made with peach juice, mango, soy milk, raspberry, lime, pineapple and orange sherbert.
Other creative sounding items are the “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” the “Sour Patch Kids”—with a tart mix of four sherberts, blueberries and lemonade—and the “Skittles,” according to hackthemenu.com.
Britney Cimmino, a PCC business major and a manager at the Zephyr Coffee House and Art Gallery on Colorado Boulevard at Sierra Madre Boulevard, is also frequented by PCC students who come for the coffee, teas, power drinks and sweet and savory crepe dishes, as well as to enjoy the hookah.
“We pretty much get the younger crowd, so people come to study and the drinks are just a plus,” Cimmino said. “The Dirty Chai, which is a chai latte with a shot of espresso, is very popular.”
She also mentioned the high-octane drink, the “Redbull Fusion,” which is a popular modification to a menu item called “The Italian Soda,” which replaces Crystal Geyser soda with the energy drink Red Bull.
But even with the origins of most secret menu items still unknown, the creative spirit lives on in a PCC’s student’s quest to meet hunger, thirst and study fatigue head on.