I don’t know to this day why I thought, or how I knew, to order it. It wasn’t on the menu when I ordered it. It’s not on the menu today. If you walk up to the counter and ask the extra nice person behind the counter for one, though, she’ll touch a few icons on the register screen and, in a minute or so, hand you a bowl* of delicious goodness.
I’m an “off-menu” orderer from way-back. If I’m at the beach and don’t see gumbo on the menu, I’ll ask for it anyway. Or at least I’ll ask them if they have it. A lot of times the waiter will look at me like I’m stupid and with a “no, and I handed you a menu for a reason” look on his face. That’s okay. I get that a lot. It’s the chance you take to get the really good stuff. Occasionally, however, the waiter will look at me like I’ve said the secret phrase and say, “let me check.”
“Let me check.” I believe that is off-menu code for, “I’m going to walk back in to the kitchen and the chef and I will evaluate you on camera to see if you’re cool enough to actually get the last bowl of gumbo.”
I don’t know if that’s true. I have a lot of theories in my head that have no basis in reality.
Sometimes the waiter will come back and say, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t give the last bowl of gumbo goodness to someone wearing Birkenstock clogs in July.” Fair enough.
Sometimes, though, she says, “that Endless Summer t-shirt is on fleek! We had one bowl left!”
At least that’s what I hear them say.
There’s a difference in “off-menu” and “secret menu”. Off-menu is when you come up with a dish idea in your head that isn’t on the menu, and then the chef turns that idea in to a plated meal. “Instead of spinach on a bed of grits, I’d like sautéed kale, seasoned with soy sauce and bacon, on a bed of polenta”, said no one ever, but that would be an example of an off-menu item.
Secret menu items, I theorize, are items that were at one time on the menu, but removed for whatever reason.
Looking back, gumbo is really neither off-menu nor secret menu. It’s too early in the day and too late in this post to correct it, though, and I’d lose my “on fleek” sentence. Sooo, moving on.
The enchirito at Taco Bell is/was an example of a secret menu item. It was on the menu in the ’80s, but then taken off the menu in the late ’90s/early ’00s (early aughts?). It’s back now, but I’ve ordered it at Taco Bell every time I’ve been there for the last 30 years.
Leah went to Taco Bell shortly after we were married and I asked her to bring me an enchirito. She called me from the counter to say that she didn’t see “enchirito” on the menu. “It’s not there”, I answered. “Just order it anyway, and order it like you have 100% authority and confidence that they can make it.”
There’s a certain panache one must employ when going off-menu or secret menu.
Leah came home and said, “They gave it to me! I don’t know what it is, but they charged me $1.29 and they handed me this!” She was so excited.
All that to say, the absolute best off-menu item that I have ever ordered is……..
The chicken biscuit with gravy from Chick-Fil-A!
That’s right! The delicious chicken biscuit that most of us love already, diced in a bowl* and covered with some of the best sausage gravy in the breakfast business! Sometimes they put it in the round bowl and sometimes they put it in the rectangular bowl. I prefer the rectangular bowl because the shape seems to lend itself better to using the hash rounds to sop up the extra gravy, but when you go off-menu, standardization yields to creativity.
When I was deciding whether or not to write this post, I asked a friend if he had ever heard of the chicken biscuit with gravy. “Not until six months ago when your brother-in-law told me about it. It was life changing!”, he said.
I don’t reckon it’s Christian to keep life changing off-menu items to myself and, apparently, my brother-in-law is slow getting the message out, so I decided to write about it this morning. Now seventy or eighty more of you know about it! Just in time for Saturday morning!
CFA also has a breakfast platter that isn’t on the menu. I don’t recall what all comes on it. Eggs, chicken or sausage, a biscuit, gravy or oatmeal or grits or something. Think breakfast wrap, but laid out on a platter for you.
That’s it for this morning. It feels good to write something. It may be the only hour of the day that I feel like I got something accomplished. Y’all have a great day and a great weekend!
*I’ve ordered the chicken biscuit with gravy at Atlanta area Chick-Fil-As and, every time, they give me a regular chicken biscuit with a cup of gravy on the side. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that. The cup is too small to dip the biscuit in, and you can’t very well pour gravy on a whole biscuit. I’m not a savage! So, Atlanta friends, you may have to educate your local CFAs on how to do this. I’ve given up on them ever getting it right. I blame it on Atlanta being full of yankees who are lacking in proper biscuit and gravy techniques, but that’s another post.