“Hey, you know what you should try? Ordering off the SECRET MENU, bro. Like, ask for a McChicken, but instead of the chicken, get them to put, like, a McFlurry on there! #lifehack #yolo #iamlungcancerinhumanform”
Regular readers will know that there are many, many things that make me angry: classism, Yelp, whichever jackass submitted “truffle fries” to Lays as part of their yearly contest, tomatoes.* Perhaps none of them make me angrier, however, than the entire concept of fast food “secret menus” and the people who worship at their altar.
Sites dedicated to deciphering secret menus are bad enough—that goes without saying—but posts about secret menu items and “fast food hacks” (god, I hate myself for even typing that) have become sickeningly popular lately. These exercises in self-congratulation are everywhere. Excited posts abound about how the Secret Menu really does exist (!!!!!!!!!!!), reporting the news as if imparting some grand magisterial wisdom. Spice up your trip to Taco Bell—a restaurant which features the exact same five ingredients slammed together in roughly 40 different configurations—by inventing a burrito, but, like, made out of nachos, man. Or ask for a quesadilla at Chik-Fil-A, which I’m reasonably sure would result in fellow customers wearing Scott Walker campaign t-shirts asking you if you’re “one o’ them dirty illegal rapists what we should be keepin’ out with a border fence.”
Everything about these posts are terrible, but more than anything, it’s the self-important tone that turns something otherwise generally innocuous if a bit dumb into something far more groan-inducing. I can’t believe I have to actually clarify this, but we need to stop pretending the discovery of new ways to smoosh cheeseburgers together—and the breathless, orgiastic reporting of said discoveries—makes us akin to Edmund fucking Hilary. We are none of us intrepid explorers journeying to the dark, unforgiving summit of a culinary Everest; we’re just hungry motherfuckers who were stoned/bored/suicidally stupid enough to think “hey, what’d happen if they made a Big Mac out of Apple Pies?”
Mea culpa: I did once write a post about the McGangbang in which I did not, unaccountably, shit all over the idea of Secret Menu posts. In my defense, I had only been doing this job for a month at that point, and I was young and stupid. Unfortunately for my readers, time only cures one of those ills.
Getting back to the matter at hand, though, the crucial point is this: there is no such thing as a “secret menu.” They do not exist as people wish to understand them. The entire concept is a falsehood perpetrated by idiots drunk on some warped thrill of discovery. Even the Reddit post supposedly confirming the existence of McDonalds’ secret menu that had food websites collectively losing their shit recently does no such thing. In response to a question about “can you confirm the Secret Menu exists,” a McDonald’s manager said:
You can order from the ‘Secret Menu’. Just like with any of our sandwiches, you can add, remove or change ingredients by special request. These are called ‘grill orders’ (i.e. Big Mac no pickle)
The items on the ‘secret menu’ weren’t invented by anyone officially at McDonald’s, it’s just a random persons guide to burgers you could potentially ‘hack’ at McDonald’s.
Order one and the workers might not know it by name (i.e. Land, Air and Sea burger or the McGangBang) but if you explain what it is, and are willing to pay for all the ingredients, it’s just another ‘grill order’ that we can make up.
Unfortunately, apparently every person who read this stopped at “HE SAID YOU CAN ORDER FROM THE SECRET MENU OMG SECRET MENUS ARE REAL JESUS HAS RISEN MCGANGBANGS FOR ALL” and missed the rest of the quote, where he goes on to say, “I mean, sure, it technically exists in that the things you guys claim are on it can be made by human hands if you ask for them specifically.”
In other words, they can do special orders. That’s it. There’s no secret menu. There are special orders where they throw ingredients together in unusual ways after being forced to by customers, probably after fantasizing about holding said customer’s head in the deep fryer. This isn’t news; this is how fast food restaurants have operated since their inception. None of you are unearthing some grand secrets the wise McElders hid from human sight, that only the worthy might one day discover them. You’re just throwing shit at the wall and calling yourself special for it.
Ordering off the secret menu is also a dick move in the same vein as inventing your own items at a sit-down restaurant. At a sit-down restaurant, this might maybe be tolerable if it’s slow and you’re a regular, favored customer who tips unreasonably well and if you’re extremely polite about it, but there’s a special place in hell reserved for any manager who coddles idiot rando customers who invent their own menu items during rushes.
The problem with this as it applies to fast food is that corporate culture is such that managers live in terror of telling a customer no—even for a good reason—because it’s their ass on the line when that dipshit customer calls or emails corporate that the very rude** manager refused to accommodate their extremely reasonable*** request that they cook the french fries only on one side, then season them in unicorn tears, then cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. What’s worse, usually the company, terrified by the spectre of bad PR, will kowtow and concede that yes, it was inexcusable that the mean old manager wasn’t willing to face the terror of Shelob for the sake of her McGreaseFucker Value Meal, and they should be fired right away!
Bottom line: the secret menu doesn’t exist, and even if it did, don’t order off the secret menu. Don’t be an ass. If you don’t like what an eatery is serving, go somewhere else. If nowhere appears to be serving it, learn to cook and make it at home. Just, for the love of God, stop inflicting your own sense of self-importance and desperate, all-consuming need to feel special on food service workers. And if you’re a writer considering whether to make a post on secret menus, there’s one important question to ask yourself: does your URL read Clickhole.com? No? Then maybe you should just not.
* Some of you might be wondering why Guy Fieri is not on this list. Simple: Guy Fieri does not make me angry. I love Guy Fieri, unironically and unabashedly. He is insane and terrible, yes, but the important thing is that he is wildly entertaining in the process and gives me plenty of story fodder. I never, ever want Guy Fieri to go away, ever.
** Extremely polite.
*** Batshit fucking loco.
Image via FocusDzign/Shutterstock.