Nothing makes people feel quite as special as being in on a secret. Whether we're talking knowing about an entire bar, or just an appetizer, it’s always a little cool when you can share something none of your friends have discovered yet. Eventually, though, the burger gets out of the bag; most of Boston’s secret menu items of yesteryear have graduated to actual menus, so they’re not exactly "secret" anymore (think: the "secret" burgers at Drink, or Alden & Harlow). Want to show you’re in the know? Order one of these dishes on the down low.
Kirkland hot dog
The Kirkland Tap & TrotterAddress and Info
Tony Maws’ gourmet hot dog at The Kirkland Tap & Trotter is a somewhat more casual counterpoint to his Craigie burger, but hands-down still the swankiest hot dog you’ll ever eat in Boston. Available in limited quantities on Mondays and only by request, the dogs are made of grass-fed beef chuck and pork shoulder, and wrapped in a homemade pretzel bun, then topped with spicy relish and homemade mustard.
Craigie on MainAddress and Info
The bar at Craigie is wonderful for many reasons: dope cocktails, fun bartenders, multiple varieties of absinthe, and a great secret burger that a lot of people still don’t know about (despite massive critical acclaim). Chef Tony Maws makes 18 a night especially for the bar area, and they’re gone before you can blink. If you do manage to snag one, you’re in for a grass-fed craft burger done beautifully, infused with bone marrow and miso, and topped with cheddar, lettuce, crispy onions, bacon, and a fried egg.
ToroAddress and Info
When the menu is as wonderful and varied as Toro’s, you hardly need to ask for something special. But hey, if you’re going to, you could do a lot worse than the restaurant’s super-secret variation on its dry-aged mini burgers. They’re normally served with tomato jam, aioli, and pickled red onion, but “messy style” means they're also piled with Toro’s special sauce, garlic aioli, lime, Espelette pepper, and aged Cotija cheese -- the same toppings that are normally served with the grilled corn.
Area FourAddress and Info
There’s a cult following around this Cambridge artisanal pizza joint’s off-menu pie, a margherita pizza with soppressata, homemade pickled banana peppers, and two huge eggs baked on top. You can get it as late as 11pm, making it one of the best late-night snacking options in the area.
Numb wings & kaiju-style daikon fries
Night MarketAddress and Info
At Night Market, printed copies of the secret menu are given to those who specially request them (and people the waitstaff deem particularly cool). One of the favorite secrets: the numb wings. These things are coated with a crazy Chinese peppercorn that literally numbs your mouth. It feels a little like coming off novocaine, but with more heat and less unattractive drooling. We’re also big fans of the kaiju-style spin on the restaurant’s popular daikon fries, which are topped with a hearty pulled pork ragu and soft-boiled egg. They’re like poutine... if poutine were Asian, and slathered in meat sauce, and didn’t involve any of the ingredients that actually define poutine. Wash it all down with a swig of secret beer (also on the menu) to complete the experience.
The Cubio, aka the super SUPER burrito
Anna’s TaqueriaAddress and Info
Porter Square (& other locations)
If you ask for the Cubio at most Anna’s, they won’t know what you’re talking about. It’s so secret that even the staff don’t know about it. So you can hold up the entire line by calling over a manager, or you can go to one of the locations with a little sign on the counter advertising the super SUPER burrito, which is the original name of the Cubio, according to local legend. This Tex-Mex monstrosity clocks in at a hulking four pounds, is 2.5ft long, and contains whatever meat and toppings you want to put into it. It is roughly the size of your arm from elbow to fingertips, so bring friends... lots and lots of friends.
Russell House TavernAddress and Info
As if an oyster happy hour and a top-notch beer selection weren’t enough, Russell House Tavern has a rotating secret burger every night, and it’s always incredible. The toppings change approximately weekly, but the last one we heard of was topped with bacon and homemade mustard on a pretzel bun. Find out whenever it changes by following the restaurant on social media.
1. The Kirkland Tap & Trotter425 Washington St, Somerville
2. Craigie on Main853 Main St, Cambridge
3. Toro1704 Washington St, Boston
4. Area Four500 Technology Sq, Cambridge
5. Night Market71-93 Winthrop St, Boston
6. Anna's Taqueria822 Somerville Ave, Cambridge
7. Russell House Tavern14 JFK St, Cambridge
Tony Maws' Somerville gastropub is more laid-back than its upscale sibling, Craigie on Main, but the food is just as good. Inspired by English neighborhood pubs, KT&T wants to be the kind of place you can go every night of the week, so it serves an American comfort menu that will have you begging for more. Both brunch and dinner are a meat-lover's paradise, and the kind of amazing grass-fed cheeseburger is available on both menus.
Chef and owner Tony Maws' Craigie on Main serves French-accented bistro food in Central Square. The à la carte and tasting menus are constantly changing with exciting new dishes, but one signature remains: The Burger. The half-pound patty blends brisket, short rib, bone marrow, and suet into one unforgettable burger that reached peak food fame when it graced the cover of Bon Appétit.
Get yourself to the South End and try some of Toro's Barcelona-style tapas for lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette put a modern twist on Spanish small plates by using regional ingredients to craft favorites like salt cod fritters, garlic shrimp, braised beef tongue, and grilled corn with aioli. Be sure to save room for the paella, made the traditional Valencia way with shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo, and chicken. A Spanish wine list complements it all.
Area Four keeps its seats filled with its famously crispy, wood-fired crust. Beginning with a starter that’s more than 10 years old, the dough is fermented for 30 hours or more, then topped with hand-pulled mozzarella. That is, if you want mozzarella: Area Four’s signature mozzarella tops most of its pies, but there are a couple other options -- including its ridiculously tasty clams & bacon pizza -- that opt out of mozzarella for a finish of nutty pecorino. Though it's known for dinner, Area Four serves traditional morning fare like breakfast sandwiches and pastries, plus a stellar breakfast pizza with cheddar cheese, potato, eggs, and bacon.
The colorful, high-energy eatery in Cambridge in subterranean digs is known for its eclectic adaptation of Asian street food (only available in the evening). Menu items include Xinjiang meatballs (made with lamb, cumin, coriander, and chili), curry carnitas tacos, and a "tasting journey" that includes all of the chef's favorites. Cocktails are offered during all business hours, while a secret menu is available to those who ask.
Anna's Taqueria is a local mini-chain that's beloved by Bostonians for its simple Mexican food. The casual spot serves a standard menu packed tight with creamy guac, salty tortilla chips, and foil-wrapped burritos that literally stand on their own. Grilled steak and roast pork are foolproof fillings, but the grilled veggie medley caters to the meat-averse without skimping on volume. If you can stomach it, order the monstrous, off-menu Cubio Burrito -- it weighs 4lbs and you'll get some major street cred for conquering it.
Named for the 19th century Harvard furniture dealer that first occupied the building, RHT is a two-floored pub/resto in bustling Harvard Square, brought to you from the owners of Grafton Street/Temple Bar. RHT's slinging a New England-heavy menu of modern American "artisanal fare" and craft beers. Their craft cocktail is also definitely worth checking out.