Food & Drink

Secret Menu Items in Boston You Really Need to Know About

Kim Prosise Published On 09/13/2013 Published On 09/13/2013
secret pizza area 4 thrillist boston egg mozzarella in front of oven glass of beer
Courtesy of Area 4

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.

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Kirkland hot dog

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Address and Info

Cambridge

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.

Secret burger

Craigie on Main 

Address and Info

Central Square

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.

Toro

"Messy" hamburguesas

Toro

Address and Info

South End

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.  

Secret peetza

Area Four

Address and Info

Kendall Square

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.

Courtesy of Night Market

Numb wings & kaiju-style daikon fries

Night Market

Address and Info

Harvard Square

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 Taqueria

Address 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 Tavern

Secret burger

Russell House Tavern 

Address and Info

Harvard Square

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.

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1. The Kirkland Tap & Trotter 425 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143 (Inman Square)

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.

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2. Craigie on Main 853 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (Central Square)

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.

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3. Toro 1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

Get yourself to the South End and try some of Toro's Barcelona-style tapas for lunch, dinner, or even brunch on Sundays. Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette put a modern twist on these Spanish-inspired small plates using regional ingredients to deliver on so many favorites: salt cod fritters, garlic shrimp, braised beef tongue, and of course, the grilled corn with aioli, all perfectly complemented by the Spanish wine list. Be prepared for a wait if you come at night, especially on a weekend.

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4. Area Four 500 Technology Sq, Cambridge, MA 02139 (Kendall Square)

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.

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5. Night Market 71-93 Winthrop St, Boston, MA 02119 (West Cambridge)

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.

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6. Anna's Taqueria Porter Square 822 Somerville Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140 (Porter Square)

The Porter Square location of this popular, counter-serve Boston chain is favorite spot for Boston foodies, offering choose-your-own-adventure tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more. Despite the fact that the fixings and sides are pretty standard (sour cream, guacamole, chips), Anna's Taqueria is not your average Mexican food joint. Be sure to try the Cubio -- a monstrous (and secret!) four pound, 2.5ft long Tex-Mex super burrito, made with whatever your hungry heart desires.

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7. Russell House Tavern 14 JFK St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Harvard Square)

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.

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