Philadelphia Like a cross between your phone’s key code and trying to grab a drink at a speakeasy bar, Secret Menu Items (herein known as SMIs) are all the rage. For the uninitiated, an SMI is something not listed on the traditional menu but the kitchen will crank out upon request. Sites like Hack the Menu catalogue SMIs at national chains like Chipotle, and Shake Shack, and Starbucks (Twix Frappuccino, anyone?). But for the local Philly spots, there’s a little more gumshoe work involved. We sniffed around town, very nicely asking chefs, restaurateurs, and in-the-know diners to tell us the hottest secret menu items. Let us know if we missed any in the comments.
The Revolution Burger
Revolution Taco (address and info)
Revolution Taco’s Revolution Burger is not only a secret, but they only make six of them a day. To get it, you have to ask for it by name. Ten bucks gets you a local (Indian Ridge in Telford), dry-aged beef blend of ribeye and T-bone, topped with bacon sourced from Stryker Farms pork belly with Cooper cheese, roasted poblano crema, and avocado chimichurri sauce. It’s served on a brioche roll from Breakin' Bread Bakery. It’s a handful, a mouthful, and 100% secret. More Stuff You Will Like
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The Little Lion (address and info)
You might be under the impression that you can only get Little Lion’s Southern Poutine during happy hour at the bar. But you’d be wrong! You can order them any time during service, but you have to ask for it by name as you won’t find it on their printed dinner, lunch, or (soon to be launched) brunch menus. Dig into their dry-rubbed, hand-cut fries with pork belly, short rib jus, farmers cheese sauce, fried egg, and with a generous sprinkle of scallion anytime you like. Continue Reading
Superfood bagel with cinnamon raisin cream cheese and bacon
Knead Bagels (address and info)
Washington Square West
Here’s a little secret... Knead can make you the staff-favorite bagel sandwich if you ask: superfood bagel with cinnamon raisin cream cheese and bacon. You can also add bacon to the kale sandwich and pimento cheese to the turkey sandwich, if you feel like remixing the the menu.
Mac and cheese pancakes
Honey’s Sit N' Eat (address and info)
Honey’s is all about having a secret menu. The most popular item: mac and cheese pancakes. People swear by the cheesy, crispy head-sized circle. Honey's also makes an “adult grilled cheese,” which is basically a turkey club sandwich but with double layers but of grilled cheese. You can put bacon, cheese, tomatoes, whatever you like in this off-the-wall creation. There's also the veggie patty melt -- (you know what we're gonna say here) just ask!
Assorted bar bites
Palladino’s (address and info)
This isn’t a secret item per se, but we just got wind that Italian restaurant Palladino's has launched a new late night happy hour with free assorted bites at the bar. Just pop in anytime from 10pm-12am Thursday through Saturday night. You won’t find these anywhere on the late night menu, but you’ll be able to nosh on whatever nibbles the chef feels like making that week. Did we mention it’s free? Because they’re free.
SLiCE (address and info)
Behold the Pizza Cake. It takes one hour to make and it’s eight gooey, cheesey layers piled high. You can get it at the South Philly SLiCE location with an hour's notice at minimum, and, yeah, you won't find it on menu. You have to ask for it.
Beau Monde (address and info)
Beau Monde is known for their crepes, but little known fact: the chefs can make you an omelette. It’s not advertised anywhere on the menu, but they'll do it if you say please.
Kensington Quarters (address and info)
This popular Frankford Ave restaurant/bar/butcher spot hosts fried chicken nights on Tuesdays, steak nights on Sundays, and the occasional pop-up function upstairs, but this SMI can be found in a glass. They have limited bottles of special wines that aren’t on the regular list, like ones from Domaine Lucci in Adelaide Hills, Australia. These rarities are held for particular guests who will appreciate them. So if you’re a wine connoisseur, there's a hidden gem or two for you here.
Dill pickle-glazed fried chicken
Federal Donuts (address and info)
Forget about honey-ginger and chili-garlic, because ask nicely and the fry cooks at Fed Nuts' Sansom Street locale will combine your love of fried pickles and fried chicken and coat your crunchily twice-fried bird with an umami bomb of that dill pickle juice glaze.
Osteria (address and info)
There are already nine pies on the menu at Marc Vetri's Tuscan feastery -- how many more do you want? If the answer is "one", wait 'til dessert, then order this Nutella pizza, an oven-baked dough-hooded chocolate-hazelnut smothered crust buried under a mound of powdered sugar.
Foie gras-stuffed lobster tails
Davio's (address and info)
What's more baller than the off-menu foie gras skewers at Zahav? A hulking slab of that fatty goose liver goodness stuffed all up inside a half-pound tarragon butter-poached lobster tail at this Center City northern Italian joint.
Corned beef cheesesteak
McGillin's Olde Ale House (address and info)
Want to celebrate your Irish-Italian-Jewish heritage in meat form? Get the best of all worlds with this secret cheesesteak that replaces chipped ribeye with salt-cured Reuben-filler bundled with melted cheddar inside a hoagie roll.
Welsh rarebit chips
Victoria Freehouse (address and info)
There's two reasons to whisper this dish's name: 1) the twice-fried chips covered in hot cheesy bacon, onion, and ale gravy are an off-menu treat previously only known to employees, and 2) you're probably ordering this ultimate hangover cure for a very good reason.
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Anna Goldfarb is author of the humor memoir, Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through, and wonders what it'd be like if all restaurant food items were secret. Could you imagine? It'd be anarchy! You can follow her: @MsAnnaGoldfarb. Still hungry? You don't even have to go off-menu to get Philly's best pizzas...
1. Revolution Taco2015 Walnut St, Philadelphia
2. The Little Lion243 Chestnut St, Philadelphia
3. Knead Bagels725 Walnut St, Philadelphia
4. Honey’s Sit N' Eat2101 South St, Philadelphia
5. Palladino’s on Passyunk1934 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia
6. SLiCE1740 Sansom St, Phildelphia
7. Creperie Beau Monde & L'Etage624 S 6th St, Philadelphia
8. Kensington Quarters1310 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia
9. Federal Donuts1219 S 2nd St, Philadelphia
10. Osteria640 N Broad St, Philadelphia
11. Davio's111 S 17th St, Philadelphia
12. McGillin's Olde Ale House1310 Drury St, Philadelphia
13. The Victoria Freehouse10 S Front St, Philadelphia
Revolution Taco in Rittenhouse is an unassuming, fast-casual newcomer that serves fresh tacos (and a hidden burger) with surprising fillings, including beef tongue and pork shoulder. This place will satisfy all palates, from the tenacious “I only eat beef” to the adventurous “Gimme all you got.” There are tasty tofu and mushroom options for vegetarians, too. The servings are heartier than typical tacos and come in four degrees of spiciness, and there's also a BYOB policy at this counter service spot.
There's an irony in the fact that this American tavern in historic Old City is titled after a cutesy name for Alexander Hamilton: the man did champion a whiskey tax in his day, after all. Nonetheless, the atmosphere at the 19th-century multi-story stop across from the Museum of the American Revolution is spot on, with lots of wood work, large arched windows, and bright red colonial chairs next to banisters painted black. The food is filling and true to American tastes: barbecue chicken is heaped on slaw and mac & cheese gets served in a hot skillet. Cheers to the fact that the Revolutionary War was won with a historically inspired cocktail menu, which you can sip in the mezzanine bar.
If there is such a thing as an avant-garde bagel, Knead Bagels is the place to find it. The non-traditional Philly bagelry is in the business of remastering a timeless classic: the bagel and cream cheese. This means lavender bagels with vanilla honey cream cheese, or fennel seed and sea salt bagels with roasted tomato cream cheese, or Capsicum bagels (Japanese chile) piled with 12-hour brisket, coffee barbecue sauce, and picked onions. And if attempting to decide whether scallion lime cream cheese would pair well with black sesame stumps you, the bakers are like gluten mixologists -- they'll know exactly what you knead (sorry).
Honey’s Sit N' Eat, a premier breakfast/Southern comfort food spot on Philadelphia's South Street, serves all of your favorite morning specials, and then adds three different kinds of bacon just to make you sweat. Made mostly of locally farmed and fresh ingredients, this eatery encourages sweet, gluttonous indulgence with a conscience. Normally it's one or the other.
This much-anticipated South Philly spot from Chef Luke Palladino did not disappoint: it offers the one-two punch of watching his crew at work in an open kitchen and savoring the food. Your mouth may be watering while you wait. Get the prosciutto-wrapped, truffle butter-soaked, Parmesan-sprinkled homemade Truffled Grissini. Trust us. You're welcome.
After just one slice you may be begging for the whole pie. SLiCE’s hand-tossed pies are topped with homemade sauce from hand-crushed San Marzano plum tomatoes. Gourmet combos include truffle with portobello and artichokes, chicken scaloppini and clams casino.
L’stage is a French bistro that specializes in signature and build-your-own Crepes. The romantic atmosphere with picture windows is well-suited for date nights, family dinners, and other large parties. After dinner, take the party downstairs for an all-night club party. Beau Monde hosts monthly cabarets and weekly DJ parties.
Meat is taken seriously at this industrial chic butcher/restaurant in Fishtown, where every animal is used head-to-tail, and every diner leaves not only full, but with a primer in butchery and meat-curing. Right when you enter Kensington Quarters, you'll see the on-site butcher counter and retail section. Once seated, order the mixed house-made charcuterie followed by braised pork shoulder, a hulking pork chop, or a ribeye with smoked cheddar. Don’t be a meathead and remember to grab a salami for home on your way out.
With several locations around the city, Federal Donuts has grown into a sugar-coated Philly favorite. FD's secret weapon is a "Donut Robot," a mechanical monster-mastermind that handles all the dough dispensing, frying, and flipping. The deep-fried dough rings are sweet, sinful, and eminently scarf-able -- coming in flavors like maple-bacon, lemon bar, spicy PB&J, Turkish mocha and, of course, classic glazed. Because specializing in just one caloric indulgence doesn't cut it, this spot slings famous fried chicken in a changing lineup of rubs and sauces (coconut curry, anyone?).
Check out this trattoria featuring wood grilled meats and fish, thin crust pizzas, and homemade pasta. Osteria is a real gourmet heavyweight in Philly. Its 100+ Italian wine list has nearly everything you could crave with your meal. The Ventri family has created a warm and inviting atmosphere that’s great for date nights or special occasions.
Just off the fashionable Rittenhouse Row, Davio’s has mastered regional Italian foods. High ceilings and a white color palette give the restaurant a clean and modern feel, which is perfect for date nights, special occasions or business lunches. The biggest perk is the fact that it’s located on the second floor: the room is flooded with natural sunlight by day and at night, you can take the party outside onto the rooftop.
Imagine: the year was 1860, Lincoln was elected, and McGillin's Olde Ale House first opened. It's safe to say they place is doing something right, because generations of people can't be wrong. This is the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philly. They have since changed the beer taps, we promise.
The crew behind Haddonfield's British Chip Shop has expanded its empire across the Delaware, turning Old City's Swanky Bubbles into The Victoria Freehouse. These bad boys are pouring Scottish ales, English 'tails, and Irish whiskeys to wash down UK delicacies like bangers and mash and a cheesy mash-stuffed shepherd's pie. And nothing pairs better with these fine meals than a backdrop of live soccer broadcasts.