Charles Caleb Colton* once said, “None are so fond of secrets as those who do not mean to keep them,” which pretty much sums up exactly how we feel about all of these insanely delicious secret menu items from spots like Popsons, Rich Table, Waterbar, and Beretta.
Sure, by telling you about them, we’re pretty much ruining the whole secret part, but everyone knows the best part about a secret is telling other people… especially if that secret is about lobster rolls, burgers, cocktails, and brunches.
*The English writer who first said, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Yeah, we had to look it up, too.
The “Big Mac”
4505 Burgers & BBQ
This double cheeseburger is everything good about the Big Mac, but with something way better than anything you’d ever find at Mickey D’s (just keep reading…). It’s got the stuff you’d expect: iceberg lettuce, shaved red onions, and secret sauce, all on a pan de mie bun, but there’s also an enormous wedge of frankaroni (fried mac and cheese with chunks of bacon-studded hot dog) in the middle. Yup, it’s the Hamburglar’s dream. And ours, too.
One of the best things at Souvla is their bomb-ass Greek fries. They’re thick, but not, like, steak fries thick. Salty, but definitely not too salty. Oh, and they’re also tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, parsley, and grated Mizithra cheese. Amazing, right? That’s why you want to make your order “Greek Style,” so you get a bunch of those fries on top of your sandwich or salad, because everything’s better with fries.
Waterbar’s Executive Chef Parke Ulrich’s $24 lobster roll features the most pristine Maine lobsters on house-made toasted brioche, topped with melted butter and salt, and served with Old Bay potato chips. If you want this insanely delicious sandwich, you’d better line up early for Friday lunch, because that’s the only time it’s served, and once they sell 30, that’s it for the day.
The Off-Menu Burger
Rich Table’s secret off-menu burger is seriously what burger dreams are made of. It’s made with two dry-aged beef patties and Tomme d’Auvergne cheese on a house-made roll, with an Early Girl tomato slice, tartar sauce, AND bacon jam. It’s served with their house potato chips, which are topped with Rich Table’s signature umami powder, which you’ll recognize from their famous porcini donuts. Want in on this magic? Then get to the bar early, because that’s the only place it’s served and the chef makes only 12 each night.
Grab a couple of friends, because this off-menu whole-roasted BBQ duck is meant for four people and costs $160. That price includes two courses of duck (a substantial starter and a main course). Feel like four’s a crowd? Lord Stanley will also do heritage hens for two people for $100, which also includes a starter and a main. The restaurant just needs a couple of days’ notice to make both of these happen.
The Secret Bird Cocktail Menu (2.0)
Beretta has a new iteration of their secret bird cocktail menu and it’s as good as the first. Bar manager Cali Gold came up with eight cocktails for the menu, all of which are inspired by the traits of different birds and all of which cost $12. Highlights include The Dusky Thrush (bourbon, tequila, Americano, lemon, passionfruit, Tabasco), which is a swizzle of tropical flavors, and yes, you read that right: bourbon AND tequila. The Gold Crowned Sparrow is a clarified milk punch that’s perfect for SF’s cold summer days. The menu is available for everyone; you just need to know to ask.
“Big Von” Burger
The “Big Von” Burger was originally created for KMEL DJ Big Von and consists of Popsons’ signature double cheeseburger (we just named it the very best burger of all time in our SF round-up), which is then topped with seasoned fries. It’ll cost you $10.50, which is a small price to pay for burger nirvana.
Secret Sherry Martini
There’s a very secret sherry martini at one of the Financial District’s best bars, and though the price isn’t cheap (it’s $30), it’s worth the splurge if you love martinis and sherry. Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin is distilled in small batches in copper pot stills, and a combination of botanicals produce a distinctive flavor profile featuring Turkish rose, white peach, and raspberry. This drink is equal parts Dolin dry vermouth and 30yr Bodegas Tradición Palo Cortado sherry, creating an extremely complex—and very special—martini.
Fresh Cucumber Basil Gimlet
Fog Harbor Fish House
You have to be in the know to order this gimlet with fresh muddled basil, fresh-squeezed lime, cucumber vodka, and simple syrup. It’s the perfect refreshing drink to enjoy on warm SF days. Want yours “skinny”? Just ask and they’ll make it with Splenda simple syrup.
Pacific Cocktail Haven
The recipe for this off-menu cocktail from bartender extraordinaire Kevin Diedrich is also etched on PCH’s mixing glasses. It’s made up of 1 oz. Rye Whiskey, 1 oz. Cognac, .5 oz. Averna (an Italian liqueur), a dash of Angostura Bitters, and a dash of chocolate mole bitters, then served in a Crème de Menthe rinsed glass and garnished with a lemon or orange twist.
The $25 Brunch Spread
If you like to taste all of the things at brunch, then you need to find a group of six and head to Stones Throw for their family-style brunch. It’s $25 per person and you get a huge spread of signature brunch items, like puffed potato and eggs, doughnuts, butter-fried pancakes, duck confit hash, and a lot more. Seriously, it’s one of the best brunch deals in town.
La Última Palabra
Have the last word at this lively Polk Street bar and restaurant by ordering La Última Palabra (Siete Misterios Mezcal, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice, lime juice), which is a riff on the classic Last Word cocktail, using mezcal instead of gin.
She Who Hears Cocktail
Roka Bar at Roka Akor
The She Who Hears combines sake, rice shōchū, Pavan Liqueur, oolong tea, lemon oil, and edible violas, and is one of the most beautiful cocktails you can get at this sexy lounge. It’s light and floral with pronounced citrus notes, and is a steal (for SF, anyway) at $12.
Secret Yakuza Cocktail Menu
Look at the bottles behind the bar at Pabu and you just may spot a secret menu rolled up and sticking out of one of them. Ask to see it and you’ll be initiated into the yakuza cocktail program, which is based on the ritual and ceremony created by the yakuza, a group of wandering rogue samurai in 17th century Japan. Each cocktail has three components: whisky, tea, and one modifier.
The Secret Late Night Menu
Coin-Op Game Room
Head to this two-story bar between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. to play video games and feast on their secret late night menu, which includes options like the Mexicutioner (chopped brisket, jalapeño cheddar sausage, avocado salsa, pickled red onions, cotija cheese), Frito pie, a chicken-fried oyster sandwich, a boozy root beer float, and more.
The Woody Stems and Since 1875
Since 1875 is a bright, crisp cocktail (Woodford Reserve Double, Lustau Px East India Sherry, Pierre Ferrand Orange Curaçao, lemon juice, blackberries) with hints of spiced wood that pays tribute to the first-ever Kentucky Derby. The Woody Stems (West Of Kentucky Bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, raspberry purée, spiced red tea—cardamom, mint, clove, lemon juice) is a light and fruity whiskey-based cocktail with notes of raspberries and a touch of Middle Eastern spices. They’ll both run you $14, a small price to pay to enjoy them while sitting on the outside patio.
The Tequila Crusta
This secret drink is Traci Des Jardins’ favorite go-to at the bar at Jardinière. It’s a mixture of Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and Cointreau, shaken and then strained into a sugar-rimmed glass. Does she sip this while eating the Impossible Burger? We can only imagine the answer is “yes.”