There’s a lot to do in Southern California… tackling one of the hiking trails in a nature preserve, soaking up surf and sun at the beach, enjoying the vibrant art scene in Laguna Beach, roaming Irvine Park, enjoying funnel cake and roller coasters at Knotts Berry Farm.
You’re going to need to fuel up for all that activity, and while Orange County is home to hundreds of fantastic restaurants, sometimes fast food is your best option. That’s where secret menus comes in, because the only thing better than choice? More choice.
Chances are good that your favorite quick-eats restaurant has a menu that few know about, but we’ve done the research for you so that you can be in the know, too.
Pro-Tip: Even secret menus are subject to change, availability, or general knowledge, and your server may not know some of these items exist. Always ask first, and be sure to be polite!
The Secret Menu at Starbucks
The ultimate in secret menus is found at uber-customizable Starbucks.
Strictly speaking, Starbucks doesn’t have an official secret menu. It’s just that they have a ton of ingredients behind the counter, so it’s easy to make something special as long as you know the components you want to use (always ask if they have ingredients in stock before you order).
The trick to using the secret menu at Starbucks is knowing what recipes work, and if your local Starbucks can do them. There are dozens of delicious customer-generated recipes that have gotten passed around via word of mouth and the ever-helpful internet. Some of the more popular options we’ve found at our SoCal Starbucks are:
- Cake Batter Frappuccino: Vanilla bean Frappuccino + 1 pump hazelnut syrup (for a tall, 1.5 pumps for a grande, 2 pumps for a venti size). If your local shop has cake pops, ask if they can blend it in for that extra zing.
- Christmas In A Cup Latte: Cinnamon Dolce Latte, with white mocha syrup (1.5, 2, or 2.5 pumps depending on size), peppermint syrup (.5, 1, or 1.5 pumps depending on size), and top with whipped cream.
- The Chocolate Dalmatian Mocha: Hot white chocolate mocha with java chips and chocolate chips.
- Raspberry Cheesecake Frappuccino: Mix your white chocolate mocha frapp with raspberry syrup. If you’re looking for a latte version, just go with a white chocolate mocha latte and hit it with that raspberry goodness.
- Coffee Cake Frappuccino: Order a coffee frappuccino with cinnamon dolce syrup and toffee nut syrup (1, 2, or 3 depending on size), whipped cream, and cinnamon dolce topping. For extra sweetness, you can add vanilla syrup (.5 or 1 pump, depending on size).
- Iced Raspberry Latte: Iced flavored latte, adding raspberry syrup.
- Coconutmilk Pumpkin Macchiato: Order a coconutmilk mocha macchiato (when it’s available) and replace the mocha syrup with pumpkin spice syrup and add pumpkin spice topping.
- Chocolate Caramel Chai Latte: You’ll want to ask for a chai tea latte and add a pump each of caramel and mocha syrups.
The Secret Menu at Jamba Juice
Like Starbucks, Jamba Juice has a large “secret” menu of options that you can order if you know what to ask for. The options aren’t quite endless, but they’re close, so we’ve picked a few popular standout drinks to highlight here. They range from the sweet and creamy to the lip-puckeringly tart
- Orange Whip: Ask for 12 oz. of orange juice, a scoop of orange sherbet, ice, and a scoop of frozen yogurt.
- Peaches & Cream: (Season dependent) 6 oz. soy milk and 6 oz. peach juice, ice, a scoop of peaches, and a scoop of frozen yogurt.
- Raspberry Refresher: 12 oz. Raspberry juice, a banana, a scoop each of raspberries and raspberry sherbet, and ice.
- San Diego: 4 oz. Lemonade, and 6 oz. of orange juice plus a scoop each of lime and orange sherbets and ice.
- Thank You Jesus: 6 oz each of lemonade and soy milk, a scoop each of pineapple and lime sherbets, ice, and 3 whole scoops of strawberries.
- Strawberry Cheesecake: 2 scoops of frozen yogurt, a scoop of strawberries, 12 oz of white grape juice, and ice.
The Secret Menu at Taco Bell
Taco Bell is the ruler of the late-night snack scene with its array of tasty and filling fast Mexican options. Their secret menu has enough popular options that just asking for them by name should work. If not, you can give them the steps we’re giving you here.
- The Cheesarito: Ask for scallions, sauce, and melted cheese on a soft tortilla if your local Taco Bell doesn’t recognize the name.
- The Enchirito: Beef, beans, and cheese in an enchilada.
- The Hulk: Any burrito with extra guacamole.
- The Incredible Hulk: A healthier spin on a beefy five-layer burrito: take out the inner 6-inch shell, replace the nacho sauce and sour cream with guacamole, and tell them to make it FRESCO.
- Double Grilled Quesadilla: This is more of a technique rather than a recipe. Ask for your quesadilla (or burrito) to be grilled twice as long as usual for extra crunch. What could be easier than that?
- The Superman: Hungry? Add double potatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and crispy tortilla strips to a cheesy double beef burrito.
- Chili Cheese Burrito: Chili sauce, cheese, and meat in a flour tortilla.
- Anything Spicy Green (Verde Sauce): Only available at select locations, just ask if they have Verde sauce.
The Secret Menu at Del Taco
Any list that has fast-service Mexican food would never be complete without Del Taco. Menus come and go, but Del Taco in Barstow still serves the original menu from way back when. This homegrown California chain still has stores operated by the family that started it all.
Owned by the Hackbarth family, the three Del Taco locations in town have made keeping the restaurant’s heritage alive their priority. Some of the offerings in the Barstow restaurants qualify for secret menu status, since you can order them anywhere if you know what to ask for.
- Bun Taco: All taco fixings, but on a hamburger bun. Some stores allow it to be ordered on a limited time basis or through the Del Taco app.
- Stoner Burrito: This one is a true secret menu item. Ask for a bean and cheese burrito with fries, special sauce, and red or green sauce.
- Combo Cup: Asking for your burrito in a cup cuts out the tortilla, so this one is keto friendly.
- Green Bean Machine: An egg and cheese burrito with beans and green sauce.
- Cheese Burrito: A burrito with cheese, sour cream and red sauce, Tasty!
The Secret Menu at Chipotle
Customization is always the motivator for any secret menu, and Mexican fast-food giant Chipotle is no stranger to customizing food to fit every customer’s taste. That being said, there’s a lot to love for people who want to try popular options like these:
- The Quesarito: Order a cheese quesadilla and ask your server to use it as the wrap for your burrito. Adding cheese to anything is always good, right?
- The Burritodilla: Order any burrito with half the regular fillings and ask for it to be grilled like a quesadilla. Crunch and yum!
- Nachos: Load your nachos the secret way by ordering a burrito bowl and ask to replace the rice base with chips.
- Single Taco: This is the easiest order… even though it’s not on the main menu (shhh! Secret!). Just ask for a single taco.
- Double Wrapped Burrito: Another “just ask” item, ask for your burrito to be wrapped in two tortilla shells when you order.
- Extra Shells: If you’re planning on ordering a burrito bowl, ask for extra tortilla or taco shells on the side. You’ll get two taco shells or one tortilla shell free.
- FREE Fajita Veggies: Just ask for fajita veggies after you’ve added your rice and beans.
- Fresh, FREE Cilantro: Just ask for it!
The Secret Menu at Carl’s Jr.
You might think that Carl’s Jr. has more than enough choices so that you wouldn’t need to go off-book, and you’d be right. The secret menu at Carl’s Jr. isn’t very large, though that might change in the future, but it’s got some interesting options for those adventurous eaters who want something just a little bit different.
- Carl’s Jr. Chicken Stuffed Super Star Burger: If you’re hungry – and you’d better be hungry to order this – ask for a Spicy Chicken Sandwich and a Super Star and put them together for a large serving of deliciousness.
- Low Carb It: Any burger or sandwich can be Low Carbed by asking for a lettuce wrap instead of the bun. Save yourself some calories for dessert!
- Trim It: The other option for making fast food a little healthier, the “Trim It” option removes mayonnaise, cheese, adds a wheat bun instead of white, and chicken in place of the beef patty.
- Veg It: This is two different customization possibilities, depending on whether or not your store has a veggie patty available. Just order your food with a “veg it” option; that either gets you your order without any meat at all or substitutes a veggie burger.
The Secret Menu at Jack in the Box
If you thought that “secret menu” at Jack in the Box was Jack handing you your order in a trench coat, don’t worry. That’s not the case. There’s a limited set of options to help you have the perfect burger experience at your favorite Jack in the Box. As with every secret menu, not all stores will be able to accommodate you, but it never hurts to ask nicely!
- Loaded Grilled Breakfast Sandwich: Ask to add turkey or sausage to your breakfast sandwich.
- Bacon Bacon Cheeseburger: Ask for extra bacon bits to add to your bacon cheeseburger.
- Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger: Change out the regular bun with a ciabatta bun.
- Extra Cheese or Extra Patties: Ask for additional cheese slices or an additional patty on your burger. The extra cost (and extra calories) is worth it.
- Sourdough Bread: Ask to substitute sourdough instead of the regular bun.
- Mint Oreo Cookie Shake: Substitute mint ice cream in your standard oreo cookie shake.
The Secret Menu at In-N-Out
The secret menu here is more of an open secret than top-secret status. Most of Southern California knows to ask for your burgers and fries “animal style” if that’s your thing, but there are other options you might not know about.
Pro-Tip: You can also ask for extra tomatoes or chopped chilis, too.
- 4×4 Burger: Exactly what you think it is… 4 patties and 4 slices of cheese, plus burger toppings and bun. Definitely not low-calorie, but definitely delicious.
- Flying Dutchman: This meat bomb is one of the most famous “secrets” In-N-Out has. If you’re looking for a messy but delicious bun-less burger, the Dutchman is two pieces of cheese between two burger patties.
- Double Meat Burger: This isn’t a Double Double…it’s a two-patty hamburger. Note: for a 2×1, just ask to add a cheese slice.
- Well-done Fries: Ask for well-done french fries.
- Neapolitan Shake: You can just ask for this one. It’s that popular.
- Root Beer Float: Ask for vanilla ice cream to add to your root beer.
The Secret Menu at Burger King
- The Burger King BLT: Ask for extra bacon on your Whopper, and make sure you have your lettuce and tomato, too.
- The Burger King Club: Original chicken sandwich with bacon, tomato and cheese.
- The Burger King Ham & Cheese: Ham and cheese on a bun of your choice.
- Frings: Combining a half-order of fries with a half-order of onion rings; it’s an easy choice to make.
- Mustard Whopper: Just ask for mustard to replace the mayonnaise on your Whopper.
- Rodeo Burger: Whopper with extra onion rings and barbeque sauce.
- Suicide Burger: Also called the Quad Stacker, this is four meat patties, four slices of cheese and bacon, plus special sauce.
- Veggie Burger: A veggie patty replaces the beef on your Whopper. This is an open secret on the BK menu, so just ask for it by name.
The Secret Menu at Wendy’s
Wendy’s secret menu is so secret that most people don’t even know there is one. And that’s partially because their regular menu is extensive enough to cover most options,
- The Barnyard: With meat from all three major food groups (bacon, chicken, and beef), the Barnyard Burger can be easily made by adding a burger patty to an Asiago Ranch chicken club sandwich. Otherwise, add bacon, cheese and a burger patty to a spicy chicken sandwich if you want a little more pep.
- The Meat Cube: A full pound of beefy goodness, this burger just needs you to ask to add another beef patty and a slice of cheese to a ¾ pound burger. You might not need fries with this one.
The Secret Menu at McDonald’s
The ubiquitous fast food of America, you can find a McDonald’s pretty much anywhere. A lot of people don’t know that there’s a secret menu you can order off, and that’s where we’re here to help.
- The Chicken McGriddle: If your server doesn’t know what it is by name, you can ask for a chicken patty inside two McGriddles or substitute the McChicken patty for the sausage in a McGriddle breakfast sandwich.
- The Mc10:35: Build this breakfast bombshell with an Egg McMuffin and a McDouble (you’ll have to do it on your own, but that’s okay, isn’t it? Only available during breakfast hours.
- The McCrepe: This is another “order the components and put it together” secret menu item, but it’s easy and tasty and even borderline healthy, so why not do it? Just order hotcakes and a yogurt parfait (where available) and put them together like a crepe. You might want a few extra napkins, because this one is messy.
- Big Mac Sauce Fries: Just ask for a cup of Big Mac sauce for your fries. It’s either free or for a small fee, and either way, it’s worth it.
- The Land, Sea, and Air Burger: This self-assembled monster is what happens when you order a Big Mac, a McChicken sandwich, and a Filet-O-Fish sandwich and then put them all together. It’s not something you can order at the counter, but then, you don’t need to.
- Big McChicken: The low-carb, high calorie option, this secret menu staple is a Big Mac that uses McChicken patties to replace the buns in the burger.
- The 2 Cheeseburger Meal: Two cheeseburgers? No problem. Just ask for this secret menu meal by name. It might be secret, but everybody knows it.
- The McKinley Mac: This is a Big Mac with quarter pound burger patties instead of the usual Big Mac size.
- The Monster Mac: You might be able to ask for this one by name – or not – but if you want to order it without using the words “monster” or “mac”, just ask for eight beef patties on your Big Mac (up to you if you want to add 8 slices of cheese, too.)
- The McLeprechaun Shake: You won’t be able to DIY this until March (and only in March), but the McLeprechaun is what happens when you mix a chocolate shake with a shamrock shake. Delicious!
- Neapolitan Shake: This is another popular option, so asking for it by name might be possible, but even if it isn’t, just ask for a shake with equal amounts of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry shake.
- The Pie McFlurry: This secret menu item is more of a DIY hack. Order a vanilla McFlurry with caramel sauce and two apple pies. You’re going to be the one squishing your pies into your McFlurry, but the end result is worth the (slightly messy) work.
The Secret Menu at Arby’s
Fast food sandwich icon Arby’s isn’t about to be left out of the secret menu craze. That being said, Arby’s doesn’t officially recognize a particular secret menu, so you should check to see if your server knows what you’re talking about (and be ready to explain when necessary).
- Arby’s Melt: Melted cheddar on your roast beef sandwich. Just order an Arby’s Melt.
- Bacon Beef n’ Cheddar: Order a beef & cheddar sandwich and add bacon.
- Double Stacked Reuben: Step 1: order a Reuben. Step 2: Ask for double your meat of choice.
- French Dip Max: Ask for double the meat on your French Dip sandwich.
- Meat Mountain: If you can’t order this massive sandwich by name, order a sandwich with every meat on the menu and then add cheese.
- Roast Beef & Swiss: You can ask for this by name.
- Roast Ham & Swiss: Another public secret; ask for it by name or add swiss cheese to your sandwich.
- Super Roast Beef: Roast beef, red ranch sauce, lettuce, tomato on a bun. You might be able to ask for it by name, but if you can’t, just give them the ingredient list.
- Turkey & Cheddar: Switch out turkey for beef on the Beef & Cheddar.
- Turkey Classic: Order a classic roast beef and swap the beef for turkey.
- Turkey Reuben: A Reuben sandwich swapping turkey for beef.
- Ultimate BLT: Bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise on honey wheat bread.
The Secret Menu at The Hat
Pastrami king The Hat doesn’t just serve up perfectly done dip sandwiches and the most fries in a single serving in Orange County. It has a few secrets of its own, although, like Starbucks, it’s less of an official “secret menu” and more of a little-known way to ask for certain menu items.
- Pastrami Chili Cheese Fries: The Hat’s massive serving of chili cheese fries, with their world-famous pastrami on top. Bring at least one friend to be able to finish it.
Secret menus are part of the fun of trying out all the restaurants in Orange County. With so many options – and restaurants – to choose from, we’re sure you’ll discover new favorites in no time. Where will you go first?
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Kelly Smith is a freelance writer living in Southern California with one dog, two cats, two guinea pigs… and the rest of her family. She writes about Orange County, faith, family, special needs and tea, and world-builds science fiction universes on the side. Find her at www.bluerosecopywriting.com.