It’s no secret Austin has one of the nation’s most vibrant and experimental food scenes. An army of unique food trucks (Wunder Pig Barbecue Co., Granny’s Tacos, Hey Cupcake!); vegan ice cream (Sweet Ritual); and fully dine-able movie theatres (Alamo Drafthouse, Violet Crown) are just a few signature elements.
However, unbeknownst to many, Austin boasts one of the most delectable secret food scenes, as well. Restaurants like Chuy’s, Frigid Frog, and Olamaie all feature legitimate, buyable food items that, whether it’s to boost mystique or keep chefs from drowning in a kitchen of their own complex creations, never make it to print.
It’s my job today to guide any and all curious Austinites through some of my favorite secret menu items in this city’s confidential cartes du jour.
1/ Bonhomie: The Patty Melt
Editor’s Note: Bonhomie closed its doors in May 2018.
At the top of my list is The Patty Melt, a.k.a. “The Goodnight,” which is one of several delicious off-menu items available at French-American bistro Bonhomie. This exceptionally filling burger consists of a juicy flat patty, caramelized onions, and sweet, melty cheese, all wedged between two thick slices of grilled rye bread. The Patty Melt is best enjoyed with the arugula salad, to offset the robustness of the other half of the plate. However, French fries and onion rings are always there for the brave of heart.
5350 Burnet Road – Website
2/ The Hideout Coffee House & Theatre: The Squatch
One of Austin’s finest fusions –The Hideout Coffee House & Theatre –has a drink they tell no one about. But the baristas are obligated to sell it if you ask. It’s called The Squatch. And it’s fantastic. Long-time customers and current employees are the only ones in on the secret–that is, until now. I am determined to bring it back into the public eye.
The Squatch is, in essence, a sweet, traditionally sized cappuccino. Served in an 8-ounce cup, this lingering Hideout specialty is an espresso shot pulled through raw sugar (Cubano-style), then married to a slightly-foamed coconut milk. One barista in particular drinks it every day, I am told, sometimes adding chocolate or cinnamon, depending on his mood.
617 Congress Ave. – Website
3/ Home Slice Pizza: The Vatican
Holy meats. Divined several years ago by co-owner Jen Strickland, The Vatican is a must-have for any food-challenge-prone Austinite, or anyone (two) looking for a palace-sized meal of meat, cheese, and bread. What does this concoction consist of? Quite simply, The Vatican is a fully-loaded, cheesy Italian sub, caught within the loving embrace of a cottage cheese and sausage calzone.
Named after Vatican City, a country within a country, this Italian sub within a calzone is a gift given to anyone willing to accept it. The Pope has yet to respond to tweets by the original chef, inviting him to come enjoy a bite. I pray he does, for his sake and ours.
$22, serves two
1415 S. Congress Ave. – Website
4/ Peche: Mustache Gun
Mustache Gun is one of two secret cocktails available at Fourth Street bar and restaurant Péché. This bourbon-thick drink is a true slow-sipper. It might as well be straight bourbon. One part bourbon, one part Chartreuse, this fernet-rinsed “Sinful Cocktail” packs a heavy punch in a heavy glass. Says one particular bartender, “That’s a drink for the older generation.” He’s not wrong. A distinguished glass, Mustache Gun feels like a Prohibition-era specialty.
208 W. 4th St. – Website
5/ Torchy’s Tacos: Green Chile Pork Missionary Style
Not only is it my favorite item from Torchy’s Tacos’ secret menu, but it’s also my favorite food item in all of Austin (what!). The Green Chile Pork Missionary Style taco is a smash up of everything delicious about a pork taco, plus the added wow-factor of a crispy corn tortilla and soft flour tortilla with which to hold the generous mound of green chile pork, pickled onions, jack cheese, cilantro, chipotle sauce, and guacamole. The best part: it’s only $4.60!
1801 E. 51st St. Bldg D (Mueller, the fav spot) – Website
Secret’s out. Many blessings to your bellies.
@theAustinot wants to know:
If you’re willing to share the love, what is your favorite secret menu item in Austin?