With star chefs and legendary lineups, Austin's restaurant scene is one of the hottest in the nation. But there’s a little-known secret that some of your favorite Austin restaurants hope will keep you coming back.
We’re talking about secret menus that only insiders know about.
“It's kind of the ‘insiders special’ and you want to be part of something that's cool,” said Eric Anderson, the General Manager of Chuy’s in Cedar Park. “It started through the employees.”
He says it starts in the kitchen where chefs experiment.
“People would come up with things and it would just catch on,” said Anderson.
And catch on it did. Some of Chuy's favorite menu items are now secret items -- like the "Chuy Gooey."
“The name couldn't be more fitting. It's a bed of refried beans and then we have our delicious homemade queso, we have lettuce, pico de gallo, ground sirloin, sour cream, guacamole and jalapenos. This is our version of a seven layer dip,” Anderson.
There’s the creamy jalapeno, which started as a salad dressing. Someone discovered it would taste good as a dip and now many servers recommend you eat it with your chips. And then there's the favorite menu items..
“This is our 'Elvis Chili Fried Chicken,' but with our twist on it,” said Anderson.
The fried egg and a queso they call "boom boom sauce." Maybe it's an Austin thing or perhaps a Texas thing.
“It wouldn't be secret if I told you that would it be?” said Don Hurrell, Director of Operations with Whataburger.
Chuy's is hardly alone. Top Notch has a secret menu, so does Torchy's. And even Texas favorite Whataburger.
“A popular one for us, the "early bird." In the middle of the night it's kind of that southern classic of chicken and waffles, only we do chicken strips and pancakes,” said Hurrell.
Hurrell says most of their secret items have originated from customers. Like the grilled cheese sandwich with grilled vegetables.
“We have over 36,000 different ways to create a Whataburger,” said Hurrell.
Including taking off the bun and serving it on a platter.
“I get real good food and it's retired person's price,” said long-time regular Frank Gaddy.
Items even people like Gaddy didn't know about. Which made us wonder -- how do you find out about secret menu items?
“Your servers and your bartenders will be like 'alright, let me tell you a little secret' and then you find it and then you tell somebody,” said Anderson.
It's about creating loyalty.
“It creates that relationship between people coming through the front door and the next thing you know they're coming through the front door twice a week, then three times a week and then they're bringing friends. It's just that involved, building that relationship with people,” said Anderson.
The secret is out.
“They'll be hooked,” he said.
Famous Creamy Jalapeño - "The original Chuy's secret menu item. Started as a salad dressing and those in "the know" would ask for it for their chips. Famous and not so secret anymore."
Chuy Gooey - "Think seven layer dip, Chuy's style. Has never been on the menu and people freak out when they find out we will do it. Layered refried beans, ground sirloin, queso, jalapeño, pico de gallo, lettuce and guacamole. It's served with flour tortillas because it is way too thick and yummy for chips."
Shirley Gooey - "The sister of the Chuy Gooey. This started in 2010 at one of our restaurants because a customer named Shirley always asked for it. It's a bowl of our Mexican Rice, fajita chicken, covered in queso."
Elvis Fried Chicken covered in Boom-Boom Sauce and a fried egg - "This one is WOW! It's a server's play on our Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken that makes customers feel like insiders if they order it."
Stuffed Sopapillas - "These were taken off the menu around 10 years ago but we will still make it for a customer who knows to ask. It's a fresh sopapilla, filled with your choice of meat and covered with your choice of sauce. I'm a fan of the beef stuffed sopapilla with queso."
Grilled Cheese with Grilled Vegetables - "Our Grilled Cheese has been a popular menu item for quite some time, but our fans say it’s even better when you add our fresh grilled vegetables."
Whatachick’n Strips & Pancakes - "Whataburger’s twist on an American favorite, our Whatachick’n Strips & Pancakes make for a tasty late-night or early morning treat."
Breakfast on a Bun Ranchero - "Some customers like to heat things up by adding Whataburger’s one-of-a-kind Picante Sauce and fresh jalapeños to our very own Texan-inspired Breakfast on a Bun to make it Ranchero- style."
Bunless Bacon and Cheese Whataburger - "Our famous Whataburger is our top-seller, but removing the bun and adding bacon are just a few of the ways we offer customization to meet everyone’s preferences."
Bunless Monterey Melt - "Some customers enjoy our popular All-Time Favorite without the bun, which includes Monterey Jack and American cheese, grilled onions and peppers, and Whataburger’s Jalapeño Ranch sauce."