Is it just me, or has the fact that we’ve been shopping more frequently than ever driven us to take physical stores for granted? It’s not only groceries and shopping malls, but cafes and restaurants, too. Actually, especially these dining establishments.
To be more specific, some of them tend to offer more services or products than they usually advertise, collectively known as “secret” or “hidden” menus. Why? Some say it’s their way of passively marketing their brand by relying on word-of-mouth, something that’s very much a thing here in the Philippines. Others say it’s to build customer loyalty — to make clients feel “special” from knowing something that the general public doesn’t.
In return, customers can go to their favourite cafes or restaurants without having to limit their orders to what’s on the menu board — if they want something more (relatively) personalised, that is. Then there’s the bonus of being able to brag about it to your friends. Just because.
Restaurants offering hidden menus in the Philippines
Whether you’re in or outside Metro Manila, here are some cafes and restaurants you can drop by for those coveted hidden menus. If these items aren’t your cup of tea, then know that you can always get creative at the store counter. It’s what ordering these products is about, after all!
Needless to say, Starbucks is the most popular place to get these hidden menu items anywhere in the world. Locally, a private Facebook community of coffee lovers was even made for them to share these products.
Secret menus at Starbucks are drinks that you can customise beyond the ability to choose the number of espresso shots you want. Or whether you prefer whole milk instead of nonfat. Frappuccino fans, for example, have the option to order the drink in several variations, including the Black Forest. Simply order their Dark Mocha Frappuccino and have the barista pour raspberry soup on top.
They also have Vietnamese Iced Coffee, where you’ll just need to get the Starbucks Doubleshot and request the barista to add Classic Syrup or Sweetener and Extra Vanilla Sweet Cream. For green tea lovers, you can try a certain Creamy Matcha. Start by ordering Green Tea Cream Frappuccino. Then, ask to have White Mocha, two shots of Heavy Cream, Frappuccino Chips, and Blended Whipped Cream added. Make sure it’s blended twice.
The list goes on, depending on the local Starbucks branch you go to. Some of them even have their own milk tea and what’s known as the “BLACKPINK” drink for iced beverages.
2. Mendokoro Ramenba
Japanese food enthusiasts need not stick to the conventional Nihon cuisine offered in international restaurants. Japan’s culinary offerings are, first and foremost, amazingly diverse and extensive, so it’s no wonder some meals are better left unadvertised. Not that they’re any less satisfying than those that are, of course.
For one, the popular ramen restaurant, Mendokoro Ramenba, offers two off-menu items in their Bonifacio Global City branch. They are Curry Tsukemen and Tantan Maze Soba. The Taguig store is found inside RCBC Icon Plaza along 26th Street, and is known for its larger space and faster queues.
Curry Tsukemen is a Japanese curry dish that comes with turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, and fresh or dried chilies. The restaurant revealed that it’s actually made from scratch by Kazunori Japanese Restaurant, which is their sister establishment. Tantan Maze Soba, on the other hand, is a dry noodle dish that is served in five spiciness levels.
In the past, Mendokoro Ramenba secret menus also included Super Chashu Ramen, Bonito Tsukemen, and Ebi Tonkotsu.
3. Bon Appetea Milagrosa
You might know that there are innumerable tea shops locally, but whether all of them offer bang-for-your-buck tea-based beverages, we’re not sure. Among those considered “top” contenders, however, is Bon Appetea Milagrosa, one of the pioneers of serving milk tea in the Philippines.
The tea shop’s Katipunan, Quezon City branch is the biggest, so there’s no doubt that behind its comprehensive list of drinks lies a hidden menu that’s well worth exploring. In fact, there’s more than one of them you ought to know about: their Hungarian Sausage, Leg Quarter, Daing na Bangus, and Cheesy Bacon Fries.
All for less than ₱150, Bon Appetea Milagros’s secret menu items are available at the said Metro Manila branch. They’re essentially food offerings you wouldn’t expect from a milk tea store. Its other meals include Chicken Arroz Caldo, Longganisa, and other Filipino comfort food which are also sold at affordable prices.
4. Batang 9tea’s Milktea House
Batang 9tea’s Milktea House has been a staple among Filipino foodies with an appetite for localised food and drinks. As its name suggests, the business was started by entrepreneurs born during the 1990s. They had hoped to bring best-loved snacks from the decade closer to diners, wherever they may be in the country.
Although mainly a tea house serving a variety of locally made drinks, Batang 9tea’s also takes pride in their burgers. They also have pizzas, chicken wings, and other rice meals. That’s not all, either; according to the local blog, Hey Manila, one of the brand’s Bulacan branches has hidden menus in the form of drinks worth travelling for.
To find out what they are for yourself, you can head to their San Jose del Monte store just along the city’s Paso Road. Although, other branches could very well have their own. With their menu being so eclectic, who knows what drinks they could be serving that only a select few have the privilege of tasting?
Filipinos love Jollibee for all sorts of reasons. Besides being a proudly homegrown brand, most of the food at this already international fast-food chain has that distinct Filipino-style sweetness that will always leave one wanting more.
This is certainly the case with one of its classic offerings, the Jolly Spaghetti. Creamier than a lot of fast-food versions you’ll find in the Philippines, this go-to dish comes with extra soft noodles, a fair amount of cheese, ground meat, and hotdog slices. But if you want it even more personalised like how it’s cooked in Filipino households, this is also possible.
Although not a “hidden menu” by definition, did you know that you can actually make your standard Jolly Spaghetti order even saucier and sweeter than it already is? It’s simple. You’ll just need to ask for extra sauce and extra cheese upon ordering at your preferred Jollibee branch, and enjoy your customised fast food afterward.
You can also do the same for their other noodle dish, the Jollibee Palabok. Both tricks used to be offered free of charge. However, recent experiences by Jollibee lovers say that you now have to pay around ₱20 to get it done. Not a bad price for amping up a classic dish, though!
Hidden menus may not work for everyone. But for the few who enjoy the chance to make their dining experience one they can truly call their own — while asking favours in moderation — it’s safe to say that they’re worth it.
Which of these hidden menus in Philippine restaurants have you tried?
Featured image credit: kevser | Unsplash