I wrote a piece about secret menus for LifeZette a few weeks ago that got a lot of positive feedback and visibility. Prior to researching it, I had no idea there were so many restaurants — even swanky joints! — that had well-known but unpublished customer favorites available. I mean, there’s In-n-Out, but heck, their secret menu is published on their Web site, so how “secret” is that?
A few days after publication, the marketing team from Fazoli’s contacted me, asking if I’d like to try their new secret menu item. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing that secret menu items are coming from corporate, but apparently it’s a popular customer concoction and has made the big time (kind of how the Frappaccino was born at Starbucks, actually). In any case, I have memories of eating at Fazoli’s all the time while in grad school at Purdue, so I assented and they sent me some gift cards.
No secret handshake, though. Disappointingly!
This afternoon I was close to one of the Colorado Fazoli’s so I went in and with only a tiny bit of trepidation ordered the “pizza baked spaghetti”, not even really knowing what I was ordering. The server kindly explained that I had to be an “insider” to know about it and that it was popular with the regulars. For under $10, here’s what I got:
Ah, you’re looking at that dish on the right and wondering what the heck I have, aren’t you? It’s as it sounds, a dish of spaghetti with pizza cheese and pepperoni on top, as is much more clear when I actually started consuming it (after I finished my salad, ‘natch!):
The restaurant itself, in Northglenn, Colorado, was bright, clean and cheery, with ample seating, more than needed for the late lunch crowd:
I like order secret dishes, there’s a certain frisson of being an “insider”, but unfortunately the dish itself was a bit lackluster, with pasta that tasted like it’d been soaking in hot water for way too long and a marinara sauce that needed more zest and flavor. It wasn’t what I remembered from grad school, but then again, maybe I was so exhausted from non-stop academics that I wasn’t paying attention to my food back then.
Still, if you’re a Fazoli’s fan you should give the pizza baked spaghetti a whirl and see if you like it. I might just prefer more flavorful (fancy code for “spicier”) Italian food…
Disclaimer: Fazoli’s sent me gift cards to encourage me to try out the restaurant and the secret menu item. Clearly that didn’t bias my comments.