Recently, we discussed the bizarre allure of off-the-menu and “secret” menu items at chain restaurants. Some are so well-established—like In-N-Out’s “animal style” fries, or Starbuck’s gazillion Frappucino variants—that they are pretty much the opposite of secrets at this point. And when you really get down to it, most are just standard items with a few substitutions or additions rather than completely unique dishes that were being hidden from the masses.

Mark Wilson from Fast Co. Design provides some insight into how this game works in a story detailing his quest to get Chipotle’s rumored “quesarito”—”a full-blown Chipotle burrito wrapped inside a quesadilla, a 1,540-calorie fallen angel that one Redditor had claimed was hiding deep within Chipotle’s secret menu.”

Chipotle’s communications director, Chris Arnold, assures Wilson that there is no secret menu at Chipotle, but after some pressing, he does admit that requests for customized orders are common, so quesadillas and nachos are popular even though they aren’t officially on the regular menu. As Wilson explains,

[pullquote][N]either nachos nor quesadillas are inside any Chipotle operations manual. Instead, employees teach one another the popular off-menu requests through a sort of “oral history.” And Chipotle engineered a side-based menu for custom requests that’s “flexible enough to meet the sorts of requests we get from customers, but not enough to game the system.”[/pullquote]

After one bungled attempt, he finally gets his hands on a quesarito at his local Chipotle—not because anyone actually knows what it is and understands his order, but simply because a staffer is willing to construct what he describes.

How did it taste? “Not like any Chipotle burrito you know. It was like a two-pound cheese-stuffed croissant, absorbing all that addictive acidic tang that defines Chipotle and swapping it for pure unctuousness.”

It seems the main lesson is that secret menus don’t really exist, but some fast-food chains are more flexible than others. A Chipotle quesarito is an act of good service, not culinary skullduggery.

[via Fast Co. Design]