“Off the menu” is such a weird phrase. Colloquially it sounds like you’re doing a normal thing: Looking at the menu and ordering off of it. But when people use that phrase–including me today–we mean that you ask for a dish that isn’t on the menu.
A friend recently shared an article about a guy (Justin) who tried to eat every sandwich on the menu of all 9 sandwich shops on The Hill (a big Italian neighborhood in St. Louis). The task amounted to 158 sandwiches, and the article features his favorites.
The article mentioned a specific sandwich named after the guy, who called himself “The Hill Topper” as he went through his sandwich quest. It was a sandwich that he had ordered from Gioia’s for years before he even decided to eat all 158 sandwiches, and it piqued my interest.
So I went to Gioia’s last week to see if they would make me a Hill Topper. I was there with a friend, so we decided to try two different sandwiches.
I’d never ordered off the menu before, so I was a little nervous as I approached the counter. “Yeah, I’ll have a Spicy Daggett and…a Hill Topper?”
Fortunately, the chef broke into a broad grin. “Nice! You know Justin?” I told him no, that I just read a blog about the sandwich.
It was pretty awesome. I think I now know how people feel when they order off the menu at In and Out, which I’ve never done. There’s almost a sense of instant intimacy with the restaurant, even if you’ve never been there before.
Also, the sandwiches were delicious. That helps.
Have you ever ordered off the menu? Or have you worked at a restaurant where people ordered off the menu? Apparently there’s an iPhone app that lists many off-the-menu items at restaurants–I’m going to check it out.