Everyone loves a secret menu. It's a confidential bond you can share with a friend, as in "You gotta order this, but you gotta know about it because it's not on the menu or anything and only cool people like you and me know about it."
It becomes part of a restaurant's mystique, even if you're a wildly successful chain like In-N-Out. I can't go there and not see crazy concoctions being put together in the back. Inevitably, if you ask about it, it will be something "animal style." Anything worth ordering at In-N-Out comes with that zoo-friendly adjective.
The latest restaurant to go down this For Your Eyes Only road is Lengthwise Brewing Company (three locations), which has a new "twisted" menu. They told me about it many weeks ago, so I walked into the Schirra Court location expecting it to be printed on a menu insert at least. I asked the bartender, and he told me it was strictly for those in the know. But no secret handshake was necessary for me to order two of the items: the egg chili mac burger ($14.95), which I asked for on focaccia bread, and the "18 ouncer" ($16.95), ordered on jalapeno bread. If you've been to Lengthwise, you know the first order of business is for one member of your party to get a table and the other to order at the bar, where you get a number, and the food is brought out to your table. Thus I ordered these massive heart attacks on a plate without consulting my regular companion.
(After visiting in March, the owners forwarded an electronic copy of the new menu, which debuts this month. Secret's out. It'll all be there in the lower corner.)
When the items were brought out, patrons at nearby tables stared. These are attention-getting gut-bombs that look like the sort of sandwich you should get a shirt for finishing. Men looking at my companion's stacked sandwich thought, "Wow, I'll bet she even watches ESPN with him." Good that they were out of earshot to avoid hearing what she was saying, which was not at all so upbeat. She immediately took a picture of this gargantuan creation and posted it on Facebook, saying, "This is what was ordered for me." (In my defense, no force feeding was involved.) They are served with a knife and fork, as if to give a civilized hint that only a fool would try to eat them conventionally. These are great, as long as your waistline can stand it.
Let's start with the chili mac burger. If I did it over, I'd order it with the jalapeno beer bread, which is not as polite as the focaccia. The house-made chili goes fantastically with the macaroni and cheese. I was tempted to eat just that. The burger has gorgonzola and garlic on it -- their "stinky" burger. The egg on top (fried over easy) made it seem like breakfast. She ate what she could and boxed the rest. Days later we were still picking at it like a Thanksgiving turkey.
My sandwich seemed more reasonable, but that was an illusion. It had strips of bacon, six ounces of deep-pit style beef, what appears to be about the same amount of pulled pork, some strips of smoked tri-tip, grilled bell peppers and onions and slices of cheddar cheese separating the layers of meat. It was like one of those meat-lovers pizzas and could probably be used to scare away vegans the way garlic works on vampires. The takeaway from this experience by my companion is that she needs to order the pulled-pork sandwich next time. I began deconstructing the layers of the sandwich because, blended together, they seemed like non-distinctive protein sources. I didn't take a picture of it, but I should have. It was a sight to behold. Had to box some of that for home, too.
Could've been worse. The "26 ouncer" takes what I received and adds an 8-ounce hamburger patty.
One thing that's not on the secret menu but is an addition since I last wrote about the place is the smokehouse rib tips appetizer ($9.95). These are basically an excellent variation on what Applebee's serves -- love those but the Lengthwise version is far smokier, probably because they're finished over an open flame, and the house-made barbecue sauce is the genuine article. Other personal old favorites are the grilled steak salad, the chili and the fish and chips.
The southwest location really bustles on the weekends with a mix of couples, after-work folks and families (yes, they have a child's menu and don't really have a "bar vibe" despite all the brew tanks). I do love the new Double Centennial ale (8.7 percent alcohol content); co-owners Jeff Williams and Darin Schwicker will continue to offer new brews as inspiration strikes. What I was impressed with is how they've held the line for five years on menu prices, especially given what has happened to food costs during that time. Most of the prices haven't budged since then, and I don't feel they've sacrificed quality in the process.