Home  >  Ink


Cheat sheet: secret menus, chef’s tables, omakase and more

Posted 9:21am on Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013

To be a foodie in the know, you have to be on top of the terminology. You need to recognize a pop-up versus a speakeasy, how to tell the difference between “off-menu” and “secret menu,” and last but not least, how to pronounce “omakase.” Here’s our 411 on the secret world of dining.

Off-menu item

The off-menu dish is the ultimate insider item. You gotta be in the know, because nobody at the restaurant is going to volunteer the information (although you can certainly ask). It often has an interesting history or special meaning, like the poached oyster at Grace. It could be something the chef was known for at his last job, like the lobster taco at Fearing’s. Or it could be a dish from a previous menu that regulars keep ordering, or a staff favorite they’ll share with regulars.

Secret menu

The secret menu is a series of dishes designed for regulars and curious diners who like trying something new. Sometimes the dishes are truly unique, but more often they consist of ingredients the restaurant has in-house, only reconfigured and given a fun name.

Chef’s table

This table in a restaurant gives the diner exclusive access to or attention from the chef. Some come with special menus. Others are simply geographically desirable. Want to try it? Call ahead to reserve it. Be warned: Dinner there can run from $50 to $200, depending on how many courses you get (and how deluxe those courses are).


Pop-up is another term for a temporary restaurant. The limited lifespan could be a month or even a single night. Most are well publicized, but you still need to monitor food blogs to find out about them.


A term adopted from the Prohibition era when bars were illegal, a speakeasy is an establishment with an underground, rule-breaking atmosphere. It often serves classic cocktails and almost always features bartenders with fedoras and/or sculpted facial hair.

Feed-me menu

With a feed-me menu, you put yourself in the chef’s hands. Instead of specifying items from a menu, you accept whatever dish the chef makes. The secret part is not knowing what you’ll get.


Pronounced "oh-mah-kah-say," omakase is the Japanese version of “feed me.” In the right hands, it’s a magical, often exotic journey that displays both the knife skills and prowess of the chef as well as the wonders of seafood.

— Teresa Gubbins,

Special to DFW.com

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Hey there. or join DFW.com. Your account. Log out.

Remember me