There's no secret password, handshake or rite of initiation required to join the ranks of local diners at a new series of exclusive foodie events.
Secret Burger is a recently launched promotion that hosted its first Spokane event last month. The venture coordinates special meals at local restaurants that each feature a one-time-only dish available exclusively to diners who've prebought tickets.
While burger is in the name, not all of Secret Burger's offerings are burger-themed, explains the company's Spokane-based co-owner, Kris Kilduff.
Events so far have been hosted by restaurants including Zona Blanca, Cochinito Taqueria, D'Bali Asian Bistro and Clover, featuring one-offs like handmade dumplings, foie gras tortas and Japanese wagyu brisket.
Tickets to Secret Burger events average around $20, depending on the item, Kilduff says.
"What we're trying to do is create the exclusivity of beer and tequila dinners with these unique items, because not everyone has $80 for a night of dinner," he says. "It's geared toward people who want to have a special experience but only want to spend $20."
Diners can see all of Secret Burger's upcoming events online (secretburger.com) for Spokane and several other cities, including Portland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City.
After purchasing a ticket — each restaurant determines how many to make available — diners show up on the day of the event, usually during a specified time window. Kilduff says another aim of Secret Burger is to help boost sales during what might normally be a slower service time. Some Secret Burger events also allow diners to make reservations upon purchasing tickets.
Kilduff has plenty of experience organizing food-focused events around the Northwest, including Restaurant Wars and Decadence! — Spokane Chocolate Festival. Part of his inspiration for co-launching Secret Burger with two other business partners based in Las Vegas came from seeing how logistically challenging food festivals can be for culinary teams.
"The beautiful thing about a food fest is that restaurants create a dish and people come out," he says. "But there's also no assurance that the people will ever come to their business."
He also highlights the benefits of serving a preordered item — chefs can stretch their creativity and use more expensive ingredients.
"It was a great way to do something new, exciting and a bit higher-end than our normal menu," says Cochinito chef and co-owner Travis Dickinson, who teamed up with Secret Burger last month to host its first Spokane event featuring a Mexican torta of foie gras and braised short ribs.
"Guests seemed really excited to be a part of something that seemed exclusive, a little bit of 'I got this secret menu item and you didn't!'" the chef says.
Cochinito's next event (ticketing closed April 18) is Monday, April 22, and features a South-of-the-border take on poutine for $11.
"The preordering system takes a lot of the risk out on the restaurant's side as well, since we know exactly how many of these specials to prepare," Dickinson continues. "[We're] really excited to see this project grow. We will be hosting one a month for the foreseeable future."
Secret Burger doesn't charge restaurants a fee, but adds a couple bucks on top of each ticket to cover its services. With this model, there's also no drawback if a restaurant only sells, for example, 10 of its total allotted tickets to an event.
"I hate discounting food — it's not beneficial and I also dislike stealing from restaurant margins," Kilduff notes. "We developed this so we don't have to do either."
Secret Burger has opened its model to all types of restaurants, from fast-casual to food trucks to fine dining. On the restaurant side, the main criteria is to offer something unique, unusual or new. Restaurants can't run any previously offered specials, but can use Secret Burger as a way to test out new menu items that may later be available to the general public.
Coming later this spring, Secret Burger is coming to many local favorites: the Viking, the Scoop, Wild Dawgs, Inland Pacific Kitchen, the Wandering Table, Park Lodge, Prohibition Gastropub, Garland Sandwich Shoppe, Heritage Bar & Kitchen and more.
"Food is the only thing in [the entertainment] industry that is not using presale options unless it's for a huge event," Kilduff notes. "We want to be that option... People can go have a unique off-menu experience, and it becomes part of their entertainment package." ♦
For tickets and details, visit secretburger.com.