When dining out, not all secrets are meant to be kept — at least that’s partly the intent with the “secret” restaurant trend. Unmarked entrances, unadvertised contact information, and word-of-mouth marketing are typical attributes of this deliberately cryptic experience. Clandestine appeal aside, though, it would be a shame to limit the joy of stumbling upon a well-kept location to this narrow definition.
“Secret” can be an underground speakeasy, as much as it can be Hop Kee’s (a not-so-secret secret restaurant) subterranean entrance. It can also imply an obligatory reservation (on a Tuesday) to be seated in a 35-person dining room in a town of 2,100 people. Moreover, what’s a well-known “secret” to locals in a city like New York (La Esquina, for instance), might conserve its appeal for tourists. You could even argue that the term also applies to known and beloved establishments with tacit practices: a secret menu, for instance.
So what’s the motivation for chefs and restaurant owners who purposefully construct this ambiance?