First Look

We Try Out the ‘Off The Menu’ App for Dallas

Two egg, briskets and potato tacos at Oak'd.
Two egg, briskets and potato tacos at Oak'd. Lauren Drewes Daniels
A few weeks ago we wrote about the new app-based deal called Off The Menu. For $20 a month, registered users get seven “off the menu” freebies at restaurants, cafés and juice shops. Every Sunday a new list of items is released; you have one week to make it to each spot to redeem your offer. Right now, the service is only available in Los Angeles and Dallas.

The photos of the food on the app look promising (obviously), but what’s the catch? Are you’re guilted into buying more? We sent out our reconnaissance team to check it out.

Signing up is easy; just a few clicks and the app downloads to your iPhone (they’re working on an app for those “other” phones).

A couple of weeks ago, Oak’d BBQ had an offer. Off the Menu subscribers could get one free brisket, egg and potato taco, plus $2 off a second taco. After walking in, I waved my phone at the guy and mumbled something about a breakfast taco and he pointed me to the register.

Trying to tamp down feelings of being cheap, I asked for the free taco plus one more and a drink. They took my order and handed me a number, all smiles. All together it was about $7. The tacos were more like small burritos stuffed with potatoes, eggs, cheese, sautéed onions and brisket. The tortillas were hot like they had just been cooked on a flat top. Walking out stuffed and only $7 lighter, I felt like I’d already made my money back on the monthly fee.

The next week, I Love Juice had an acai bowl offer. I made my way over there, wandered around lost for a bit, considered just getting a slice of Detroit-style pizza instead of an acai bowl, but stuck to the mission and found the spot.

Here too, I waved my phone and they didn't hesitate or roll their eyes nor pitch a timeshare for some lakefront property. This small meal comes with more than a cup of frozen acai (think sorbet) topped with granola, fresh blueberries, bananas, strawberries and peanut butter. It too was more than I had expected for a “free” offer.
click to enlarge A loaded acai bowl from I Love Juice - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
A loaded acai bowl from I Love Juice
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Other offers that looked enticing that we didn’t get to redeem was a crab queso at The Dock, an artichoke dip at Vidorra, cheese-covered fries from Rocket Burger (Who goes to Rocket Burger just for fries, right? But, we see what they’re doing here, and we’re not arguing). There was also a classic corn dog from CornDog with No Name and a kale salad from Rm 12:30 Bistro. All free, they only ask that you tip your servers.

What do the restaurants get from it? Well, an uptick in new visitors, perhaps. Brett Curtis who owns The Dock said they had about 35 redemptions on their offer, which he shrugged at but said they were all new customers. Oak’d used it to promote the addition of breakfast tacos to their menu (served 7-11 a.m. Friday-Sunday).

The only quibble is that by the name you might think the items are “off the menu,” new and only available to subscribers, but that’s mostly not the case.

In the end, if you’re able to get around town to just a couple of offers a month, you’ll get your money’s worth. There are about 30 offers a month, one for every day. But, the bigger advantage might be finding new places; if you feel stuck in a rut, always eating at the same places, Off the Menu could introduce you to new spots.

For instance, one deal this week is an order of fries at Peri Peri Grill. Not on the grander side of menu items, and who’s going to drive out of their way just for an order of fries, but now I know about a Portuguese-style fried chicken spot in Plano.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.