Every diner has access to the regular menu, but only the cooler-than-cool know about the secret stuff. Sometimes you just have to know to ask for an off-menu item. Other times you need to follow a restaurant’s social media feeds to find out when a limited-time, insiders-only dish is available. Either way, it’ll impress the heck out of your dining companions when you order something they didn’t even know existed. So you can amp up your hipness factor, here are 15 must-order secret menu items.
Pounds & Ounces, New York City
The Fork & Knife Surf & Turf burger is an epic affair. A Cajun-spiced, rice-coated soft shell crab sits atop a half-pound burger along with char-grilled corn salsa, white cheddar, remoulade, and lettuce. The supersized sandwich is available intermittently during soft shell crab season, so watch the restaurant’s Facebook page and Twitter feed for a head’s up. You have to specifically ask for the sando when you sit down because servers won’t tell you it’s on hand.
Mandu – 18th St., Washington, D.C.
Chef Danny Lee will make guests gaeran jim (a traditional Korean steamed egg) upon special request when he’s presiding over the kitchen. Served warm, the set egg has a silky, custard-like texture and comes topped with Korean red peppers, seasoned seaweed strips, and sesame seeds.
Bub City, Chicago, Illinois
This might be a Southern-styled barbecue joint, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make primo pastrami. Their version is crusted with more than a dozen spices, including coriander, mustard seed, and black pepper, then hickory smoked for nine hours. The sort-of-secret sandwich comes on Rosen’s rye. Mustard optional.
Craigie on Main, Cambridge, Massachusetts
One of chef-owner Tony Maws most well-loved dishes is the off-menu, sesame-marinated King salmon collar with New Mexican red chile and daikon salad. It’s only available whenever he can get the whole fish in, so make sure to order it if you’re offered one.
American Cut, New York New York
Every day at 4:20 p.m., the restaurant announces on its Twitter feed how many off-menu In-House burgers will be available starting at 5 p.m. It’s a beast. The patty is a blend of prime brisket, short rib, and dry-aged rib eye and it comes garnished with bourbonized, caramelized onions, and beer cheese (a mix of Brooklyn lager, Fontina, and cheddar).
Villa Azur, Miami Beach, Florida
The most show-stopping dish here isn’t on the menu. Back in the kitchen, linguini is coated with heavy cream accented by fresh sage and pepper. Then it’s brought tableside along with a giant wheel of Parmigiano with a bowl-like depression dug out of its center. Cognac is poured into the crater, set ablaze, then tamped out. The still-warm cheese is shaved into the crater, the pasta is added, it’s all tossed together, and voila!