Food & Drink

LA's Best Secret Off-Menu Dishes You Need to Know

Updated On 01/19/2017 at 06:25PM EST Updated On 01/19/2017 at 06:25PM EST
secret off-menu dishes los angeles
Courtesy of STK

You’re understandably proud that you’ve tackled the “secret” menu at In-N-Out, and for making your way through our favorite off-menu burgers, so now you’re hungry for more secret goodness. Well, you’re in luck. After eavesdropping near the kitchens of some of LA’s best restaurants, listening to whispers from the regulars, and having numerous clandestine meetings in back alleyways, we’ve rounded up the best secret and off-menu dishes that you should be ordering right now. 

Mexicali Taco & Co

Mexicali fries

Mexicali Taco & Co.

Address and Info

Chinatown

If you’ve been lucky enough to feast on the loaded fries at Califas Taco, chef Esdras Ochoa’s Smorgasburg outfit, then you’ll have an idea of the excellence that awaits you here. Only available for limited runs (keep an eye on Instagram), the fresh-cut fries are stacked high with roasted peppers, Cotija cheese, spicy crema, guac, cilantro, and your choice of flame-grilled pork, chicken, or beef.

Courtesy of Maple Block Meat Co

Brisket burger

Maple Block Meat Co

Address and Info

Culver City

While you may have tried the incredibly tender and smoky brisket at this BBQ joint, this secret menu burger allows you to appreciate it on a whole new level. Featuring 100% beef brisket patty, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, “comeback” sauce, and pickled onions on a toasted challah bun, the burger isn’t always available, and when it is it’s only at dinner -- so be sure to ask. You can even crank things up again by adding a 1/4lb of sliced brisket to the burger.

Chowder poutine

L&E Oyster Bar

Address and Info

Silver Lake

We thought we’d seen all manner of fully loaded variations of poutine -- the Québécois import of cheese-curd-gravy fries -- but the bivalve-obsessed folks at L&E have thrown us a delicious curveball. Those in the know ask for the chowder poutine, which features a mound of fries smothered with clam chowder and covered with Cheddar cheese, Nueske’s bacon, and SBEZ hot sauce.

Courtesy of FrankieLucy Bakeshop

Ube pavlovas

FrankieLucy Bakeshop

Address and Info

Silver Lake

This newly opened sweet spot from the talented team behind Crème Caramel LA and Found Coffee, serves up a delectable lineup of traditional and Filipino-inspired treats (think coconut pandan custard), and top-notch brews (try the bourbon vanilla latte). But you’ll definitely want to add to your order the off-menu pavlovas, which feature a meringue base topped with any of the available custards including bright purple ube (yam) or seasonal picks like honey espresso, and a generous sprinkle of brûléed graham cracker crumble.

Spago Beverly Hills

Spicy tuna cones and smoked salmon pizza

Spago

Address and Info

Beverly Hills

Two of the granddaddy’s of beloved secret menu options, these two iconic dishes once graced the regular menu, but are now available by request. The trio of two-bite-sized sesame miso cones come filled with spicy tuna tartare and are topped with bonito flakes, masago roe, pickled ginger, and daikon sprouts. Meanwhile, the smoked salmon pizza -- which was on the menu when the restaurant opened in 1982 -- is topped with garlic chili oil, dill crème fraîche, red onions, house-cured smoked salmon, and caviar.

Courtesy of Birdie’s

Donut breakfast sandwich

Birdies

Address and Info

Downtown/South Park

Sometimes deciding between donuts and a breakfast sandwich is too much work after a long night. Thankfully this fried chicken and donut specialist takes the difficulty out of such a burdensome choice by combining the two remedies in the ultimate hangover preventer.

Fried kreplach

Canter’s

Address and Info

Fairfax

Because this iconic deli is not only where you might start your day after a long night, but also likely where you’ll end up in the middle of a long night, thanks to the next-door Kibitz Room, it’s good to know the classic spot still has some tricks up its sleeve. The fried kreplach is one that the older patrons may remember and younger patrons should get to know -- small pockets of dough are stuffed with brisket, and while they’re usually boiled and served in soup, you’re going to ask for them fried. And you’re gonna like it.

LUKE Bar and Restaurant

An entire chili menu

LUKE Bar & Restaurant

Address and Info

Woodland Hills

Yes, that’s right, this stylish Valley spot features an entire secret menu featuring Chef Tony's award-winning Texas chili recipe if you know to ask, and now you do. Options include chili fries with house pickled serranos, beer Cheddar cheese sauce, smoked mozzarella, and cilantro, chili mac & cheese; a bowl of chili with mini jalapeño corn muffins; an open-face chili cheeseburger; and at brunch time, a Texas chili omelet. But one option you don’t want to miss is the classic Frito Pie, served table-side with two bags of Fritos, a cup of chili, chives, sour cream, and warm beer Cheddar cheese sauce. We advise not making plans afterward.

Tuna melt

Apple Pan

Address and Info

West LA

Because there may come a day when you want to order something other than the Hickoryburger (or the Steakburger if that’s how you roll), this LA institution can hook you up with a tuna melt or even a patty melt if you ask nicely. Bonus: You can also ask for some of that delicious Tillamook Cheddar to be melted over your fries and cool off with a root beer float -- both off-menu options.

Courtesy of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

Mushroom Bun and grilled cheese

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

Address and Info

Multiple locations

While this solidly reliable gastropub serves up excellent burgers, fried chicken, and pastrami, they also have several great options for vegetarians. Besides the on-menu Double Up Veggie Burger, those looking to skip the meat can also opt for the Mushroom Bun, which includes a roasted portobello mushroom, topped with melted Swiss, roasted garlic steak sauce, and crispy kale. Or if you’re looking to kick it after-school style, ask for the grilled cheese, which features two kinds of cheese, pickles and is served on a panko crusted crunch bun.

Courtesy of Yamashiro

Spot shrimp Japanese ceviche

Yamashiro

Address and Info

Hollywood

Head for the hills to one of the best views in town where a recently reopened Yamashiro features several secret menu options worth braving Hollywood traffic. Ask for the Spot shrimp Japanese ceviche, which features hand cut Ora salmon, yellowtail, big eye tuna, and Spot shrimp, topped with black tobiko and chili pepper. Or you could opt for the shrimp kataifi -- jumbo prawns wrapped in shredded phyllo dough, served with a reduction of basil and cream of coconut and a yuzu ponzu sauce. Another solid off-menu option is the Wagyu beef tataki with seared Wagyu, momiji oroshi (grated daikon and chili peppers), scallions, and tosazu sauce.

Courtesy of Kettle Black

Secret pizzas

Kettle Black

Address and Info

Silver Lake

This newish hotspot turns out some exceptional wood-fired pizzas, but if you’re looking for something beyond what’s listed on the menu, Chef Sydney Hunter III has you covered. Ask about the Chef’s Special, which features a San Marzano sauce, sopressata, cremini mushrooms, and chopped pepperoncini, or the Italian in Paradise with pineapple, large soppressata, provolone, pickled fresnos, and pancetta. Or if you feel like stealing plans for the Death Star, you could go for the Rogue One with crème fraîche, Yukon potatoes, n’duja, egg, fontina, Taleggio, Italian pancetta, pickled fresnos, and lemon dressed arugula on top.

Greenspan's Grilled Cheese

Inside out sandwiches

Greenspan's Grilled Cheese

Address and Info

Melrose

The only thing better than a grilled cheese sandwich on a rainy day is an award-winning grilled cheese sandwich turned inside out -- basically an open-faced sandwich on top of a whole one -- on a sunny day in LA. Any of the sandwiches on the menu can be ordered in such a crazy fashion.

The Bazaar by José Andres

José's taco and avocado cotton candy

The Bazaar by José Andrés

Address and Info

Beverly Hills

Decorated chef José Andrés won’t settle for just any old ordinary taco to be his namesake taco. Instead, his favorite rendition, available only by request, includes Jamón Ibérico de Bellota and Siberian sturgeon caviar garnished with chervil and extra virgin olive oil. As a bonus, vegetarians -- or cotton candy enthusiasts -- can also order the secret avocado cotton candy, the veggie version of the restaurant's iconic foie gras cotton candy. In this case you’ll find a cube of avocado, dusted in ground corn nuts, and then wrapped in cotton candy.

Truffle pocket

Wally’s Beverly Hills

Address and Info

Beverly Hills

Imagine, if you will, the Hot Pockets of your childhood grew up, got a really well-paying job and moved to Beverly Hills -- then you’ll start to have an idea of what’s in store for you with this off-menu delight. A giant calzone-like shell that’s been perfectly crisped in the wood-fired oven is filled with fresh buffalo mozzarella, truffle paste, and a healthy dose of black truffle shavings, all of which comes oozing out in the most beautiful way when you cut into it. Should you find yourself doing the Truffle Shuffle, we won’t blame you.

Santa Barbara whelks

Terra Cotta

Address and Info

Koreatown

All right, bear with us here: Whelks -- aka sea snails -- may be a far cry from your secret menu selection at In-N-Out, but at this creatively delicious K-town spot, they’re an under-the-radar favorite. Here the dish comes with Santa Barbara sea snails, herb butter, dehydrated miso, cho gochujang, and scallions. Originally on the opening menu in the “anju” section (read Korean eats to be consumed with booze), you can still order them with your next round.

Courtesy of Katsuya

24K tartare

Katsuya

Address and Info

Downtown

The next time you’re heading to a show at L.A. Live or a game at the Staples Center and are looking to drop even more cash, swing by Katsuya and ask for the off-menu 24K tartare. You’ll be treated to the coveted toro (tuna belly) tartare with truffle nikiri soy that’s paired with Hudson Valley foie gras topped with caviar and 24K gold leaf. Your chariot awaits, your highness. (And if you’re balling on a more reasonable budget, head to the Hollywood location for the off-menu miso corn elote, made with kewpie mayo, ichiimi chile, cilantro blossom, and masa hane.)

Wexler's Deli

The Russian Hack

Wexler’s Deli

Address and Info

Santa Monica

While some of us may be satisfied with a quality Reuben or a straightforward bagel with cream cheese at Wexler’s, the true deli baller knows that he or she can ask for the Russian Hack (at the Santa Monica location only) -- a decadent sandwich of house-smoked lox, cream cheese, capers, and onions, that’s topped with 30g of Wexler’s Deli private label Oscietra caviar for a “mere” $100.

Courtesy of E.P. & L.P.

Spicy habanero chicken sandwich

E.P. & L.P.

Address and Info

West Hollywood

If you didn’t believe us before when we told you to head to the L.P. Rooftop for the fried chicken sandwich, hear us now. You’ll find the regular sandwich on the menu, but you’ll want to pump up the volume and ask for the off-menu spicy rendition, which features a house-made habanero sauce, romaine, house mayo, served on a buttery bun.

Pizza fries

Jerry’s Famous Deli

Address and Info

Multiple locations

Two of your favorite food groups together at last: French fries covered in marinara, mozzarella, and pepperoni. And all you had to do was ask.

Courtesy of The Church Key

Chocolate and salted caramel parfait

The Church Key

Address and Info

West Hollywood

Once you’ve stuffed yourself silly from the passing dim sum carts, you’ll want to stuff yourself sillier with this killer off-menu dessert, which features chocolate cake, salted caramel sauce, chocolate mousse, and peanut brittle.

Courtesy of Carlitos Gardel Argentine Steakhouse

The whole ribeye cap

Carlitos Gardel Argentine Steakhouse

Address and Info

Beverly Grove

While steak aficionados may know they can order a 12oz portion of the ribeye cap at this meat-lover’s paradise, if they get the crew together, they can feast on the entire cut, which usually rings in around 48-62oz. Hand-carved table side, this prized cut must be reserved in advance as they only serve two portions a night. Years ago GM Gerard Bozoghlian developed a special carving technique that allows the chef to cook the ribeye cap marbling first, which creates a cut that’s tender as filet mignon but with the full flavor of a ribeye. You’re going to want an extra order of the house chimichurri for this.

Pork confit tortellini

SALT Restaurant & Bar

Address and Info

Marina Del Rey

Soak up some stunning harbor views while feasting on this off-menu special, which features house-made tortellini stuffed with a confit of Berkshire pork that’s served in a house dashi enriched with chicken jus and rich “beurre de baratte” butter, and garnished with tea-smoked plum. Suddenly realize you have nothing much to complain about at the moment.

Courtesy of STK

Fancy mac & cheese

STK at W Los Angeles

Address and Info

Westwood

You didn’t come to this steakhouse to cut calories, so let’s just cut to the chase and order up the signature mac & cheese. And while you’re at it, double down by enhancing that mac & cheese with freshly shaved truffles, lobster, or crab -- all little known secret options that are well worth the indulgence.

Challah baked French toast

Clementine

Address and Info

Century City

Should you find yourself at this cozy bakery and café for breakfast -- and not at lunch for their exceptional grilled cheese -- you’re going to want to inquire about the special challah baked French toast. While sometimes available as a bake-at-home option, if you’re there when chef and owner Annie Miler is around -- who has to personally make it -- you can score one at the café.

Courtesy of Officine Brera

Farinata

Officine BRERA

Address and Info

Arts District

You’re here for the top-notch Northern Italian specialties, so why not get the fully authentic experience by ordering a super old-school dish -- we’re talking ancient Roman Empire eats here. Farinata, a popular street food in Northern Italy (especially Liguria), is a deceptively straightforward yet delicious, thin pancake made from chickpea flour, olive oil, water, and salt that’s fired in the wood-burning oven. One legend says the dish was created when Ancient Roman soldiers would cook a chickpea batter in the hot sun on their shields, while another says Genoese sailors accidentally left the batter in a bowl to bake in the sun. All we know is, we’re glad somebody else is cooking it for us.

courtesy of Belcampo

Poutine

Belcampo Restaurant & Butcher Shop

Address and Info

Santa Monica

The fries at Belcampo are already tremendous, so when you ask for the off-menu poutine made with them, things are about to get bigly. Kennebec fries are piled high with cheese curds, caramelized onions, and doused in a red wine demi. Winning.

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Danny Jensen is a regular Thrillist contributor who is always willing to go off-menu in search of secrets. Whisper at him on Twitter and Instagram.

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