Secret NYC Menu Items You Desperately Need to Know About
It’s no secret that some of the best dishes at NYC restaurants aren’t found on the menu. These special-request, unlisted items are created by chefs exclusively for diners in the know. All you have to do is ask, and you shall receive. But what exactly should you be asking for? These 15 best off-menu eats that you can score right now -- from badass burgers to over-the-top pizzas to specialties from the sea.
Parsnip ice cream sundae
This popular veggie-focused restaurant offers a brand-new weekend brunch service. And now you can cap off your late-morning meal with this secret off-menu sundae: a scoop of refreshing parsnip ice cream topped with tangy raspberry sauce and a crunchy black sesame seed crumble.
Marc Forgione's modern steakhouse delivers the ultimate crafted-in-house burger: a prime brisket, short rib, and dry-aged ribeye blended patty covered in bourbon caramelized onions and Brooklyn lager beer cheese, on a sesame seed soft roll. A daily tweet (@AmericanCut) at 4:20pm details how many of these juicy burger bombs (usually no more than 15) will be served at the bar each night.
Fish & chips
Michael Chernow proves he can sling more than just great balls at his Montauk-inspired sustainable seafood spot, where you can reel in this off-menu riff on classic fish & chips, featuring crispy Atlantic pollock with Seamore's signature tartar sauce, hot spiked malt vinegar, and smashed Russian fingerling potatoes. You can also grab 'em “Off The Hook” -- boxed to-go at the takeout window from 3-5pm & 10pm-midnight.
This Roman-style pizzeria from power duo Danny Meyer and Chef Nick Anderer (of Maialino) serves some of New York’s tastiest pies. The ultra-thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas range from simple to specialty -- like this twist on a margherita, which swaps traditional mozz for generous heaps of gooey stracciatella cheese, made in-house. I’ll take two, grazie.
Chef-owner Michael Ferraro (also of Macbar) is “The Mac Daddy” of cheese-laden noodles, and recently whipped up this hearty variation at his Soho hotspot. The Michmac is a sizzlin’ skillet of classic American, cheddar & Swiss mac topped with chicken-turkey chili and a runny fried egg topper. Yolk porn, check.
What you do before ordering Chronic Fries is up to you, but this joint’s secret -- and only non-taquito -- offering can help cure even the most serious case of the munchies. The shoestring, waffle, and crinkle-cut combo gets a coating of guacamole, cotija and nacho cheeses, sour cream, shredded lettuce, and pickled jalapeño relish.
White Label sliders
In late 2010, Chef Michael White created one of NYC’s most buzzed-about burgers, The White Label. A Pat LaFrieda custom-blended patty (chuck, brisket, short rib, and aged ribeye) topped with white American cheese and Nueske's bacon on a buttery roll equals pure burger bliss. Ask for the bar-only secret sliders during dinner to score minis of the original.
Thomas Chen, an Eleven Madison Park and Commerce alum, churns out modern-American fare peppered with Asian influence at this cozy LES eatery. An ever-changing rotation of secret dishes includes the latest: tender oxtail dumplings with celery root purée, spiced cranberry pesto, and crispy cilantro that pack a savory-sweet-tangy punch of flavor.
Michael White’s brick-lined EV pizza den fires up hand-tossed specialty pies with artisanal toppings -- all made fresh to order. An homage to one of Italy’s all-time greatest pasta creations, the secret carbonara pizza (once a menu regular) comes covered with cream, pancetta, Pecorino Romano, egg, black pepper, scallions, and a dash of amore.
So maybe the secret’s been out about this made-in-house burger for some time now. But it’s so damn delicious, it had to make the cut. Michael Anthony’s off-menu masterpiece is a specially sourced blended patty (50% chuck, 25% brisket, 25% short rib) blanketed in melted cheddar with smoky bacon strips on a house-baked bun -- available daily while supplies last. Added bonus: duck fat-fried potato chips.
Chorizo mac & cheese
The sexy cantina in the Dream Downtown delivers bold flavors and Mexican-inspired American comfort foods. The money move here -- especially after taking down a couple killer margaritas -- is to request this late-night, special-upon-request mac & cheese made white cheddar and Gouda, smoky chorizo, and crispy pork belly.
Egg yolk ravioli
John Doherty's first solo venture in Madison Square Park serves seasonal, local fare in a modern barn-inspired setting. During the week, Chef Matteo Bergamini (from the space’s former restaurant occupant, SD26) offers his famous Uovo en Raviolo by special request, with often-changing flavors and fresh ingredients like asparagus and Parmesan-truffle emulsion.
The Bee Sting
Once a popular flavor at the Mad. Sq. Eats pop-up food market is a now an off-menu hit at the much-hyped Brooklyn pizzeria. Order up this bad boy -- with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, oven-crisped spicy soppressata, chili flakes, and drizzle of sweet honey on a charred, chewy crust -- to get stung by pizza pie perfection.
At Midtown’s seafood mainstay, Executive Chef Ben Pollinger offers a sophisticated trio of Hawaiian-style poke made from diced and seasoned raw tuna, salmon, and hamachi. Once a standard selection on the restaurant menu, this fresh fish dish is now a secret appetizer that you have to ask for.
The Virginia’s Burger
It seems like chefs love to feature great burgers as secret items. And we’re totally cool with it. At this cozy American bistro (from former Locanda Verde and Per Se chefs), the signature bar-only special is definitely one you can’t miss: a grass-fed meat blend ground in-house with Vidalia onion marmalade, bone marrow mayo, aged Cabot cheddar, and house pickles on a soft brioche bun.
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Megan Murphy (aka “This Girl Can Eat”) is a contributing writer at Thrillist who can’t keep a secret -- when it comes to sharing her favorite food and drink finds. Follow along on her culinary adventures on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.