While it seems as though every possible food exists in New York City, from ramen burgers and sushiritos to spaghetti donuts and chocolate pizza, there are still some worthwhile off-menu items hidden at restaurants around the city. It’s true that some secret menus and dishes are not-so-secret anymore, but they remain delicious and ordering them still ignites that fun, insider feeling.
Whether you’re looking to impress some out of town friends or just weary from having to choose between a burrito and a quesadilla, this list will reveal some dishes and tricks worth trying the next time you dine out:
1. Sicilian Meatballs, ACME
Image courtesy ACME
While this French-Italian bistro already has a spicy pork meatball appetizer on its dinner menu, its secret Sicilian meatball dish seems to sell out just as quickly to those in the know. In early 2016, the menu underwent a serious overhaul and revitalization by Italian-American chef Brian Loiacono, who brought signature recipes along with his French influenced training.
Located on West 3rd between Broadway and Lafayette, just a few streets from Washington Square Park, ACME offers classic Italian fare from cacio e pepe to a brick chicken with Taggiasca olives. Its off-menu Sicilian meatballs, accredited to Loiacono’s grandmother, are served as a combination of veal, lamb, and pork with pomodoro sauce and fresh basil. Although they are occasionally unavailable, it’s definitely worth asking about this secret specialty.
2. The Bee Sting Pizza, Roberta’s
Opened in 2008 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Roberta’s has grown from a small pizzeria to a full-scale restaurant serving up dishes from oxtail ragu to marinated cucumber salad. Despite its expansion, the restaurant remains true to its pizza roots, offering unique and delicious pies such as the Beastmaster (tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, onion, caper, jalapeno) and the ShroomsDay Device (taleggio, oyster mushrooms, pickled onions, scallion, black pepper, cream).
Its off-menu favorite is a different, sweeter kind of pie: the Bee Sting Pizza. Made with fresh mozzarella, slices of spicy soppressata, and drizzled with honey, the Bee Sting has a distinct taste that works surprisingly well. Originally offered on the menu at a Roberta’s pizza cart in Madison Square Park in 2011, the now off-menu pizza can be ordered at the Bushwick location on 261 Moore Street for those who crave a salty-spicy-sweet combination.
3. The Garret Burger, The Garret West
The Garret can be found at two locations in the city: one bar lies in the East Village on 206 Avenue A while the other is nestled in the West Village on 296 Bleecker Street. While the former is easily noticed on the street, the latter, The Garret West, is far more secretive and lies hidden on the second floor above a Five Guys. To enter, one must pass through the restaurant and head to the back where a secret staircase leads up to the large, loft-like bar space.
Another secret to this already mysterious bar is the burger service provided by, appropriately, the Five Guys below. While ordering a drink you can also enjoy Five Guys burgers that are not available at other locations, such as the Garret Burger served with steak marinade dust and Luger sauce or the Sixth Man Burger topped with sriracha, five spice, and mustard seed.
4. Quesarito, Chipotle
There are definitely tips and tricks to getting the most and the best combinations out of a Chipotle meal, but so far one of the best off-menu creations is the quesarito. The idea is simple: take a plain cheese quesadilla and use it as the tortilla to wrap a regular burrito. The reward is great, melted cheese and a heftier burrito, but there are some negative aspects of the quesarito to consider.
First, the restaurant chain has picked up on what is basically two meals being sold for the price of one (a cheese quesadilla and a burrito) and has subsequently added a $3.50 charge to those who order the off-menu item. Second, Chipotle employees have admitted enormous disdain towards making the quesarito, namely because it disrupts the assembly line and is piping hot and difficult to prepare. So, while it is a delicious meal, customers will have to decide for themselves whether the quesarito is worth the extra $3.50 and the fury of a Chipotle employee.
5. Kimchi Stew, Momofuku Noodle Bar
A East Village favorite, Momofuku Noodle Bar on 171 1st Avenue is the first of several eateries from the Momofuku group. The restaurant is mainly known for its noodle dishes, including ramen, pho and spicy Sichuan noodles, but it also offers a variety of small plates like the BBQ Pork Belly and Smoked Chicken Wings, as well as savory buns (the pork version being the fan favorite).
Although the restaurant’s menu has changed slightly since its inception, those in the know can still have a taste of one of its original dishes: the Kimchi Stew. Just ask the wait staff for the entree, and you’ll be treated to a hearty, steaming bowl of braised pork shoulder, scallions, carrots and rice cakes.
6. Off-the-Menu Burger, Gramercy Tavern
In 1994, famed restaurateur Danny Meyer opened the Gramercy Tavern, located on 42 E 20th Street in the Flatiron District. It’s situated in a historic landmark building, designed by Bentel & Bentel, and features murals by artist Robert Kushner and colorful floral arrangements by Roberta Bendavid.
Since it was established over two decades ago, the much beloved restaurant has specialized in contemporary American cuisine, offering a seasonal menu built upon a relationship with local farms and purveyors. While you can opt for dishes like grilled pork and smoked duck, Gramercy Tavern also offers an off-the-menu burger, made from beef that is freshly butchered and ground in-house, and served with a fresh-baked bun, cheddar cheese, Bibb lettuce, raw onions and several condiments. According to Eater New York, the restaurant used to only offer 20 of these a night, but it has since increased its production (likely due to demand).
7. Whole Roasted Duck, Edi & the Wolf
When asked about the one must-try dish at their restaurant, Edi & the Wolf’s Michelin-starred chefs, Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban, highlighted the whole roasted duck, which is available only if patrons pre-order it 24-hours in advance. “It’s a Long Island Peking duck, whole roasted with apples, oranges, and marjoram,” said Frauneder about the dish to Eater New York. “It’s served with a celery root puree, Brussels sprouts, bacon, and roasted apples, and then the whole thing is taken apart in the kitchen.”
The $100 meal can feed four to six people, so make sure to bring along a crew for this family-style dinner. In addition to the famed duck, this Alphabet City restaurant, located on 102 Avenue C, is known for its authentic Austrian cuisine and rustic atmosphere, which is reminiscent of a cottage.
8. Michmac, Delicatessen
Located on 54 Prince Street, Delicatessen is helmed by chef and owner, Michael Ferraro, also known as “The Mac Daddy.” Incorporating elements from his Italian roots and classical French training, Ferraro whips up international comfort food, including entrees like the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Steak Frites.
You really can’t go wrong with any of its menu offerings, but the Michmac is a secret, calorie-laden option that’s the king of all hearty eats. Featured in Thrillist, the dish is a sizzling skillet of Delicatessen’s classic mac and cheese (with American, cheddar and Swiss cheese) that’s topped with a runny fried egg and chicken-turkey chili.
9. The “Billionaire’s Menu,” Delmonico’s Restaurant
Founded in 1837 in the Financial District, Delmonico’s Restaurant on 56 Beaver Street began as a small coffee and pastry shop run by two brothers. Now, it is a historic fine dining establishment famous for its steak and 20th century decor, as well as credited with employing the chef who created dishes such as the Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg, and Eggs Benedict. But Delmonico’s has a secret.
Previously known to the restaurant’s wealthier clientele but now extending to us plebs, the secret “Billionaire’s Menu” offers several high priced dishes such as a gold-leaf topped milkshake and the Black & Gold Half-Moon Cookie. Other dishes off the menu include a $100 grilled cheese prepared with in-house cured bacon and black truffle shavings and a $150 flatbread topped with Wagyu beef, lobster, more black truffle shavings, and edible gold-leaf. It’s excessive and decadent, but when and where else can one order an off-menu flatbread and milkshake literally covered in gold?
10. Bonus: Sushi Burger, Redeye Grill
Located right across the street from Carnegie Hall, Redeye Grill on 890 7th Avenue is an American restaurant and brasserie serving up dishes from Korean fried chicken and Japanese mushroom hot pots to lobster truffle mac and cheese and steak tacos. Several years ago, it created the off-menu and incredibly photogenic “Sushi Burger,” made with two rice buns, tuna, seaweed salad, seaweed leaves, avocado, and spicy mayo.
Due to its success, the Sushi Burger recently earned a spot on Redeye’s regular dinner and lunch menus where it can be made with either white or black rice. Even though it’s now available to all customers and has lost that secret, off-menu charm, the burger is still a rare find in the city and definitely worth a try!
For more hidden gems and other good eats, check out this speakeasy hidden behind an Upper East Side ice cream shop or 10 of the best farm-to-table restaurants in NYC. This article has been put together by Catherine Foley and Susan Xu.