14 Secret Menu Items Across the U.S.

Donut burgers, carbonara pizza and more
July 22, 2014
by Zagat Staff

What makes a hot dish even more enticing? When it's only available to those who are in the know. Check out our insider's guide to the country's top hidden dishes, from a brunch-only donut burger to a 30-inch super burrito.

Naked Donuts at Federal Donuts (Philadelphia)

At any of the four stand-alone locations of Michael Solomonov’s chicken and donut shop, you can opt to get your hot, fried-to-order treats without any sugar coating. Great on their own, these baharat-spiced cakes are also perfect to use for homemade ice cream sandwiches or donut bread pudding.

Difficulty to Obtain: Easy. Available anytime the Donut Robot is popping out fresh ‘nuts. (The only thing between you and these treats is your willingness to order something “naked.”)

Price: $1.25 each; $11 per dozen

Multiple locations

Carbonara Pizza at Nicoletta (New York City)

Diners in the know can request a secret pie at Michael White's East Village pizza den, Nicoletta. Chef de cuisine Michael Cariglio will whip up a special carbonara pizza (based on the flavors in the classic pasta) made with pancetta and asparagus and topped with chopped chives and three fried eggs.

Difficulty to Obtain: Easy — it's a well-known secret.

Price: $20

160 Second Ave.; 212-432-1600

Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich at Ted's Bulletin (Washington DC)

How do you make a housemade pop-tart even better? You make it into an ice cream sandwich, of course. Plus, it's customizable — the person ordering gets to choose the flavor of the pop-tart as well as the flavor of ice cream that goes in between.

Difficulty to Obtain: Easy. (Perhaps too easy!) It's available any time after the diner-style restaurant opens at 7 AM.

Price: $6.99

Multiple locations

Nashville Hot Chicken Butts at Ste. Ellie (Denver)

“A truly off-menu item that we really don't talk about much are the 'Nashville hot chicken butts,'" says Kevin Burke, beverage director at Colt & Gray’s downstairs cocktail lounge, Ste. Ellie. “We take the tail off of the chicken, marinate it in a little buttermilk and deep-fry it in a light, spiced breading. Then we send it out on grilled bread with a mess of Real Dill pickle chips.” 

Difficulty to Obtain: There are usually only one or two orders available at any given time, so we suggest swinging by before the late-night regulars descend.​

Price: $6 

1553 Platte St.; 303-477-1447

In-N-Haute at Juniper & Ivy (San Diego)

San Diego transplant and Top Chef alum Richard Blais let the cat out of the bag on his secret menu item soon after Juniper & Ivy opened. Almost everyone knows about it. But that doesn’t mean we don't love his ode to In-N-Out burgers any less. Marin Sun Farms ground chuck and dry-aged fat are hand-formed into two patties. Taken from the In-N-Out playbook, mustard is grilled right into the meat. A toasted brioche bun, bread-and-butter pickles, American cheese and grilled onions complete the burger. It's served with triple-cooked fries. 

Difficulty to Obtain: Only a few burgers are available every evening, so order on the early side if you've really got your heart set on it. 

Price: $17

2228 Kettner Blvd.; 619-269-9036

Roti S'mores at Pasar Malam (New York City)

​This night-market-inspired Malaysian eatery is a welcome addition to Williamsburg for its authentic creations, including a variety of traditional rotis. But chef-owner Salil Mehta has a secret dish up his sleeve with an American spin when it comes to dessert. His s'mores roti starts with the roti dough, which is sweetened up with a bit of sugar and evaporated milk and then is stretched out super-thin and cooked on a buttered griddle. The crêpelike result is then stuffed with crumbled graham crackers and Hershey's chocolate, then topped with toasted marshmallows. East meets West in one delightful bite.

Difficulty to Obtain: Easy — just ask.

Price: $11

208 Grand St., Brooklyn; 718-487-4576

Thai Burger at Jitlada (Los Angeles)

There are more than 300 dishes to order at this spicy Thai Town haunt, but one that you won’t find listed on the menu is the special burger. Created by owner Jazz Singnasong, two beef patties are caramelized with palm sugar and garlic, served in a lettuce wrap and topped with onions, tomato, fresh herbs and tangy mustard.

Difficulty to Obtain: Medium to difficult. Call ahead to see if it’s available.

Price: $18.95

5233 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd.; 323-667-9809

Tommy D Special at Serious Pie (Seattle)

Tom Douglas likes a little guanciale shaved over the top of the Yukon gold potato pizza on the Serious Pie menu. The tasty cured jowl meat shows up like super-thin little slivers of bacon, which work their porky magic.

Difficulty to Obtain: Easy. As long as they have house-cured guanciale available. If they don't have it in the kitchen, you could ask them to add something else from the charcuterie lineup instead.

Price: $17

316 Virginia St.; 206-838-7388

Luther Burger at Nage Bistro (Washington, DC)

There's already the fried chicken-donut sandwich called The Luther at GBD in Dupont Circle, but we're pretty sure there's room in this town for two crazy-delicious donut sandwiches. This one is a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched with a housemade glazed donut.

Difficulty to Obtain: Hard. It's offered only during Saturday and Sunday brunch till it sells out — and you have to whisper when you ask for it.

Price: $18

1600 Rhode Island Ave. NW; 202-448-8005

Biscuit Burger at Supper (Philadelphia)

The famous “scratch” biscuits chef-owner Mitch Prensky makes at his South Street dining room (and various pop-up stands) hold various fillings throughout the year, but there’s one that’s only available upon request. A four-oz. LaFrieda patty with pimento cheese, corn relish and country ham is stuffed between the flaky halves for one of the best sliders you’ll ever have a chance to try to bite into.

Difficulty to Obtain: Medium. Both biscuits and LaFrieda burgers are on the regular menu, but creating this odd-size matchup takes a bit of extra time. Best bet: Order this on weeknights.

Price: $9

926 South St.; 215-592-8180

The Cubio at Anna's Taqueria (Boston)

If you thought the Chupacabra was the only elusive Mexican monster, think again — meet the Cubio, an off-menu giant that's made from three overlapping "super burritos" rolled together into a 30-inch-long whopper stuffed with your picks of meat, cheese, guacamole, salsa and veggies. Total weight: about four pounds. Bragging rights if you finish this thing: incalculable.

Difficulty to Obtain: The taqueria serves it only on request at any of its six locations.

Price: $18.75

242 Cambridge St.; 617-227-8822

The Hangover at ChocoChicken (Los Angeles)

Everyone’s talking about the sweet and savory chocolate-scented fried chicken at the new Downtown joint, and while you can get the chicken as little fried drumettes and wings, stuffed in a sandwich with slaw or simply served with fries and biscuits, there is one sandwich you can only get if you know about it: the Hangover. It contains a fried thigh, white-chocolate mashed potatoes and savory sausage gravy, stuffed into a choco-bun. Yes, there’s even cocoa in the bun. It’s the hangover cure to cure all hangovers.

Difficulty to Obtain: Easy, whether you have a hangover or not. Just be prepared to nap almost immediately after. And don't even try on a Monday, when the restaurant is closed. 

Price: $12 for the sandwich only; $15 with a side

403 W. 12th St.; 213-403-1786

Adult Float at Searsucker Del Mar (San Diego)

Chef de cuisine JC Colon was onto something when he concocted this cocktail that speaks to the little kid in all of us. He creates an ice cream by combining vanilla custard and Jameson Irish Whiskey — but he doesn’t stop there. The frosty treat is topped off with Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout forming a perfectly nutty, boozy adult float.

Difficulty to Obtain: Medium-easy. Although servers say you have to know a secret handshake to get this, they've got the ingredients to make it at any given moment. So just ask.

Price: $16 price includes 22 ounces of beer to top off the float

12995 El Camino Real #21; 858-369-5700

Ravioli Sandwich at LoPriore Pasta Bar (Seattle)

A carb-lover's dream, this hot mess of a sandwich is satisfying on so many levels: from the toast-y Le Panier baguette to the slightly spicy red sauce and the housemade beef-filled ravioli. Watch Subway try to rip this one off. 

Difficulty to Obtain: Medium. This lunch counter at Pike Place Market gets super-busy during high tourist season, and there's only two guys running the show, so skip the noon rush and come early or late when owner Brian LoPriore has the time to fix you one of these hot mamas.

Price: $10

1530 Post Alley; 206-621-7545

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