One of the perks of being in-the-know? Getting access to delicious dishes not on the menu. Check out these eight top-secret finds and order like an insider.
1. Mondays, head to upscale restaurant Brennan's of Houston for an off-the-menu bargain. Ask your server for the red beans and rice (with pickled pork, a link of andouille sausage and cornbread) — just $10.
2. The next time you visit Killen's Barbecue on a Thursday or Sunday, order the grilled half-chicken complete with two sides for $13.95. (Shhh.)
3. Sinfully good, the hush-hush dark-chocolate pastilla at Etoile Cuisine et Bar tastes like a lava cake and ganache hybrid: dark chocolate wrapped in phyllo dough and covered in raspberry purée and raspberry sorbet ($10).
4. The secret eats at Nara Sushi & Korean Kitchen include melt-in-your-mouth Kobe rib-eye (pictured above) served with shallots, English cucumber and avocado, topped with luxe caviar, wonton chips and soy yolk sauce ($18).
5. The Shrimp Osiel (golden fried shrimp tossed in a garlic herb butter sauce with asparagus, roasted red bell peppers and jumbo lump crab meat) may not be in print at the Original Carrabba's (Briargrove and Kirby locations), but all you have to do is ask and it's yours for $19 (pictured at top of page).
7. Devour the under-wraps Sea Bass Carnitas at Americas River Oaks — roasted sea bass served on arroz con rajas (creamy corn and poblano risotto) with a side citrus salad. It may not stay a secret for long: word spread through the Twitterverse that NBA star Carmelo Anthony feasted on it during a recent visit to Houston ($34 at lunch; $44 at dinner).
8. Regular customers at RDG + Bar Annie know to request two of the dishes that put James Beard Award-winning chef Robert Del Grande on the map, and now so do you. Don't miss the coffee-roasted filet with chile broth ($49) or the crabmeat tostada, a tower of avocado, relish, crabmeat and spicy cabbage slaw with tortilla chips ($28).