Have diners tried sushi staple Arami’s taco hand roll? Did eaters know that at any M Burger location, they can order a burger with grilled cheese sandwiches in place of buns? Likely not ... because neither of those options is listed on the menu. Below, 12 eateries around town offering secret dishes for those in the know. Want to know? Read on.Read More
12 Secret Off-Menu Dishes Worth Trying in Chicago
From bone marrow bourbon shots to grilled cheese burger buns
1. Drawl Southern Cookhouse & Whiskey Room
Drawl Southern Cookhouse and Whiskey Room in Lincoln Park wants to feed everyone ribs. On Tuesday nights, chef Justin Stadler sells an off-menu rack of smoked barbecue ribs ($27). To prepare them, he brines the ribs for 24 hours, dry-rubs them with spices, then smokes them low and slow for six hours. Afterward, he finishes them in a wood-fire oven, dressed Texas-style, with a Coca-Cola barbecue sauce.
2. Oyster Bah
Not all oysters at Lincoln Park’s Oyster Bah come raw. Just ask a server or bartender for fried or grilled oysters ($3.50 each). Fried oysters are served classically with tartar sauce and lemon, while grilled oysters come on the half shell with panko, garlic butter, and grilled ciabatta.
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Neighborhood new American eatery etta in Bucktown has a playful off-menu special. Ask for bone marrow ($18), and receive bone marrow with oxtail, potato purée, and bacon jam ... plus a comp shot of bourbon, to be taken through the bone.
4. Le Colonial
On offer this May, and only during lunch service, chef Quoc Luong at newly-relocated Le Colonial is offering an off-menu savory Vietnamese crepe ($15) known as banh xeo. Pop in for his Southern Vietnamese-style version, imbued with coconut and turmeric, plus shrimp, chicken, and beansprouts. On the side, lettuce, aromatic herbs, and a traditional nuoc cham-based sauce.
5. Café Marie-Jeanne
Since 2017, Café Marie-Jeanne chef and owner Mike Simmons has been serving an off-menu secret dish called “Gonzo Toast” ($46). Inspired by what Simmons likes to eat post-service, the dish is built from house-made sourdough topped with crème fraîche, sturgeon roe, uni, and brisket. The dish is garnished with more caviar, dill, and a lemon cheek. Why the name? Because this order is “completely freakin’ gonzo!”
West Town sushi stalwart Arami has served an off-menu fusion mashup since the restaurant’s debut. Owner Ty Fujimura urges guests to try Arami’s spicy tako hand roll ($11): cone-style maki with spicy octopus, scallion, sweet soy, and tempura flakes.
7. M Burger
Local burger chainlet M Burger offers a few off-menu dishes. In addition to the barnyard burger ($9.49)— which is filled with a beef patty, chicken breast, bacon, American cheese, lettuce, pickles, and onions— those who request that their burger be served Roman-style ($6), will snag grilled cheese sandwiches in place of burger buns.
A couple days ago, when Japanese lounge Noyane atop Mag Mile’s Conrad hotel officially opened for the season, chef Emilio Gonzalez added a new off-menu dish. His tempura cashew shrimp ($16) will be on offer by word of mouth all day, until sold out.
9. Quartino Ristorante
A favorite for those in the know, River North Italian number Quartino offers an off-menu dessert: tiramisu ($9). Chef Crystal Womelsdorf builds the dish with lady fingers dipped in a mixture of espresso, marsala wine, and brandy, then layers the cookies with creamy mascarpone and tops it all off with coca powder. Try it during lunch or dinner.
While Ramen-San may be best known for its slurp-able Japanese noodle soups, chef Doug Psaltis does offer one non-soupy off-menu item at all locations. Ask to try the restaurant’s chicken wings ($11), which come in two flavors: spicy Szechuan and sticky Thai.
11. Gibsons Italia
Over at Italian steakhouse Gibsons Italia, executive chef José Sosa has a new off-menu Japanese Kobe beef tartare ($45) available during dinner service. The dish calls for A5 Japanese Kobe beef blended with smoked olive oil, shallots, and chervil, garnished with pickled pearl onion, egg yolk, caramelized onion purée, plus sun choke chips for dipping.
Executive chef Johnny Besch at West Loop new American eatery BLVD wanted to kick his cacio e pepe up a few notches. So, he added peppered bacon, herbs, and an amish egg yolk to dish, creating his now hotly-desired carbonara ($20). The dish has been available during dinner service for the last six months.