There’s more to your menu than meets the eye.
Secret, off-menu orders have slowly taken over New York City’s food scene, thanks in part to social media.
“In 2018, people identify themselves by what they eat and drink,” Matt Strauss, managing partner of the Tao restaurant group tells The Post. That’s why the group’s Midtown cocktail bar, the Rickey, leaks its secret menu on its Instagram profile.
“If someone’s in-the-know about an item others aren’t, that gives them a certain status — and a reason to come back,” he says.
While dropping hints on social media can keep followers a’following, good old-fashioned, word-of-mouth can also go a long way when you have fervent regulars, says Jordan Andino, chef-owner of Flip Sigi, which has two Manhattan locations. His Filipino taquerias are home to a handful of buzzy off-the-menu items.
“If you get to know the staff, they might let you in on the secret,” says Andino. “It’s something [customers] can brag to friends about, like, ‘Try to get on my level.’”
Try a few of the city’s tastiest secrets.
For your pies only
Macchina NYC’s signature Burrata Pizza ($24) isn’t on the menu, but it’s one of the Kips Bay restaurant’s most popular dishes, thanks to social media. The extra-cheesy pie began as a special but grew into a phenomenon once photos of its “cheese pull” — or the mouthwatering way the melted cheese pulls apart when it’s served — started flooding Instagram. Even more delicious than the burrata is the exclusivity factor, says Macchina owner Sean Rawlinson, “If you aren’t on social media, you’re not going to know about this.” 365 Third Ave., near 27th Street; 646-755-8609, Macchina.NYC
Sushi by Bou, a subterranean spot with locations in Midtown and Chelsea, offers uni (or sea urchin) shooters to those in the know. The savory, oceanic shots ($18 each), which contain briny uni, dry sake, marinated salmon roe and ponzu sauce, began as an experiment at Sushi by Bou’s Southampton pop-up this summer. But when Hamptonites headed back to the city, they found themselves craving more — and then so did everyone else sitting near them. “You bring one out and then everyone wants one,” says chef David Bouhadana. 132 W. 47th St.; 917-348-5737, SushiByBou.com
A whiff of mystery
886, a Taiwanese izakaya in the East Village, may be new, but its customers expect an old-school dish: Stinky tofu, a pungent tofu marinated in fermented vegetable juice. The dish is a mainstay of Taiwanese street food. But it’s still an acquired taste, so it’s probably not something that would do well on the full-time menu, says co-owner Eric Sze. “It smells so bad, but it tastes so good,” he tells The Post. His $13 version includes stinky tofu, wok-scrambled egg, mentaiko mayo, pickled red onion and chili. (Pro tip: There’s mouthwash in 886’s bathroom.) 26 St. Marks Place; 646-882-0231, EightEightSixNYC.com
A classified classic
When West Village artisanal Indian restaurant Rahi opened earlier this year, it left off the kinds of dishes you might associate with run-of-the-mill Indian restaurants. But people just kept ordering butter chicken, anyway. Chef Chintan Pandya obliged, whipping up a version with a fresh tomato-based curry sauce spiked with chili and a tinge of honey for $24. Now, it’s a secret-menu mainstay. “On a busy night, [we get] about five orders,” he says. Unsurprisingly, he adds, “we [receive] more requests for butter chicken for delivery” than in-house. 60 Greenwich Ave.; 212-373-8900, RahiNYC.com
You don’t have to be a regular at Midtown cocktail bar the Rickey to know what’s on the secret menu, but you do have to be savvy enough to follow them on Instagram. Secret off-the-menu drinks are highlighted on its page, @therickeyny, and customers need only show their bartender that they follow the bar to order one. The secret menu changes seasonally but currently includes the $16 Spanish Fly, a mezcal and absinthe cocktail garnished with a rosemary sprig, which is torched before serving to coax out its aroma. “We just figured, let’s put one [mezcal cocktail] on the menu, and then keep one secret for people in-the-know about us,” Strauss says. 210 W. 55th St.; 646-756-2054, TheRickey.com
If you want this secret menu item at Flip Sigi’s two locations, you have to be a little gutsy. The “F.U.C. Me” wrap ($12.95), which stands for Filipino Underground Crunchwrap, is a dressed-up homage to Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme, with braised short rib, kimchi fried rice and Mexican cheese. The catch is that Andino won’t let people order the toasty wrap unless they say its name out loud. “People who are a little more conservative might try to find a way around it, but we’ll always be like, ‘What was that? Can you say that again?’ ” he says with a laugh. 525 Hudson St. and 1752 Second Ave., near 91st Street; 833-354-7744, FlipSigi.com
By popular demand
Butter chicken is to Indian restaurants what cacio e pepe — a simple pasta dish with pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese — is to Italian-American restaurants, says L’Artusi chef Joe Vigorito. The West Village chef says his diners don’t even bother checking the menu. “People who know about it tend to love it and will say, ‘Hey, do you have cacio e pepe?’ ” says Vigorito, who gets up to seven orders a night for it. “Once people see it on other tables, they also start to ask for it.” 228 W. 10th St.; 212-255-5757, LArtusi.com
Word traveled across boroughs on this one. After chef Nicholas Poulmentis left Upper East Side restaurant Theo’s earlier this year for Akrotiri in Astoria, his loyal customers followed and demanded one of his most beloved dishes: miso cod topped with optional foie gras ($35). Customers who are “in the know” order this dish several times a weekend, he says. 29-20 30th Ave., Astoria; 718-726-2447, AkrotiriTaverna.com
Williamsburg cocktail bar Maison Premiere is known for its classic libations. Still, the Ramos gin fizz can be a challenge for most bartenders to make on the spot, says bar director William Elliott. Not so here, where the New Orleans tipple includes lemon and lime juice, cream, orange-flower water and vanilla, in addition to gin, sugar and egg whites. The drink goes in the freezer for about 2 minutes right before serving, which solidifies the frothy head. “The fact that you can get a Ramos Gin Fizz during any shift is pretty special,” Elliott says. 298 Bedford Ave.; 347-335-0446, MaisonPremiere.com
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