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Food + Drink

LA’s Best Off-Menu Dishes (Shh..don’t tell anyone)

Hungry travelers love a secret. And there’s no bigger one than the hidden dishes at LA’s top tables. Inspired by Bravo’s new digital series, Going Off the Menu, we set out in search of the desserts, cocktails and exceedingly indulgent burgers that make up the city's best hush-hush plates. Just don't go telling everybody.

Emily Saladino is a journalist and recipe developer in New York City. She has covered food, drinks, travel, and culture for Bloomberg, BBC, Travel + Leisure, and others. A former professional cook, she graduated from the International Culinary Center. She is currently the Editor in Chief of VinePair.

See recent posts by Emily Saladino

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Night + Market Song: Fried chicken sandwich

Available exclusively at the Silver Lake location, this off-the-menu favorite began as the restaurant team's family meal, but reportedly gained traction because staffers started coming on their days off to request it. Now served to all who ask while supplies last, the Thai-inspired sammy tops a supermarket hamburger bun with an impossibly crisp, brined and fried chicken thigh, as well as zesty papaya salad, cilantro, jalapenos and a schmear of homemade ranch. (Award-winning chef Kris Yenbamroong is a self-professed ranch fiend. Good man.)

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Doomie’s Home Cookin’: Vegan Big Mac

Those who assume a vegan diet is composed entirely of alfalfa sprouts and tempeh are pleasantly surprised by this low-key Hollywood spot, where the kitchen turns out plant-based versions of all-American comfort foods. The piece de resistance? An off-the-menu Big Mac clone comprised of pillowy sesame seed buns, shredded lettuce, meat-free patties and vegan-friendly cheese and "special sauce." Health food it ain't -- but even conscientious eaters deserve a cheat day.

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Alfred Coffee + Kitchen: Alfred cone

In fall 2014, this hip Melrose cafe began quietly selling an off-the-menu hybrid concoction: macchiato or espresso served in chocolate-dipped, four-ounce waffle cones. Pundits and caffeine fiends took note, calling Alfred cones Los Angeles' answer to the Cronut, and gleefully 'gramming their java snacks. Alfred locations in Brentwood and Silver Lake now also carry the cones, but supplies are limited (the custom, flat-bottomed confections are made by Farmers Market granita specialists Zia Valentina) and sell out quickly. Consider yourself warned.

RELATED: The Best Scoops Across the US

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Canter’s: Fried kreplach

Fairfax institution Canter’s Deli is the West coast answer to New York City's landmark Katz's. Open 24 hours per day, and dating back to 1931, the place is a nostalgic, democratic affair with a sprawling menu that includes whitefish salad platters, stuffed cabbage, gargantuan pastrami sandwiches and a decidedly non-pareve Philly cheesesteak. Despite such a wealth of options, discerning locals request fried kreplach, or deep-fried beef dumplings that are flaky, indulgent and possibly the world's best hangover defense.

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Animal: Boner burger

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s perennially packed Fairfax temple to carnivorism gives good patty melt with this off-the-menu favorite. Served atop grilled marbled rye, the burger is made from a blend of ground chuck, short rib and eponymous bone marrow. Toppings include grilled poblanos, caramelized onions, melted cheese and a generous dose of proprietary "420 sauce," a mustardy, piquant house creation. This may sound exclusively like late-night fare, but fans know to ask for the Boner burger at weekend brunch and nightly dinner service.

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The Bazaar by Jose Andres: Jose’s Asian taco

The Philippe Starck-designed restaurant in Beverly Hills' swish SLS hotel is an unlikely stop on a taco crawl, but Jose Andres' internationally accented, off-the-menu snack defies expectations. The cheeky, elegant take on the "taco" wraps American caviar in buttery jamon iberico, and serves it atop toasted nori for a crunchy, complex snack.

RELATED: 10 Foods You Should Eat in Japan (That Aren't Sushi)

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Jitlada: Jazz burger

Arguably Los Angeles’ best-loved, worst-kept secret, the bunless Thai hamburger at Silver Lake mainstay Jitlada was the subject of an episode of Adam Richman's "Secret Eats" series on the Travel Channel. Proprietor Jazz Singnasong's deservedly popular creation starts with palm sugar-marinated, chile-laced beef (the exact spice mix is a house secret). Garlicky, mustardy patties are then charred and served alongside Thai basil, chopped red onion and tomato, and wrapped in lettuce leaves.

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BarToni: Summer of love

Tucked within sleek North Hollywood pizzeria Little Toni’s, this year-old cocktail boite provides late-night libations courtesy of LA bar star Aidan Demarest (previously of Seven Grand). The classic and house cocktails include an Old Overholt rye Manhattan and a take on a so-uncool-it's-cool again grasshopper. What it does not include is the Summer of Love, an off-menu drink comprised of DeLeon Platinum tequila, Smith and Cross rum, velvet falernum, sherry, fresh lime and passionfruit syrup. It's a boozy, groovy cup for all seasons.

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In 'N' Out: Animal fries

For those who know to ask, the cult counter joint offers the same "animal" treatment it gives to its beloved burgers -- namely: chopped onions, melted cheese and a dollop of Eisenhower-era Thousand Island dressing -- on top of crispy fries. A messily delicious concoction akin to poutine (note: we recommend tackling with a fork and nonjudgmental friend), animal fries are not on any menu, but are something of an open secret at all In 'N' Out locations.



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