Underground LA: Best restaurant secret menu items in LA

There’s more than just the In-N-Out secret menu in our guide to these LA restaurant hidden menu items.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

What: Chilaquiles
Where: Petty Cash Taqueria

When the clock strikes late o'clock (usually 11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends), Walter Manzke breaks out his off-menu chilaquiles gratis for anyone who bellies up to the bar and buys a drink. The ingredients change based on what the chef has within arms’ reach, but you can expect chips, cheese, secret sauce, cilantro and some protein—one day it could be topped with al pastor, the next it could be scallops or prawns. This dish is so secret that even the ingredients are a mystery.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

What: Caviar Burger ($75)

West Hollywood's caviar king may be known for its highly refined fare, but executive chef Giselle Wellman is cranking out a burger fit for a spot on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The Caviar Burger comes topped with butter lettuce, a fried egg, crème fraíche dressing and the crown jewel: a sheet of Petrossian's pressed caviar. Try ordering that at McDonald's.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where: Salt's Cure
What: All-Star ($15)

The 2x2x2 is your classic eggs/bacon/sausage deal found at most breakfast spots. Salt's Cure makes it their own with house-cured bacon, homemade sausage and a biscuit that's also—you guessed it—made in-house. Off-menu aficionados, however, know to ask for the All-Star, which adds onto the 2x2x2 with silver dollar oatcakes—you may not need to eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

What: Pacman Quesadilla ($7)

No, this off-the-menu item doesn't take its name from the '90s arcade game, but rather from Manny Pacquiao. Why? The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quesadilla is stuffed with the works—a trio of meats (short, spicy pork, chicken) and salsas (roja, verde, azúl), Jack and cheddar cheeses and sesame mayo—for a knock-out punch.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where: Pitfire Pizza
What: BBQ chicken pizza ($10)

Pitfire has exploded into a mini-chain across the Southland, but this hush-hush pizza takes its cue from the original California pizza chain (or, more accurately, kitchen). Grilled chicken, red onion and cilantro get covered in a blanket of four cheeses (Parmesan, Gouda, mozzarella and Fontina), while a layer of barbeque sauce underneath provides the requisite tang.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where:Mariscos Jalisco
What: The Poseidon ($7.50)

Bored cooks with full kitchens can dream up some amazing off-menu items and that's exactly what happened at this East LA taco truck where you can find the Poseidon—the seafood feast is named for Tepo, the man who created the four-layer tostada with shrimp ceviche, sliced avocado, octopus and a mound of red, spicy shrimp aguachile. You may want to recruit the Greek god himself to help you finish it.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where: Short Cake
What: Pretzel Croissant Ham and Cheese ($10)

After months of fine-tuning, Short Cake finally started offering their brand new pretzel croissants in mid-June and they've been selling out every single day since. The pretzel love has been so strong, in fact, that customers have started to create their own off-menu item: the preztel croissant ham and cheese. That's North Country smoked ham, Comté, housemade aioli, mustard and pickled onions wedged inside a pretzel croissant. Just be sure to get there early—once the croissants sell out for the day, you've got to wait until tomorrow to try again.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where: Spago
What: Wolfgang Puck's OG classics

When you've been around as long as Spago has, the restaurant’s regulars don't take very kindly to menu changes. Luckily, Wolfgang Puck's Beverly Hills flagship has kept some classics around—if you know to ask for them. That smoked salmon pizza ($26) that revolutionized the concept of pizza in the '80s? Just say the word. The weinerschnitzel ($49) that brought a little taste of Austria to the West Coast? That's here, too. Like the Girl Scouts say, make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other tastes like gold.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where: Sanamluang
What: Khana moo grob ($6.95)

Impress your friends with your insider knowledge that's sure to earn you some foodie street cred. And the word on these Thai Town streets? Take an off-menu detour with crispy, fried pork belly and Chinese broccoli served with addictive garlic sauce atop rice.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Where: In-N-Out
What: Toppings (whole grilled onion, chopped chiles, cold cheese) + root beer float

The Secret Menu at In-N-Out is so well-known that there's a section on their website called “Not-So-Secret Menu." The truth, though, is that there are secrets far beyond your standard Flying Dutchman and Animal-Style Fries. Did you know that you can eschew those tiny chopped grilled onions for a whole slice of grilled onion? How about throwing super spicy chopped chiles on your burger? Maybe you even prefer the taste of unmelted cheese—you can asked for “cold cheese?” All of these secret toppings are possible at your local In-N-Out, and you can wash it down with an off-menu root beer float ($2.05)

Photo courtesy Top Round

Where:Top Round
What: Pistachio and Strawberry Concrete Combo ($2.95, small; $3.95, large)

Top Round opened just in time for summer. With a full roster of Arby's-esque roast beef sandwiches and a frozen custard bar, any native of St. Louis would weep with tears of joy. While you can get classic toppings like hot fudge, peanuts and marshmallows, those in-the-know (i.e. you) can order the pistachio and strawberry swirl—both flavors mix into a summertime color tribute to Christmas.

Sure, LA has its fair share of not-so-secret menus (read: animal-style everything at In-N-Out, candy concoctions at Jamba Juice) that might satisfy out-of-towners and tourists. While regular people go to restaurants ordering from the menu put in front of them, the real insiders know that there's a whole world of the best dishes and drinks that can be found off the menu. From late night chilaquiles to a burger fit for royalty, here are the best (and newest) secret menu items around town.

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