If you’re all about under-the-radar restaurants and attractions, chances are off-the-menu items are an enticing proposition. What if we told you that several Miami eateries cater to in-the-know diners like you with secret menu items ranging from exotic uni creations to fried-chicken specials? Hungry yet? Read on for the most delicious underground dishes, where to find them and how to order like a pro.
Secret menu items at Miami restaurants
Dolphin Fingers at John Martin’s
The rising cost of fresh dolphinfish (mahi mahi, not to be confused with Flipper) forced John Martin’s owners to remove the inexpensive Dolphin Fingers from the menu, replacing it with pricier mahi mahi dishes instead. But if you happen to be a regular who remembers the dish or know to ask for them by name, the chef will fill one-off orders of these crispy-fried mahi mahi fish sticks anytime throughout the day.
Pasta Carbonara at Fooq’s
Both first-timers and regulars at downtown Miami restaurant Fooq’s know to order chef Nicole Votano’s meatballs, made from a recipe passed down from her grandmother. But only close friends are privy to the dish she picked up from her dad, pasta carbonara (until now). “Because it has such a special place in my heart, it needed a special place on the menu,” Votano says. The bucatini special—made with eggs, smoked pancetta, Parmigiano Reggiano and pecorino—is not listed but always available as long as there are fresh eggs in the kitchen.
Uni arancini at Modern Garden
The most delicious arancini and gravy Modern Garden chef Benjamin Goldman has ever tasted was the one his neighbor used to make him when he was a kid. So it’s no wonder that a sudden craving for the classic Italian dish led to this “kitchen sink” interpretation, using leftover coconut rice instead of Arborio, fresh uni from another dish and ramp pesto made from a shipment of ramps that his produce purveyor just so happened to have dropped off that evening. When the right ingredients are on hand, Goldman will happily dole out these crispy rice balls for lunch and dinner.
Foreman burger at Pincho Factory
When popular burger joint Pincho Factory first opened in South Miami, the owners added the Foreman to the chalkboard specials: a classic Pincho burger (lettuce, tomato, secret sauce) between two grilled cheese sandwiches. The decadent creation was quickly retired and never advertised again, but regulars with an extraordinary appetite know to ask for it by name.
Bullfighter cocktail at Bulla
Tired of the same gin and tonic? Take happy hour by the horns and ask Bulla’s bartender, Joel, for the Matador—his suggestion for brave customers looking for a drink with a swift kick. The under-the-radar cocktail is a potent mix of Bulleit bourbon, aperol, port wine, fresh lemon juice, cranberry juice and a dash of Sprite.
Spaghetti alle vongole at Macchialina
Sate a pasta craving without completely undoing your diet by ordering this light clam spaghetti— garlicky, spicy and tossed in a white wine and olive oil sauce. Protecting your waistline at Macchialina requires a little bit of luck, since chef Michael Pirolo only makes the Italian staple (now a retired special) when he’s received a shipment of fresh petite clams. Keep your fingers crossed, and if it’s available, pay the extra two bucks for a serving of crusty country bread to soak up the sauce.
Tagliolini with black truffles at Corsair
This indulgent dish isn’t easy to come by. It’s not on Corsair’s menu, and it’s only served at dinner when chef de cuisine Peter Masiello is manning the kitchen. If those two conditions have been met, you’ll be able to dig into fresh, house-made pasta covered in Parmesan cheese and shaved black truffles.
Zucchini rollup at Café Prima Pasta
It’s slim pickings for vegans dining at Italian restaurants, unless you’re eating at Café Prima Pasta and know to order the zucchini rollup: stuffed with arugula, radicchio, black olives and capers, and topped with fresh lemon juice, truffle oil and a balsamic reduction. The former featured appetizer is now an off-the-menu starter or light entrée available upon request throughout the day.