Our Favorite Secret Off-Menu Comfort Foods in DC

Get the cacio e pepe at Centrolina—trust us.

Cacio e pepe at Centrolina. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Ask for these four off-menu finds.

Ask for: Cacio e pepe

Where: Centrolina (974 Palmer Alley, NW)

This deceptively simple dish of noodles tossed in pecorino, Parmesan, and Cacio de Roma cheese and cracked pepper is labor-intensive when done right—that perfect, creamy texture is a result of constant stirring—which is why chef Amy Brandwein makes it only for those in the know.

Ask for: Patatas bravas “à la Mark”

Where: Estadio (1520 14th St., NW)

Late owner Mark Kuller liked to special-request two dishes on this Spanish restaurant’s menu in the same skillet: patatas bravas (fried potatoes) and roasted baby chorizo. Tomato sauce and aïoli are served on the side so everything stays crunchy.

Ask for: Grilled cheese with tomato

Where: The Riggsby (1731 New Hampshire Ave., NW)

Chef Mollie Moore gives this sandwich maximum crispiness by starting it open-faced in a hot buttered pan, then letting the cheese melt even more in the oven.

Ask for: Steamed-egg custard

Where: Mandu (453 K St., NW)

Customers can request this homey Korean egg casserole—called gyeran jjim—only when chef Danny or “Mama” Yesoon Lee is in the kitchen. “It’s a very delicate dish to make properly,” Danny says. Thankfully, at 72, his mother still cooks five nights a week. Ask for an off-menu kimchee-back—a shot of whiskey and kimchee brine—too.

This article appears in the November 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.