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.