Ace of spades at Torchy’s Tacos

If you’re lucky, you might briefly spot this creation as a “taco of the month” at Torchy’s, but most people don’t know that it’s available all the time. Loaded with nine ingredients, the ace of spades exemplifies the taco spot’s over-the-top spirit: A flour tortilla is stuffed with jalapeño sausage links, smoked brisket, a fried egg, shredded cheese, green chili peppers, cilantro, queso fresco, sour cream and Torchy’s own Diablo hot sauce.

5921 Forest, 972.720.9200


Alaskan salmon at Rex’s Seafood

No, this seasonal staple never appears on the menu at Rex’s. Seafood lovers just know when it’s time for great-tasting Alaskan salmon. It’s available mid-May through mid-October, following the fish’s life cycle. “The salmon swim upstream and go live in the ocean for two or three years,” owner Rex Bellomy says. “Then, they swim back downstream, and we pick them up from where they were born. Wild salmon has a distinct difference in flavor.” Bellomy buys whole salmon, cuts it to order and serves it with any side.

5200 W. Lovers, 214.351.6363,


Bob Armstrong dip at Mattito’s

Named and created for the Texas land commissioner who frequented Matt’s El Rancho in Austin, this appetizer has become a legend — so much so that Mattito’s, the restaurant’s sibling, doesn’t need to put it on the menu. Ask, and you shall receive a heaping bowl of ground beef, guacamole, sour cream and queso layered together for optimum dipping.

7778 Forest, 214.377.9576,


Green curry at Asian Mint

At a place known for Asian fusion, it’s nice to curl up with something pure such as the green curry. It’s a more traditional Thai curry compared to red or yellow, served with Thai eggplant and white Jasmine rice. It’s offered as a special some days, but you can order it anytime.

11617 N. Central, Suite 135, 214.363.6655,


Secret bar sauce at Fish City Grill

Only regulars know about this special dipping sauce for shrimp and oysters at the Dallas-based seafood chain. The salsa-like mixture combines cocktail sauce, Tabasco, horseradish, lime, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and a secret ingredient.

10720 Preston, Suite 1012, 214.891.9979,


Branzino at Zio Cecio Cucina Italiana

You never know what chef Francesco Farris has up his sleeve at Zio Cecio, a restaurant that focuses on coastal cuisine from Sardinia. He has several off-menu items that simply don’t store well, so he can’t always keep them in stock. “I don’t promise quantity, but I promise quality,” Farris says. The branzino fish substitutes the large red snapper for the smaller Mediterranean sea bass. It’s salt-crusted, baked in a wood-burning oven and filleted tableside. If you’re lucky, you might be there when Farris has a 20-pound succulent pig that cooks for eight hours until perfectly tender.

4615 W. Lovers, 214.351.1100,


Twice-cooked pork at Royal China

Some dishes are just too difficult to make for the masses. Royal China’s twice-cooked pork takes about double the time, hence the name. The pork is pre-cooked, thinly sliced and stir-fried with vegetables. “It’s very rare, but we do make it on request,” general manager Tom Chang says.

6025 Royal, Suite 201, 214.361.1771,


Coconut shrimp roll at R+D Kitchen

Putting a special dish on the menu guarantees it will be available. Francis Luttmer, manager at R+D Kitchen, would rather not run that risk with items such as the coconut shrimp roll with spicy mustard. “We hate to say we ran out. We don’t want unhappy customers,” he says. “Some days we run out at 1 p.m., other days we might run out at 5 p.m.” Another off-menu tip: Always ask about “the other fish” of the day. You might score swordfish, which never appears on the menu.

8300 Preston Center Plaza 214.890.7900,

Navigate through all dishes:

Romano-crusted chicken at Princi Italia

Risotto rice pudding at Dough Pizzeria

Spanakopita at Gio’s Café and New York Deli

Señor Chico at Mi Cocina

Stir-fry at Kathleen’s Sky Diner

More off-the-menu dishes