11 Secret Restaurants in the U.S. You Don’t Know About (but Should)
Good food is hiding everywhere
Let’s be honest: We’re not the best at keeping secrets. So it shouldn’t shock anyone that we’re about to spill the beans on some of America’s best-hidden culinary gems. These 11 restaurants are squirreled away in basements, in out-of-the-way alleys or even within other restaurants. They don’t have signs or sometimes even menus, and you can usually forget about a phone number. But that just adds to the fun.
Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse: Albuquerque, NM
We don’t usually think of steakhouses as romantic, but this New Mexico spot fits the bill. Tucked underground and behind a liquor store, it’s full of dark corners, flickering candles, live jazz and heavy velvet curtains. Make sure to knock three times and have a password ready to get in.
Bohemian: New York, NY
This place is the ultimate catch-22: You need a reservation to get in, and the number is unlisted. If you get a coveted referral from another diner, the result is cozy and dinner-party-esq, with simple but perfect dishes like miso black cod and Wagyu beef steaks. (The restaurant is behind one of the city’s best butchers, so steak is always a safe bet.)
Club 33: Anaheim, CA
We don’t usually think of Disneyland as the paragon of fine dining. But a private dining club in the park’s New Orleans section has proved us wrong. There are plenty of upscale options like king crab-stuffed lobster tail and Colorado lamb chops with thyme-infused stock. But being a VIP at the happiest place on earth comes with a few hurdles: a 14-year waiting list, a $25,000 initiation fee, a $10,000 annual fee and a rigorous background check, to name just a few.
Safe House: Milwaukee, WI
This super-kid-friendly spot is basically a spy theme park in restaurant form. The food is standard Midwestern (burgers, cheese curds, etc.). But you’re really coming for the entertainment: scavenger hunts, magicians, spy memorabilia and the legendary entrance exam (guests who don’t know the password have to perform a series of stunts, which are broadcast on video screens around the restaurant).
Trois Mec: Los Angeles, CA
This elegant French restaurant from celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre goes the extra mile in terms of deception. Not only does it not have its own sign, but the owners went so far as to leave up the sign for the old pizza joint that used to occupy the space. Even the $85 tasting menu is secret until you show up. We recommend perseverance: Since opening in 2013, it’s been consistently named one of L.A.’s best.
é by José Andrés: Las Vegas, NV
Vegas is no stranger to VIP experiences, but this nine-seat bar is still one of the most exclusive tickets in town. Hidden within another José Andrés restaurant, Jaleo, é is a progressive menu—often upwards of 20 courses—crafted daily by the chefs. To get reservations, it’s best to have a good alarm clock: They’re accepted first-come, first-served at 12 a.m. PST by email, a month before each date.
Sidecar: Washington, D.C.
Washington isn’t exactly a place for keeping secrets—so it’s extra important to have a quiet space for dates or other kinds of political wheeling and dealing. This side dining room at P.J. Clarke’s restaurant functions almost like a private club, but when there’s room, non-members are welcome for excellent steak, seafood and some much-coveted privacy.
El Carajo International Tapas and Wine: Miami, FL
At most gas stations, the words “croquetas de chorizo” and “octopus Galician style” don’t usually cross our minds. But in Miami, you can fuel up and also have one of the city’s best meals—and some signature sangria—all in one fell swoop.
The Pink Door: Seattle, WA
There may not be a sign at this cozy Pike Place Market restaurant and cabaret, but if you know the name, you know what to look for. Once past the bubble-gum-pink entrance, you’ll be treated to homey Italian-American cooking, live music (including a saucy, tap-dancing saxophonist) and unparalleled views of Elliott Bay.
Sakagura: New York, NY
New York’s izakaya (or Japanese small plates) scene has been amping up in recent years—as long as you know where to look. This secret spot, in the basement of a generic Midtown office building, has some of the city’s best sake and freshest fish. Make sure to check out the lunch menu for the best deals.
Chef Vola’s: Atlantic City, NJ
For nearly a century, this family-run, old-school, red-sauce Italian restaurant has been considered an essential New Jersey dining experience. If you can get in, you want the gargantuan bone-in veal parmigiana and plenty of homemade pasta. But that won’t be an easy feat: The number is unlisted, there’s no real website and weekends are booked three months in advance.