Ask the Critic: Ordering Beyond the Signature Dish

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[Illustration: Robyn Lee]

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This piece is a response to a recent Talk question, which I found quite intriguing, about ordering beyond a restaurant's "signatures." Read on!

Ordering Beyond the Signature Dish

During a trip to NYC my sister and I went to Pearl Oyster Bar. While we loved the lobster roll, what really blew me away was the fried oysters and salt crusted shrimp! It got me thinking about dishes that are as good, if not better than the dish that a place is known for. Anything that we should order instead of the most popular/famous dish?

When I read this question, Franny's immediately came to mind—one of the original new-wave Brooklyn pizzerias whose non-pizza offerings were at least as impressive as their pies. But those smart folks realized it too, and spun out a whole new restaurant, Marco's, that highlights their non-pizza fare. (All that said, Franny's current menu is still worth a deep exploration beyond the pizza. That wood-fired oven works magic on all sorts of things.)

While we're talking pizza, the sandwiches at Best Pizza are all kinds of crazy good; the vegetable sides and pastas at Otto are, too; and as SE'r FritesandGeeks noted in the comment thread, Motorino's meatballs are superb.

Peter Luger obviously makes a formidable steak, but their surprisingly affordable lunch burger is an equally happy-making experience. When I go to the Spotted Pig, I order the haddock chowder, not the burger or the ricotta gnudi. La Churreria in Nolita is a great spot for a sugar fix—who doesn't love churros?—but their Spanish-inspired sandwiches are killer, too.

While I'd never stand in line for cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, their macaroons (the coconut kind, not macarons) and banana cream icebox pie are both quite tasty. And need we even mention that the cronut isn't the #1 reason to visit Dominique Ansel?

Let's hear from the crowd: What are your favorite dishes at restaurants famous for something else?