5 Unique Restaurant Dishes We're Obsessed With Right Now

Hope you're hungry! We've rounded up some of the most drool-worthy dishes for you to check out.


5 Unique Restaurant Dishes We're Obsessed With Right Now
Article & Photography by Alexa Santos, Food Editor
Calzone Pizza stuffed with Spaghetti & Meatballs, from Gelso & Grand

Growing up, I was always fascinated by restaurants, since both of my parents spent their entire careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a little girl, I absolutely loved "take your child to work day," when I would get to play "hostess" at my mom's restaurant. I learned about the different sections of the restaurant, how to roll silverware, and I always got a piece of my favorite molten chocolate cake from the pastry chef at the end of the day. 

I was always enamored by the stories my dad would tell of his career journey, starting as a dishwasher at a young age, and working his way up the restaurant ladder. When my sisters and I were babies, he was out working until 3:00 AM running restaurants, then coming home to wake me up and watch an episode of old-school "Iron Chef Japan".

Not only did these experiences foster my love and passion for food, but they taught me about the hard work, skill, talent, and drive of those who work in the restaurant industry. In addition to being near and dear to my heart, restaurants are integral to the fabric and culture of the cities we live in. The past year or so has been an immense struggle for those in the restaurant and hospitality industries, with many beloved establishments closing for good, and many more still fighting to hang on. 

That's why I started the "Restaurant Roundup" video series on @thefeedfeed - I wanted to spotlight local restaurants creating amazing dishes. There's no denying the resilience of these small businesses that have pivoted their entire business model multiple times in the past year. While working tirelessly to stay afloat, they somehow still manage to innovate and impress.

Since I'm based in New York City, the restaurants I'm highlighting here may not be geographically close to many of you. I hope these inspire you to visit your local restaurants safely, while supporting these incredibly hard working and inspiring individuals behind the dishes.

Without further ado, here are 5 unique restaurant dishes I am OBSESSED with right now. 


Birria Quesa-Tacos from Carlitos Barbecue Taqueria

Birria tacos have been all the rage lately, and chef/owner Carlos Castillo of Carlitos Barbecue Taqueria is turning out top-notch Birria tacos at their locations in New Jersey. If you haven't tried Birria yet, run don't walk to your nearest taqueria that's serving them! They're essentially tacos that you dunk into a rich and flavorful consommé. They're a bit messy, but SO worth it. 

At Carlitos Barbecue Taqueria, Chef Carlos and the team braise beef and bones for hours. Freshly hand-pressed corn tortillas are dunked into the flavorful oil leftover from braising, then crisped up on the flat top. On goes cheese, braised beef, onions and cilantro. They're served with beef consommé on the side for dunking. Chef Carlos doesn't cut corners, and you can truly taste the quality in every single bite!

Click here for our "Restaurant Roundup" video on these decadent tacos. 
For 350+ taco recipes, check out our tacos feed. 

Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna from Kimika
Korean-Italian fusion is the name of the game at Kimika in NYC. One of their most popular menu items is the crispy rice cake lasagna, and for good reason. Executive Chef Christine Lau was inspired by her time working in formal Italian restaurants. Late at night after work, she would grab Korean street food.

Instead of noodles, her version of lasagna is made with crispy Korean rice cakes that have a unique, squishy yet firm texture. Instead of marinara, the lasagna features homemade dashi broth, kimchi, house-made sausage and of course, lots of butter. Finished with with scallions, Parmesan cheese, and ooey-gooey melted Provolone cheese., this dish is truly unlike anything you've ever tasted.

Click here for the "Restaurant Roundup" video on this magical culinary experience! 
For 500+ pasta recipes, check out our pasta feed.
A5 Wagyu Shabu Shabu from Maki Maki
Maki Maki in New York City has one of my new favorite menu items: Shabu Shabu, or Japanese Hot Pot.  A large, steaming hot pot of broth is brought to your table on a hot plate. The table is filled with a smorgasbord of fresh veggies, rice, noodles, and sauces. The pièce de résistance is the ultra-premium A5 Wagyu beef from Miyazaki, Japan. You can also opt for the prime ribeye beef option, which is less expensive than the Wagyu option. 

Maki Maki founder and Chef Kevin Takarada says the dish is called "Shabu Shabu" because that's the sound the beef makes when it's dunked into the pot of broth. It's fun and interactive - you cook everything yourself at the table. The meat is sliced very thin, so it only needs a few seconds in the broth. It cooks in seconds before your eyes! Everyone can customize their bowl with veggies, meat, noodles, and tofu with ponzu sauce and fresh steamed white rice. It's nothing short of divine.

Check out our video on the Shabu Shabu here
Get the recipe here!
Temaki (hand rolls) from Nami Nori
When asked to choose, sushi is probably my favorite food. However, I'm ashamed to admit I'm relatively new to the hand roll game! I have always been a huge fan of maki (cut rolls), nigiri (sliced fish over rice) and sashimi (sliced fish not over rice), but I never really found myself ordering hand rolls. That is until I tried the temaki (hand rolls) from Nami Nori in New York City. I am now officially a changed woman!

If you've tried good hand rolls, you'll know what I'm talking about here: the crispiness of the seaweed on the outside makes ALL the difference. When you order hand rolls, you need to eat them immediately for the best experience. Nami Nori has developed a seaweed-wrapping technology that allows the seaweed on the hand rolls to stay fresh and crispy for MUCH longer - perfect for takeout. Sorcery, I tell you! Not only is the seaweed beautifully crisp, but the unique fillings blew my mind: tuna poke, x.o. scallop, coconut shrimp, they're literally all amazing. 

Click here to check out their menu! 
For more sushi inspiration, check out our sushi feed. 
Spaghetti & Meatball Calzone-Pizza from Gelso & Grand
Yes, you read that right. At Gelso & Grand in New York City, they make a calzone-pizza hybrid that is stuffed with spaghetti and meatballs. It's outrageous and it's SO good. The pasta is made fresh in-house, and it's gloriously saucy (I love pasta with a lot of sauce). Meatballs get added to the mix, and this is where things get crazy. 

The spaghetti & meatballs are literally tucked into fresh pizza dough. The dough is folded over the pasta, then sauce and cheese gets added to the outside. The whole creation goes into the wood-burning oven, and once it's cooked through and gloriously golden brown, you are treated with a calzone-pizza hybrid filled with spaghetti and meatballs. 

Watch our video here to better wrap your mind around this delicious phenomenon. 
For 500+ pasta recipes, check out our pasta feed.
For 300+ pizza recipes, check out our pizza feed. 
Local to NYC? Send me a DM on Instagram @alexawhatsfordinner letting me know where I should visit next!