Homemade, unprocessed and unboxed: Our favorite childhood treats are getting a serious upgrade at some of the country's best bars and restaurants. Chefs, butchers and chocolatiers are elevating nostalgic favorites like s'mores, Pop-Tarts and chicken tenders, using sustainably sourced ingredients that leave the freezer aisle originals cold. For those who remain young at heart, here are nine throwback snacks with adultified appeal.
① Cookies and Milk at Willa Jean (New Orleans, LA)
Chef Kelly Fields uses high-quality Valrhona chocolate and serves these chewy, soft and crunchy cookies with Tahitian vanilla-infused milk for dunking—and an egg beater adorned with some unbaked cookie dough.
Photo: Rush Jagoe
② Hot Pockets at Sunday in Brooklyn (New York, NY)
At this buzzy Brooklyn brunch spot, executive sous-chef Mallory Cayon takes the scraps and end pieces from the kitchen's house-cured ham, couples them with Saxelby's Cabot aged cheddar and wraps it all in a flaky, buttery whole-wheat crust.
Photo: Melissa Hom
③ Pop-Tarts, aka Ted's Tarts, at Ted's Bulletin (Washington, D.C.)
Hand-rolled, homemade Pop-Tarts by pastry chef Todd Miller are available in a variety of nostalgia-inducing flavors, like strawberry, blueberry, and brown sugar and cinnamon at these District hangouts. Pro tip: Go à la mode with an off-the-menu Ted's Tart ice cream sandwich.
Photo: Courtesy of Ted's Bulletin
④ Lamb in Blanket at June’s All Day (Austin, TX)
At this South Congress spot, pastry chef Sarah Stevens tweaks the traditional pigs-in-a-blanket formula by wrapping merguez sausage, harissa, American cheese and herb-olive jam in a homemade Parker House roll. Inspired by the sausage kolaches and pigs in a blanket she ate growing up in South Texas, Stevens says this version is “hopefully a bit more sophisticated than our grandmothers' cocktail weenies wrapped in pop ‘n’ serve biscuits." Mission accomplished.
⑤ Pizza Bagels at Baz Bagel, (New York, NY)
Waiting for Mom to cook frozen Bagel Bites twas a fate worse than death as a child. Fortunately, this Manhattan bagel shop serves its Mystic Pizza Bagel hot and baked fresh to order fast. The savory snack combines Di Palo's tomato sauce and shredded Grande mozzarella, while Parmigiano-Reggiano tops the hand-rolled garlic bagel, finished with slivers of basil and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.
⑥ Macaroni and Cheese at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (Miami, FL)
Yardbird’s out-of-the-box version of our college staple eschews elbows for spiral-shaped torchio pasta, plus a crispy herb crust and five(!) types of cheeses: Grayson, medium-sharp cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and Red Leicester, a crumbly English cheese with a reddish-orange rind. A pinch of Creole mustard and pop of paprika add savory flavor and heat.
⑦ S’mores at Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco, CA)
This bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the Mission highlights Papua New Guinean chocolate (featuring notes of pomegranate, raisins and tobacco) in its elevated s'more, served on a homemade graham cracker with marshmallow, small-batch chocolate ganache and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. Those haunted by memories of tragically burnt marshmallows can rest easy: All of Dandelion's s'mores are toasted to order.
Photo: Megan Swann
⑧ Chicken Fingers at Boudro's, (San Antonio, TX)
Chef Robbie Nowlin, formerly a butcher at the French Laundry, considers his panko-crusted chicken tenders an homage to his five-year-old son, Keller. (And, yes, the budding chicken connoisseur was named after Nowlin's ex-boss and mentor, Thomas Keller.) Nowlin's elevated take has a Texan accent, featuring sweet and spicy chile sauce, cotija cheese, cilantro and house-made curried peanuts.
⑨ Yodel at Juniper and Ivy, (San Diego, CA)
From Top Chef alum Richard Blais comes this bright spot serving modern California fare, as well as a surprisingly elegant iteration of the Drake's cake Yodels of our youth. Juniper and Ivy's Yodel features cocoa-dusted devil's food cake rolled with white chocolate and hazelnut brittle, and bathed in hot chocolate sauce.
Photo: CeCe Canton
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