5 Childhood Throwbacks-Turned-Gourmet Restaurant Desserts

These classic sweets never grow old
Gourmet Childhood Desserts
Photo: David Naugle

Dessert exists only to make you happy. And restaurants around the country have discovered that there's no better way to accomplish that than by reminding you of your childhood. With throwback offerings like Twinkies and jars of cookies, pastry chefs are adding twists to beloved favorites and creating nostalgic treats that evoke the sweetest of memories.

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco-based writer, recipe developer and cookbook author who never says no to a warm doughnut. Follow her culinary escapades on Instagram at @cookingwithamy.

  • Spicy S'mores Ganache

    33 Greenwich, NYC

    At the newly opened 33 Greenwich, the Spicy S'mores Ganache is like an elevated version of one of chef Anne Thornton's favorite childhood desserts. The base is a fudgy chocolate ganache reminiscent of a melted chocolate bar; it's sprinkled with cayenne and layered with a salty graham cracker crust and marshmallow meringue before being kissed by a blowtorch.

    Photo: Lindsay Brown

  • Flintstones Creamsicle

    Stones Throw, San Francisco

    At Stones Throw, pastry chef Tara Lewis spins inspiration from The Flintstones—and Flintstones Push-Ups, ice cream treats with a cardboard tube and push-up stick—to create a sophisticated take on the summery dessert. Lewis's version incorporates flavors like melon and lemon verbena; she puts homemade ice cream into a silicone mold, then glazes it twice with gelatin—including one coat of those squiggly orange stripes the Flintstones are known for.

    Photo: Stones Throw

  • Ice Cream Sandwiches

    Miller Union, Atlanta

    Many plated desserts consist of lots of components, but with ice cream sandwiches, there are only two: ice cream and cookies. It's pastry chef Pamela Moxley's respect for simplicity that has turned her version into an unfussy local favorite. Her ice cream includes classic mix-ins like toffee, nut brittle, caramel, cookies and brownies; fruit flavors are laced with their corresponding fruit liqueur to help achieve the perfect texture.

    Photo: David Naugle

  • House-Made Twinkies

    Drink Well, Austin

    A year before the classic Twinkies disappeared briefly due to the bankruptcy of Hostess in 2012, they appeared at Drink Well—albeit in a more extravagant form. The restaurant's signature dessert changes often and has been available in flavors like root beer float, strawberry cream, black cherry and mint chocolate chip; sometimes it's even glazed. Adding to the allure is the limited daily availability—Drink Well often sells out.

    Photo: Chisum Pierce via Instagram

  • Dana's Cookie Jar

    The Publican, Chicago

    The Publican's signature dessert is the aptly named Dana's Cookie Jar: an assortment of cookies freshly baked by pastry chef Dana Cree. Cree uses a bunch of cookie jars from eBay, but by now, customers also know to bring in pieces from home. The jars always include miniature versions of her nutter butters, Rice Krispie Treats and shortbread, along with other varieties that depend on the whim of the baker.

    Photo: Tasting Table

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