Pop-tarts, fruit roll-ups, pizza bagel bites, corn dogs, peanut butter and jelly. What do all these things have in common? They were all probably foods that defined (or maybe destroyed) your childhood. And they’re also probably foods you haven’t touched since, and for good reason. To borrow off Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up bit, whoever feels good after eating a hot pocket?
Nonetheless, there are a ton of restaurants around America that are bringing these childhood memories to their menu. Gross, right? Not exactly, as many are putting their own homemade, gourmet spin on them. Below I round up a few such restaurants and what childhood foods you can find on the menu.
Straw, San Francisco. Why go to the county or state fair, when you can just eat all the carnival-type food at San Francisco’s Straw in Hayes Valley. Straw makes no bones about it; they are a “carnival fare” restaurant, though naturally being located in San Francisco, also caters to the vegan and vegetarian. Begin with mini corn dogs before your main entrée of a burger sandwiched between two glazed doughnut buns and ending with funnel cake. If that’s not enough for you, they also have fried candy bars. Then go run some up-downs on San Francisco’s hills.
Barton G, Miami and Los Angeles. You guys, they have lobster pop-tarts. I don’t care how many stomach aches I got from pop-tarts as a kid, lobster put into anything is delicious, and this is no exception. While Barton G began in Miami, they recently opened a Los Angeles restaurant in Beverly Hills. They bill it as an “experience like none other,” and it certainly is. Go for the lobster pop-tarts but stay for the experience, as each item (and cocktail), is presented dramatically, such as the chocolate monkey hanging off the martini glass. Oh, and a cotton candy bust of Marie Antoinette’s head.
Lot No. 3, Seattle. Lot No. 3 was one of my favorite Seattle happy hour spots when I lived there. $7 Manhattans are about half the price you’d pay at many bars. However, my inner kid went crazy at the PB&J&B. That’s right, a peanut butter and jelly with bacon. I know that sounds dramatic, but stay with me here. The saltiness of the bacon actually pairs well with the sweetness of the mixed fruit jelly. If you’re like me, one won’t be enough. Go during happy hour from 3-6 p.m. for $3.50 sliders.
Plan Check, Los Angeles. Did someone say fruit roll-ups? Ok, so maybe Plan Check doesn’t have fruit roll-ups, but they do have leather. And get this, it’s ketchup leather. Not exactly appealing, is it? But don’t go dissing it before you’ve tried it. The leather actually keeps the bun from the being so soggy and packs a lot of flavor. If you don’t want it on the bun itself, you can get it on the side to relive your sticky finger days as a child. They also have a sriracha leather. But before you go putting the entire thing in your mouth like it’s a strawberry fruit leather, remember that it bites back.
Treat House, New York City. Am I the only one who didn’t like Rice Krispies Treats as a kid? They were just always missing something. Well whether you were like me or liked them as they were, there’s now a place in New York City, Treat House, devoted completely to the sweet snack. The best part is the variety, making it like a cupcake bakery but for Rice Krispies Treats. The varieties of flavors don’t disappoint either, such as peppermint bark, caramel sea salt, chocolate pretzel, cookies and cream, chocolate peanut butter, and birthday cake. They even deliver nationwide.
Peché, Austin. Peché is where children and adolescents come to graduate. That’s because Peché takes one of the best things from childhood, milkshakes, and adds a little adulthood to it, booze. They have a number of boozy milkshakes, my favorite of which is the Grasshopper, featuring house-made vanilla ice cream, chocolate liqueur, and crème de menthe. If you like mint chocolate ice cream as much as I do, then this one is for you. Others include vanilla and cherry milkshake topped off with absinthe and a spicy milkshake with chili liqueur, chocolate liqueur, and mezcal.
Tavern at the Beach, San Diego. Here at Tavern at the Beach in San Diego, the childhood classic of pigs in a blanket becomes kegs in a blanket. Those innocent little sausages are dipped in beer (hence the name, Kegs in a Blanket) and wrapped in a cheesy pretzel dough. You can feel a little bit better about yourself with the green papaya and jicama slaw that is served alongside it.
Top photos from Barton G.
What restaurants have you seen some of your favorite childhood foods at?