10 Fancified Versions of Kids' Meals in L.A.

Lobster Pop Tarts at Barton G.EXPAND
Lobster Pop Tarts at Barton G.
Barton G.

First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with liking, loving, even obsessing over childhood favorites – hello, Kraft macaroni and cheese. Sometimes, nothing tastes better than a Rice Krispie treat, even laden with margarine and jet-puffed miniature marshmallows (although salted, browned butter is nice). A trip down culinary memory lane can be weirdly satisfying.

But sometimes, a little updating, better ingredients and the right substitution or two can transform dishes of humble origin from frumpy to stunning. Elevating the ingredients goes a long way in taking something that appeals to the lowest common denominator — sprinkles! Pink icing! Cartoon characters on the package! — and turning it into something that even the staunchest foodie can appreciate.

The nostalgia factor is most definitely at work as well. As an adult, biting into a food memory can sometimes be a letdown, the chemical tastes dominating in ways they did not when you were five. Many foods just don’t live up to their reputation. But taking a bite of an amped-up version of a childhood staple can bring back that feeling of awe – the awe of your first taste of something that really blew your mind. 

Cheesy Tater Tots at UmamiEXPAND
Cheesy Tater Tots at Umami
Angela Matano

10. Cheesy Tater Tots at Umami Burger
Ordering off the menu at Umami is a great way to conjure up that adolescent rush of knowing something other people don't. Just mention the cheesy tater tots to your server — and the trio of dipping sauces available — and they'll bring them to you. No secret words or handshakes necessary. The tater tots are so far ahead of the frozen variety common to school cafeterias that you'll probably have to fight with whomever you're supposed to share them with. Order two. Crisped up and soft in the center, gooey with beer cheddar and Parmesan, the potato makes a perfect little sponge to sop up the jalapeño ranch, garlic aioli and diablo sauces. Also off the menu, the spicy bird turkey burger, so scrumptious, you may just forget it’s turkey. 12159 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; 818-286-9004.

Strawberry Shortcake Bar at MilkEXPAND
Strawberry Shortcake Bar at Milk
Angela Matano

9. Strawberry Shortcake Bar at Milk
Remember buying a strawberry shortcake bar off an ice cream truck? According to the Good Humor website, those things consist of a “cake-coated artificially flavored vanilla light ice cream and a strawberry center.” Note: This is “not a light food.” Milk, this town's decadent ice cream and dessert cafe, takes it to the next level times one thousand with their upscale version of the classic treat. Milk’s version, a gigantic, rectangular portion of homemade strawberry ice cream, coated in pink white chocolate and rolled in toasted almond crumble shortcake, is definitely not “a light food.” 7290 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-939-6455.

Frito Mac and Cheese at Plan CheckEXPAND
Frito Mac and Cheese at Plan Check
Plan Check

8. Frito Mac and Cheese at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar 
Loaded with childhood favorites transformed, from the beer float to the spicy Sriracha pickles, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar will most certainly placate your inner child. The restaurant really amps it up with chef Ernesto Uchimura’s Frito mac and cheese pie — the mixture of Americanized dashi cheese topped with housemade chorizo chili, jalapeños, and Frito chips rewrites the genre. The Fifth Taste beer float is equally impressive, blending an espresso stout with a candy cap mushroom, buffalo trace-infused ice cream. Rich and deeply satisfying, it's the perfect hybrid of a soda shop standard and a pub favorite. 1800 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-288-6500.

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