10 Of Your Favorite Childhood Treats Gone Gourmet
There are parts of my childhood I'd rather not return to, like Coke bottle glasses and culottes, but the food from that era always tugs at my heartstrings. Increasingly, chefs and restauranteurs are seeking to play on our nostalgia with throwback dishes whose scents and tastes give us the warm fuzzies. Some are reimagining old school kiddie classics in polished restaurant settings, and others are opening up entire stores dedicated to childhood favorites. These throwbacks are hardly aimed at vending machine prices, though. That's right, the times, they are a changin'. Here are a few dishes worth noting around town.
The impeccable tuna melt at Cassell's with a side of their tartar sauce and potato salad (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
Tuna Melt at Cassell's Hamburgers
While Cassell's is named for its burgers, the star of the show at this modern Koreatown diner is the tuna melt. The superb $14 sammie is made by poaching tuna slow and low instead of boiling it, rendering the fish super juicy and the fall-apart tender, unlike its tough canned cousin that you might have grown up eating as an after school snack. There's just the right amount of mayo in the bare bones tuna salad, which is then sandwiched between generously buttered whole wheat slices and along with your choice of cheese, which gets crackly and melty edges when grilled to perfection on the restaurant's well seasoned flattop from 1948.
Cassell's Hamburgers is located at 3600 West 6th Street, Koreatown, (213) 387-5502
Grilled Cheese At Greenpan's Grilled Cheese
Eric Greenspan has taken on tons of restaurant projects since winning the Grilled Cheese Invitational with his signature sandwich made from tallegio on raisin-walnut bread with apricot caper puree. His small Melrose Ave shop also sells wild riffs on the melty favorite like the Johnny Apple Cheese with sourdough, white cheddar, apple mustard chutney, pastrami and green apples, as well as throwback apple hand pies like they used to make at McDonald's.
Greenspan's Grilled Cheese is located at 7461 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, (323) 591-0177
A fancy toast inspired by Sqirl made with ricotta, honey, and nuts (Photo by Krista Simmons)
Toast and Jam at Sqirl
Leave it Jessica Koslow to make "burnt" toast sound sexy. Her Virgil Avenue cafe has continued to wow the masses with simple-seeming dishes like rice porridge. She sells her preserves and brioche toast with a variety of condiments starting at $4.50 and ranging to $7.50, and the trend has taken the country—including my Instagram feed—by storm, inspiring countless spinoffs like the one pictured above. Turns out the hottest thing since sliced bread is actually sliced bread.
Sqirl 720 North Virgil Avenue, Los Angeles, (213) 394-6526
The Elvis sandwich with bananas, bacon, and peanut butter at Spread (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches At Spread PB
Two first-time restauranteurs took on the task of elevating one of America's most nostalgic lunch foods, the PB&J. Their Studio City storefront offers all sorts of twists on the classic, making their own nut butters in a Venice kitchen combined with a variety of local jams and preserves. They had yet to get their panini presses hooked up properly to toast their sammies during opening week and seemed to be suffering some serious service snafus, so its tough to say if it's as good as your mom used to make them. There were a lot of misses, but the green curry chicken peanut butter with apricot jam ($7) was strangely addictive to say the least.
Spread is located at 12215 Ventura Blvd. Suite 104, Studio City, 818-980-2472
The sloppy joe at Ledlow (Photo courtesy of Ledlow)
Sloppy Joes at Ledlow
Josef Centeno revamped Pete's in Downtown L.A., and recently renamed the establishment Ledlow. The restaurant serves American staples with a cheffy twist, like grilled seafood cocktail, crudités, wedge salads, and deviled eggs and ham. Centeno is no slouch in the kitchen, though, so his sloppy joe is far from what you'd plunk out of a can. The choice ground beef is slow cooked for four hours in an espelette pepper- and cumin- spiked stock, then served on a house made bun with a whole roasted poblano pepper and a slice of American cheese for $12.
Ledlow is located at 400 South Main Street, Los Angeles, (213) 687-7015
Giant shells and cheese from Barrel and Ashes in Studio City (Photo via Barrel and Ashes on Facebook)
Shells and Cheese at Barrel and Ashes
I've obsessed over the incredible smoked chicken at this new Studio City smokehouse, but a few of the sides at Barrell and Ashesh are equally swoon-worthy, too. Their ooey gooey shells and cheese served in a small cast iron skillet go for $7, but the decadent dish reminds me of mom's Velveeta version so much that it's hard to hate on. Only difference is they're using a mornay sauce combined with Tillamook cheddar and jack, a step up from the stuff I grew up on.
Barrel and Ashes is located at 11801 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, (818) 623-8883
Cold Pressed Apple Juice at Pressed Juicery
Though juice cleanses have been proven to detrimental to the pocketbook and your health, I still love a good cold pressed juice from time to time. And there's nothing that brings back childhood memories like an apple juice. That unfiltered goodness paired with some PB and graham crackers really brings back memories, though admittedly the organic cold pressed version, which also includes a hit of ginger and cayenne, is a bit more spendy than Juicy Juice at $8 a bottle.
Pressed Juicery is located at 201 North Larchmont Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, (323) 609-3903
The chocolate chip cookie and walnut milk at Goldie's (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
Cookies and Milk at Goldie's
Forking over $10 for a cookie and a glass of milk won't completely break the bank, and these sweet treats are worth it. This Mid-City restaurant ups the ante by making walnut milk in-house, and serves their giant cookies warm, straight out of the oven. The rich, creamy milk would taste even more decadent spiked with nocino, an Italian liquor made from green walnuts, but a shot of bourbon might do the trick too, if you're after a night cap.
Goldie's is located at 8422 West 3rd Street, Mid-City, (323) 677-2470
Spot prawn corn dogs at Malibu Pier Restaurant & Bar (Photo courtesy of Malibu Pier Restaurant)
Spot Prawn Corn Dogs at Malibu Pier Restaurant & Bar
Chef Jason Fullilove puts and upscale spin on carnival fare at this seaside restaurant, making spot prawn corn dogs served with violet mustard. The delicious locally-caught seafood is served with the head on, because any self-respecting, grownup knows that's where all the flavor is. The fried throwbacks go for $14 for a small order, and $22 for a full serving.
Malibu Pier Restaurant & Bar is located at 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, (310) 456-8820
Pop Tarts and Ho Ho's at Nickel Diner
Nickel Diner opened up in a dicey part of Downtown L.A. long before it was a cool thing to do, and their retro throwback diner is still running strong, serving up comfort foods with a gourmet twist. Their maple bacon donut is always a draw, but also worth noshing on are their flaky strawberry pop tarts and decadent dark chocolate ho-hos, made in house by chef/owner Monica May. Again, not as cheap as a box of Pop-Tarts on sale at the local bodega, but the ingredients are worth a splurge. Nearby Semisweet Bakery, owned by Sharlena Fong, the baker who opened Nickel, also does similar throwbacks too, if you're looking to do a nostalgic sweets tour of the area.
Nickel Diner is located at 524 South Main Street, Los Angeles, (213) 623-8301