You may be too old for a lot of things—passing notes, finger painting, chasing your crush on the playground—but you’re definitely never too old to enjoy the tasty treats of your childhood.
Fortunately, a number of establishments across the country have started catering to all of your youthful whims, with many of them putting a more sophisticated spin on tried and true bites. Ride the nostalgia train ’til the wheels fall off at these sentimental spots.
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
This whimsical watering hole in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has all of your state fair favorites, like corn dogs, mac and cheese, and funnel cake, while classic kid drinks get a grown-up cocktail twist. Try the Capri Sun (cherry vodka, pomegranate liqueur, muddled lemon, sour, and sprite), or Adult Root Beer Float (vanilla vodka, hard root beer, and whipped cream) for a slightly boozier trip down memory lane. In the mood to keep that rose-colored momentum going? Just head downstairs to Narwhal, the bar’s in-house arcade, to try your hand at pinball or take some silly snapshots in the photo booth.
Milk & Cream Cereal Bar
WHERE: New York, New York
You’ve never had Lucky Charms like this. Milk & Cream amps up the Saturday morning cartoon vibes, then turns them upside-down and sideways. First, decide on your base: ice cream, milkshake, or a good old-fashioned bowl full of milk. Then, choose your favorite cereal from options like Rice Krispies, Cap’n Crunch, or Apple Jacks. Add some cookie, candy, or fresh fruit toppings into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly mature cereal sundae.
INSIDER TIPNot feeling so confident about your pairing skills? Try one of Milk & Cream’s signature blends, such as Banana Cream (granola crisp, bananas, teddy grahams, and honey drizzle) or Cookie Crisp Carnival (Cookie Crisp, cookie dough, Oreos, cookie crunches and chocolate chips).
WHERE: Washington, D.C., Gaithersburg, Maryland, Fairfax and Reston, Virginia
Ted’s Bulletin serves up comfort food and guilty pleasures with a big side of retro kitsch. If the Mingo County Meatloaf with ketchup glaze wasn’t enough, you might just want to bring a tray table for the TV dinner. This boob tube-worthy feast includes Salisbury steak smothered in mushroom gravy, plus mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies. Whatever you do, make sure you save room for one of the house-made pop tarts, offered in daily flavors like strawberry, salted caramel, brown sugar and cinnamon, and blueberry cheesecake.
Russell House Tavern
WHERE: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Satisfy your need for fast food and booze simultaneously at Russell House Tavern, which offers a little something called the Harvard Square Happy Meal. This combo pairs the restaurant’s juicy onion and bacon-topped house cheeseburger with steak frites, an ice-cold Narragansett tall boy, and a shot of Amaro Lucano for good measure, which we think more than makes up for the lack of a toy. How do you like them apples?
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
A concept created by the inventor of the Umami Burger, Adam Fleischman, PBJ.LA churns out simple-yet-gourmet versions of the brown-bag classic at Los Angeles Grand Central Market. These crust-free sandwiches are made with homemade, organic nut butters and jams that incorporate rosé and stone fruit. Bourbon lovers will adore the Old Fashioned, made with salted pecan butter, apple jam with angostura bitters, and orange zest, while those looking to spice things up can order the Indian, which combines curried cashew butter, spicy mango chutney, arugula, and sliced daikon radish. Wash it all down with a cold glass of almond milk in a unique flavor like Vanilla Lavender or Yuzu Matcha.
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Dylan's Candy Bar Café
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York
Your favorite sweets get a boozy refresh at Dylan’s Candy Bar Cafés. Candy-inspired cocktails including Pop Rocks® Explosion, Drunken Sour Patch®, Nerdy Mojito, and the Jolly Rancher Cosmo give you that same sugar rush you remember in a much fancier manner. Non-alcoholic options are on the menu as well: try the Birthday Cake Milkshake or the Poppin’ Cherry Coke Float for a rich and creamy pick-me-up.
WHERE: Miami, Florida
Have a hankering for crispy chicken fingers, but slightly embarrassed by the thought of ordering off of the kids menu? Get the totally grown-up panko-crusted chicken fingers (served with honey mustard and barbecue dipping sauces, natch) at Big Pink. This massive eatery in the heart of South Beach specializes in massive plates of hearty diner classics served on tables in its namesake color. While you’re at it, check out the mac and cheese here. Elbow macaroni and the perfect blend of cheeses make it an ooey-gooey indulgence that puts those Kraft dinosaur shapes to shame.
INSIDER TIPBig Pink is open super late on weekends—’til 5 am—making it ideal for those midnight snack cravings.
WHERE: San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, Texas and San Diego, California
No bonfire necessary: grab some friends, ask for an order of two or four s’mores at this small coffee and dessert chain, and roast them right at your table. If you’re in more of an after-dinner drink mood, the Smoretini should do the trick instead. If you close your eyes, it’s almost like you’re at summer camp again, minus the annoying bunkmates and mosquito bites.
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
This cool and quaint walk-up coffee shop—part of Bar Siena in the West Loop of the Windy City—specializes in all sorts of brews, doughnuts, and gelato, but don’t sleep on the hidden gem. Go all out with the cafe’s “Hotter Chocolate,” in Funfetti or S’mores varieties (that is, if you haven’t had your fill), a perfectly indulgent way to warm up on those chilly Chicago days. Of course, die-hard iced aficionados can opt for the “Cooler” versions if they dare.
Toy Boat Dessert Cafe
WHERE: San Francisco, California
It’s all about the atmosphere at Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, which has been delighting patrons since 1982 in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood. Breakfast, sandwiches, ice cream, and sweets are all served in a ridiculously retro space that’s filled to the brim with toys from all time periods. No matter what your age, you’re sure to find at least one of your favorites on the wall while you’re devouring your banana split or peanut butter smoothie.
WHERE: Providence, Rhode Island
Totally radical, dude. Behold an entire 1990s-themed menu at this Providence donut shop. There’s the Dunkaroo—that’s buttery brioche with house-made Dunkaroo glaze and topped with cinnamon graham cookie crumbs. Or, you could always go with the Pop Rocks®, Pop Tart, or Cosmic Brownie varieties while you lace up your rollerblades and adjust your scrunchie. As ancient sage Olmec of the classic ’90s Nickelodeon show Legends of the Hidden Temple always said, “The choice is yours, and yours alone.”