Throwback Treats: 13 Childhood-Inspired Snacks and Desserts

The flavors of these restaurant dishes will take you straight back to afternoons spent baking in Grandma’s kitchen and chasing down the jangling ice cream truck.

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By: Patty Lee

Photo By: Halee Holland

Photo By: Patty Lee

Photo By: Arianna Tettamanzi

Photo By: Rosee Canfield

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Pop Tart at Bakery Lorraine, San Antonio

Chefs Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell started to make Pop Tarts during their time at The Monterey as an ode to the now-shuttered restaurant’s gas station roots. Their handmade version of the beloved toaster snack became so popular that it followed the duo to their own spot, Bakery Lorraine. Flavors rotate — strawberry, raspberry and blueberry have made appearances recently — but they all come with the same colorful topping of crushed macarons, a nod to the pair’s French pastry expertise.

Strawberry Shortcake Semifreddo Pop at Cultivar, Boston

At this New American restaurant near Faneuil Hall, Chef Mary Dumont offers up a play on the Strawberry Shortcake Bar. In a fine-dining twist on the cherished ice cream truck treat, she layers mascarpone semifreddo with strawberry jam and strawberry-basil sorbet, then coats the bar with white chocolate that's been blended with freeze-dried strawberries and candied hazelnuts.

PB&J Macaron at Bouchon Bakery, Yountville, California

Bouchon Bakery’s seasonal macaron has been hitting the books, taking notes from the sandwiches that pop up in lunchboxes everywhere. Chef Alessandra Altieri Lopez has crafted a giant PB&J version of the French confection, with peanut butter buttercream and mixed-berry jam swirled between two deep-violet shells.

Ho Ho at Deer Path Inn, Chicago

Located on Chicago' s North Shore, this charming inn is modeled after the ones in Britain, but its childhood-inspired dessert is as American as it gets. Deer Path Inn' s Brad Parsons doesn' t stray far from the classic recipe for the roll, first tested in Grandma's kitchen years ago. The roulade is an airy chocolate sponge cake with finishing accents that take things up a notch. Instead of a vanilla cream, the upscale Ho Ho is filled with cream cheese mousse and covered with a chocolate glaze and strawberry pearls.

S'mores Cookies at Maman, New York

The gooey-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside cookies at this French cafe already have a devoted following, and co-founder Elisa Marshall recently upped the nostalgia factor. In a sweet tribute to her family' s tradition of toasting marshmallows in their wood-burning fireplace, these hefty pucks are now studded with Guittard chocolate, toasted 'mallows and Annie' s bunny-shaped graham crackers.

Animal Cracker Dunkaroos at Hank's, Austin

You can’t take the '90s kid out of Chaney Means. For the dessert menu at this all-day cafe, the pastry chef has created a throwback to one of her favorite childhood snacks: Dunkaroos. Using honey and oat flour that’s ground in-house, she forms a dough that’s then molded into an edible menagerie. The nutty animal crackers come with two contrasting dips — a fluffy Funfetti buttercream and a homemade noisette au chocolat (aka Nutella).

Green Eggs & Ham at The Grocery, Charleston, South Carolina

Chef Kevin Johnson’s interpretation of green eggs and ham may look nothing like the one in the book he reads to his boys, but it’s every bit as enticing. Johnson conceived the Grocery dish as a riff on eggs Benedict that plays up his Southern roots: There are cornmeal-based johnnycakes in place of English muffins, smoked ham instead of Canadian bacon and, for the green element, fried runny eggs dredged in emerald-hued panko breadcrumbs.

Novelty Popsicles at Small Batch, Los Angeles

These are not the Technicolor novelty popsicles you find in the supermarket freezer aisle. Part of the L.A. empire started by Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson and her chef-husband Nick Roberts, Small Batch is — as its name suggests — an artisanal ice cream shop turning out elevated frozen treats. Along with scoops, shakes and sundaes, you'll find popsicles in flavors like Thai tea, Earl Grey, raspberry and coffee, dipped in a housemade chocolate shell or topped with edible gold glitter and crunchy pearls. It’s just the right mix of sophistication and nostalgia.

Pizza Bagel at Black Seed Bagels, New York

Anyone who grew up in the '90s will likely remember the famous jingle for Bagel Bites. The easily reheatable snack was so popular that it was spun off into several different flavors — all, of course, inspired by classic pizza toppings. At Black Seed, Executive Chef Dianna Daoheung has created two versions of the cheesy hybrid: a Margherita and a Pepperoni, both built on the shop’s hand-rolled Montreal-style bagels.

Burnt Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats at Larder, San Antonio

Tucked inside Hotel Emma, Larder slings groceries and prepared foods, including a handful of sweet treats. Conjured up by Chef John Brand as an adult spin on the bake sale favorite, this best-selling item gets an extra addition of brown butter and toffee bits. When it's all mixed together to form chewy, sticky squares, the flavor is reminiscent of another sentimental-favorite snack, the s’more.

Rainbow Sprinkle Cookie Sandwiches at Goldenrod Pastries, Lincoln, Nebraska

For many, Funfetti brings to mind a celebration, and that's exactly what inspired pastry chef Angela Garbacz of Goldenrod to come up with these vibrant cookies. She flips the iconic cake inside out so the color is on the outside. Each cookie is rolled in sprinkles, flattened by hand, baked, then filled with a vanilla-infused buttercream that's reminiscent of frosting that comes in a tub — but not as cloying.

Ice Cream Sandwiches at NoMad Los Angeles, Los Angeles

The pastry wizards at the NoMad’s L.A. outpost offer cheffed-up ice cream sandwiches as a lunchtime dessert at the Restaurant or an all-day treat in the Rooftop. There are currently two on the menu: the Milk & Honey, a hand-held version of the restaurant’s signature dessert that combines milk ice cream and honey-oat shortbread; and the Cookies & Cream, which bundles vanilla ice cream and chocolate salted caramel in between buttery chocolate shortbread cookies.

Cereal Milk Cocktails at Spencer's by the Sea, Key West, Florida

Cereal milk — propelled to fame by Milk Bar's Christina Tosi — has been popping up on dessert menus across the country in recent years, and it's made its way to the bar, too. At Spencer's by the Sea, the restaurant inside The Reach Key West, guests can sip on boozy versions while enjoying a view of the ocean. These alcoholic desserts in a glass include one that's infused with Cocoa Puffs and vanilla liqueur and another that's a potent elixir of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal milk, Fireball whiskey and RumChata liqueur.

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