NYC's 12 best grown-up versions of the greatest food you ate as a kid

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NYC's 12 best grown-up versions of the greatest food you ate as a kid
NYC's 12 best grown-up versions of the greatest food you ate as a kid

All Photos: Khushbu Shah
All Photos: Khushbu Shah

Just because you now live in the real world and eat real food (PB&J topped with Doritos is real, right?), doesn't mean you have to give up the awesome foods from your childhood. As proof, we went out and bought 20 bags of Dunk-a-roos yesterday and ate them all... plus tracked down these 12 kick-ass adult versions of childhood favorites available at restaurants and bars all over NYC.

Boulton & Watt (click here for address and deets)
Somehow better than eating an entire package of break-and-bakes in one sitting, this extra-gooey choco chip cookie (technically meant for two-to-four people, but who's counting, amirite??) is baked-to-order in a cast iron skillet and served with a full jug of icy cold milk.

The Nugget Spot (click here for address and deets)
The nuggets at this East Village altar-to-the-ultimate-kid's-menu-staple up the game with high-quality ingredients and a massive range of house-made sauces. Two you gotta get: the Southern Belle -- nuggets breaded in a special seasoned flour, fried, and served with plenty of BBQ sauce -- and The Grove, which're pork nuggets encrusted in coconut, and served with a sweet-and-sour Mambo sauce.

Alder (click here for address and deets)
Essentially French onion soup in onion ring-form (no, that's not "basically" what Funyuns are, just stop it), this dish from Chef de Cuisine Jon Bignelli features onions fried in a tempura batter made with cheese stock, then topped with plenty of melted Gruyere, beef gravy, and beef powder for an extra burst of umami.

Empire Diner (click here for address and deets)
Creamy, cheesy, and just ridiculously good, we honestly don't want to know the person who dislikes M&C, especially after having Chef Amanda Freitag's version, which mixes orzo with garlic cream sauce, two kinds of cheese, a crunchy bread crumb topping, and butter that's infused with fresh black truffle. Where was OUR infused butter, MOM! Huh? WHERE?!?

Kelvin Slush (click here for deets)
The Kelvin Slush truck makes slushies you should hunt down for three reasons: 1) they don't dye your tongue neon blue, 2) they mix incredibly well with booze, and 3) they come in flavors like spicy ginger and tangy citrus. Customers can also mix in real fruit purees like blood orange, lychee, and cranberry -- all totally worth the brain freeze.

Dominique Ansel Bakery (click here for address and deets)
Ansel freezes vanilla custard and chocolate feuilletine enrobed in marshmallow (made with honey and Tahitian vanilla bean) overnight, and blow-torches them (to order!) on an applewood-smoked stick. It's half s'more, half ice cream, half are you serious.

Parm (click here for address and deets)
The mozz sticks at this Soho sandwich shop are thick, insanely melty, perfectly stringy, and a far cry from the limp versions found at the John Ericsson Middle School cafeteria (that sometimes didn't even have cheese in the middle... where did it go? How does that happen?). Mozzarella curds are stretched, doubled-breaded, fried to order, and served with a house-made marinara.  

Brooklyn Bowl (click here for address and deets)
Only one thing can make a milkshake better -- wads of $100 bills in it. Oh, and booze -- lots and lots of it. BB's got the good stuff, with concoctions like the Bourbon Street milkshake where high-quality ice cream is blended with milk, Nutella, and plenty of brown liquor.

David Burke Kitchen (click here for address and deets)
You weren't royalty growing up, so chances are, the "ants on a log" you ate were a far cry from roasted veal bone marrow topped with escargot fritters, dots of aioli, and shredded, house-made beef jerky in place of raisins and peanut butter. But you are now.

Telepan Local (click here for address and deets)
The only pigs involved in the version Bill Telepan serves at his Downtown eatery, are gonna be the ones at your table housing the whole plate of these little bastards. Chef Telepan makes sausage from grass-fed beef, which is then stuffed into all-natural casing, and then wrapped in extra-buttery puff pastry and served with a grainy honey mustard sauce.

Puddin by Clio (click here for address and deets)
The classic chocolate here features 70% dark chocolate from an Icelandic producer (who totally maybe did Bjork's last album, too), but the real star is the Starbucks-inspired caramel macchiato pudding that layers coffee and chocolate puddings with brownie pieces and plenty of salted caramel.

The Queens Kickshaw (click here for address and deets)
When you're an adult, vegetables start to matter, and sometimes start to taste good (SOMETIMES). The lasagna at this Astoria staple rides that theory with a vegetable-forward, Asian-influenced take on the comfort food classic. It's the James Bond of lasagnas -- refined, elegant, constantly laid and international -- made with satisfying layers of grilled eggplant, kimchi, smoked tofu, and a thick béchamel.

Khushbu Shah is a freelance food and drink writer who aspires to one day write a joke that makes it onto a Laffy Taffy wrapper. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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1. Empire Diner 210 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011 (Chelsea)

Empire Diner in Chelsea brings in all walks of life, at all hours. Check out the burger or more innovative apps to start.

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2. Puddin' by Clio 102 Saint Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

If you thought you'd never again taste creamy delicious homemade pudding like you used to have as a kid, then we have good news. It's Puddin' by Clio.

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3. The Nugget Spot 230 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

An entire restaurant based on the simple concept of the chicken nugget? You betcha. Stop by and enjoy their laid-back atmosphere and some beer (or wine) or grab your nuggets to go!

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4. The Queens Kickshaw 4017 Broadway, Astoria, NY 11103 (Queens)

This Astoria cafe primarily focuses on vegetarian eats, but carnivores will love it just the same. Best for lunch or brunch, standout comfort food menu items include a variety of grilled cheeses, avocado toast, and quiche. Just as popular as the food options are The Queen's coffee and beer offerings, so you can easily pop in for a drink to go.

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5. Alder 157 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Alder is Wylie Dufresne's pub-inspired resto that's funneling his classic taste-bud-bending creations into a more accessible, slightly less-conceptual bar food-inspired menu in a woodsily modern East Village dwelling.

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6. Telepan Local 329 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013 (Tribeca)

This swank, American-fare Tribeca joint is doling out delicious cocktails, perfectly-portioned entrees, and fresh, innovative desserts.

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7. David Burke Bloomingdale's 1000 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022 (Midtown)

Food and fashion, typically adversaries, come together at David Burke Bloomingdale's. The result: nom nom nom. Spanning the entirety of 59th Street, restaurateur David Burke opened this bar/cafe in 2005, satisfying shoppers hungry to pop their belts... not just buy one. Menu items include lobster dumplings, big pretzel paninis, pastrami salmon, and the Warm Country Apple Cappuccino (apple cider / brandy / foamed milk). Martini Week Specials: from 5:30p to 8:30p, get a Grey Goose "Not Your Mothers Cosmo" or a Bombay Sapphire "Truffled Gin Gem" with Vermouth for $10 (Note: bar only).

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8. Parm 248 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012 (Nolita)

This Italian-American restaurant from the Torrisi crew serves rich but simple veal, chicken, and eggplant parm, in sandwich or platter form. Parm's menu reads like a "best of" list of red sauce classics, featuring clams casino, mozzarella sticks, penne pomodoro, and of course, giant meatballs. The Nolita spot is small and cozy with a long bar in front and small tables in the back, but take-out is available if you'd rather eat your sauce-drenched hero in the privacy of your own living room...or cubicle.

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9. Dominique Ansel Bakery 189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

Master pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s eponymous SoHo bakeshop is best known as the birthplace of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut mash-up that attracts lines of tourists every morning. There’s a limit of two Cronuts per customer, but luckily the hybrid pastry isn’t all Ansel has in store. The shop sells bite-size fruit tarts, rich chocolate cookies, and Ansel’s other signature sweet, the kouign amann.

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10. Brooklyn Bowl 61 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Brooklyn Bowl's a 16-lane strikers' paradise that combines the sleek amenities of Lucky Strike with the anti-sleek Williamsburgery of The Gutter. Blue Ribbon's famous fried chicken is on the menu and live bands replace the top 40 hits you're used to jamming out to under the disco ball of your hometown lanes.

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11. Boulton & Watt 5 Ave A, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

Boulton & Watt's a bar/resto hybrid from the team behind several other Alphabet City winners that makes you feel like you just got off a very long day of work during the Industrial Revolution.