The Best Restaurants & Bars in L.A. to Feed Your Inner Child

Gourmet comfort food and boozy milkshakes for the young at heart
Milk N’ Cookies | Photo courtesy of Westbound

Some of the most comforting childhood food memories arise from such classics as peanut butter and jelly, mac n’ cheese, ice cream, cookies, grilled cheese, hot dogs and pancakes. In a case of "everything old is new again," many of these favorite dishes are being redone with an adult twist—and for even more fun, some of them are being served in restaurants with secret entrances. Ready for a mash-up? Check out these 16 hotspots with sophisticated, whimsical - and occasionally alcohol-laced - culinary twists on kid-centric favorites.

Cherries Jubilee and Night Owl spiked shakes at 25 Degrees | Instagram by @apl_peeler

25 Degrees

Located at the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Hollywood, this stalwart eatery from Tim and Liza Goodell is open 24/7 and imbued with old-school glam - red leather swivel bar chairs and matching tufted booths are set against velvet accented wallpaper. 25 Degrees was one of the first eateries with a “build your own burger” concept using premium ingredients. It was also among the first to offer old-fashioned milkshakes with a boozy twist. The number one seller is the Guinness Milkshake, which combines Guinness beer with house-made chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Other shakes include Cherries Jubilee with Grey Goose cherry noir and Godiva chocolate liqueur; Salty Caramel with Maker’s Mark bourbon and butterscotch; and Bananas Foster with Sailor Jerry spiced rum. For those who don’t want ice cream, orange soda and cream soda have spiked versions as well.

Lobster Pop-Tarts | Photo courtesy of Barton G.

Barton G. The Restaurant

Everything about this La Cienega restaurant shouts a fantastical kiddyland for adults. The large space is decked out in full Hollywood glamour with plush seating, a 15-foot pink onyx bar, cascading drapes, floor-to-ceiling fresh orchid wall displays, a wall of reclaimed wood barrels, an engraved bronze glass backdrop, and an open pastry kitchen that overlooks the restaurant. The concept comes from restaurateur and designer Barton G. Weiss, who designed the restaurant to “inspire, tickling one’s intellect and appealing to all the senses.”

Almost everything on the menu inspires kid-like glee with spectacular twists—from the Marie Antoinette’s Head - Let Them Eat Cake (a mannequin head with cotton-candy pompadour is surrounded by candy and a bananas foster shake) to Lobster Pop-Tarts emerging from a toaster and Holy Smokes Popcorn (bacon and white truffle nitro popcorn with fresh black truffles, grated Parmesan, and fresh herbs). "Extravagant" is an understatement. Have your credit card ready.

Jon Sno-Kone at Good Times at Davey Wayne's
Jon Sno-Kone at Good Times at Davey Wayne's  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s

The Houston brothers will take you back to the '70s at this hidden bar in Hollywood. Step through a refrigerator door in a “garage” and you'll enter a living room/backyard party designed like their dad's groovy bachelor pad with memorabilia, live music stage, and a classic TV console for the DJ booth. The retro kid in you will want the spiked Sno-Kone (only available on the patio after 8 p.m.) offered in a variety of flavors, such as pineapple, blackberry, and strawberry, mixed with vodka and bourbon.

The Griddle Café

Long lines are part of the adventure at this popular Sunset Boulevard daytime spot known for outrageous breakfast combinations and pancakes as big as your head. You'll wish you were a kid again so you could eat as much as you want. Just demonstrate your best YOLO attitude and go with it as your inner kid merges with the adult you to indulge in legal age flavors with child-like abandon. Must-eats include: Saturday Morning Fever with Kahlua and Bailey’s swirled into buttermilk pancake batter; Eyes Wide Open, buttermilk pancakes with semi sweet chocolate chips and espresso; and Tequila Sunrise, their take on Huevos Rancheros with refried beans, two eggs sunny side up, melted jack and cheddar cheeses, covered with gold tequila spiked rancheros sauce and served with chicken tequila sausage.

Hache LA

This rustic burger stand in Silver Lake is known for its French-inspired burgers with six variations featuring 100% Angus Steak patties that are ground daily on the premises. (Veggie patty and portobello mushroom substitutions available.) Childhood memories will rush back with a sip of the fresh strawberry-flavored lemonade and triple-cooked fries. But it’s dessert that’s most comforting of all.

Chef Michael “Mick” Schepers has created a throwback to the original soft serve with his “real Wisconsin” frozen custards. There are usually three flavors available including cookie butter and a seasonal choice, but the Oreo cookie flavor is the classic—with a modern twist, of course. The frozen custard is made-to-order and mixed with Oreo cookies and liquid nitrogen then whipped until thick and creamy. Order and pick up at the counter, then have a seat on the patio, or the sidewalk bar with stools for people watching.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch & Spiced Rum at Nighthawk Breakfast Bar | Instagram by @nighthawkrestaurants

Nighthawk Breakfast Bar

Enjoy breakfast for dinner and a boozy weekend brunch at this playful Venice restaurant from restaurateur Jeremy Fall. You’re offered a newspaper and a free cup of coffee upon sitting at the bar, a tufted banquette, or dark wood table. Whimsical names for dishes include Duck, Duck, Goose (foie gras and scrambled duck eggs), Drunken French Toast (Krispies coated brioche with pear brandy), and Big Bird & Shortstack (buttermilk fried chicken and sweet potato pancakes).

Spiked cold brew coffee is served as Irish Coffee (Irish whiskey) or Vietnamese Iced Coffee with house-spiced rum. Options for “Spiked Cereal Milk” include Cinnamon Toast Crunch and spiced rum; Cocoa Puffs and vanilla vodka; and Fruit Loops and gin.You won’t know if it’s day or night, but a fun time is guaranteed. Pajama parties welcome.

The NoMad Truck

Fancy comfort food is all the rage at this food truck from Daniel Humm and Will Guidar (co-owners of New York’s Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park) that puts a gourmet spin on favorites like the hot dog, chicken sandwich, and soft serve. Black truffle mayo shakes up the chicken burger, while brioche, bacon, and truffle elevates the hot dog. The Milk & Honey is like a golden ticket of soft serve—vanilla soft serve is drizzled with buckwheat honey amidst crumbles of honey-oat shortbread, honey brittle, and cylinders of crunchy milk meringue.

The truck is an introduction to the NoMad Hotel opening January 2018 in Downtown L.A., and has been impressing Angelenos with a series of collaborations with L.A. star chefs, including Curtis Stone, Roy Choi, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Ludo Lefebvre, Walter Manzke, and Suzanne Goin. Follow @nomadtruck on Instagram for updated locations.

Gril’d Cheese & Bisq at Prank Bar | Instagram by @prankbar

Prank Bar

L.A.’s first walk up bar, part of a two-story restaurant/lounge with a dog-friendly patio, Prank Bar is located near STAPLES Center in the South Park area of Downtown L.A. It’s an indoor/outdoor floor to ceiling glass space where non-GMO bar food and cocktails can be ordered paired in "Pranky Meals" or a la carte. The comfort food menu includes the Signature Salami "Wich", jalapeno and veggie burgers, taco trio, a chicken sandwich with a non-GMO blue cornmeal crust, and a gourmet take on a kid's classic— Gril’d Cheese & Bisq (medley of sharp goat cheese on sourdough bread with tomato cashew bisque).

Sip “Witty Classics” cocktails such as the Inigo Montaya with Espolon Blanco and fresh lemon; or Pinky & the Brain with Ketel One, honey, pink grapefruit and fresh lime. Healthy “Augmented Ambrosias” include Anti-Inflammatory, Kombucha and Super Immunity.

Small Batch Ice Cream

“Top Chef” Season 14 Winner Brooke Williamson and her husband/chef Nick Roberts have created a perfect spot for adults and kids at their new stand-alone artisanal ice cream shop in Mar Vista. It’s the second outpost of Small Batch, which is part of their Playa Provisions in nearby Playa del Rey. Root beer float fans will get a kick out of their Beer Float made with Maui Coconut Porter and a scoop of house-made coffee ice cream.

Treat your inner child further with sweet icy wonders like the ice cream sundae with classic nostalgic toppings, plus bourbon caramel; flavors with authentic ingredients, like lemon with strawberry Pop Rocks, malted milk balls, banana cream pie, and Cereal Killer (a frozen take on Lucky Charms); ice cream sandwiches; malted shakes; or a seasonal popsicle such as white chocolate Thai tea.

Tinfoil Liquor & Grocery

There's a “speakeasy” deli inside the Highland Park liquor store with a faded blue retro sign that reads “Coldest Beer in Town." Enter the corner shop and you’ll think it’s just a liquor store, albeit with upscale snacks and other accouterments. Turns out there is a not-so-secret-deli, another brainchild from restaurateur Jeremy Fall, hidden in back of the store. To enter you need to ask the secret question: “Do you sell birthday candles?” A door opens with the push of a button. Follow the path of nickels laminated in the floor and a tinfoil ceiling that leads to a small space with a deli counter. Available in three sizes, the eight dressed up sandwiches have fun names like Cuban Reuben, Club Rafter, and Big Samballin’ — all with deli proteins. But if there’s ever a peanut butter and banana sandwich that will make you dance, it’s the RIP Elvis—with thick cut bacon, sriracha peanut butter, banana, and turmeric five-spice with honey drizzle. The hip side salads include chopped kale, spicy cole slaw and black quinoa.