As the kids head back to school, we’re feeling pretty nostalgic for all of our favorite lunchtime cafeteria foods (think sloppy joes, chicken fingers, and fish sticks). Lucky for us, these seven Chicago eateries are serving grown-up takes on old-school cafeteria staples.
The Logan Square haunt upgrades the OG cafeteria favorite with ground wild boar, crispy sage, onion, and pickled jalapeño piled high on a sesame seed bun and served with beef fat fries. Still delightfully messy, but much more delicious than the childhood lunch you remember. 2657 N. Kedzie St., 773-276-7110
Far from your run-of-the-mill chicken fingers, Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s crispy strips are soaked in a brine mixture for more than eight hours before being fried to perfection. Dip your strips in the traditional honey butter, or choose candied jalapeño mayo, herby ranch, or honey buffalo sauce. 3361 N. Elston Ave., 773-478-4000
Frozen fish sticks have nothing on this downtown destination’s fish and chips, which features crispy fried, Guinness-battered Icelandic cod filets wrapped in newspaper alongside fries, malt tartar sauce, malt vinegar, and ketchup. 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243
This newly opened Wicker Park spot raises the bar with its decadent tots. Choose the Totchos, with nacho cheese, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, sour cream, and chicken or beef. Or go truly upscale with the white truffle oil and Parmesan cheese version. 1635 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-292-2765
This Andersonville neighborhood joint turns the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich on its head with an unlikely—but spectacular—combination of homemade cashew butter, fig jam, and creamy raclette cheese on crispy sourdough bread. Served with a side of Stilton mac and cheese and homemade chips, this entrée is light-years away from its basic brown bag origins. 5148 N. Clark St., 773-334-9851
Graduate from Snack Packs to Magnolia Bakery’s new, showstopping take on banana pudding, with creamy chocolate pudding, Oreo wafers, fresh bananas, and chocolate shavings. 108 N. State St., 312-346-7777