8 Restaurant Dishes Inspired by Fast Food

By Alia Akkam  |  October 28, 2015

Fast food, in all its caloric and lowbrow glory, resonates with Americans on a deeply nostalgic level. Biting into, say, an In-N-Out burger, Chick-fil-A sandwich or Sonic tater tot comforts and satisfies in a way that fancy tasting menus will never be able to trump. These food memories resonate with chefs as well, which is why restaurants devoid of drive-thru windows look to these iconic creations for inspiration. While their gussied-up versions embrace quality ingredients, they still call to mind indulgent simplicity eaten on the run. Here are eight creative interpretations of fast-food favorites from newcomers around the country.

Fries at GreenRiver in Chicago

A mound of french fries, the burger’s addictively salty sidekick, is beloved — whether served in shoestring form or skin-on. At Chicago’s GreenRiver, the long-anticipated Streeterville project from Danny Meyer and the crew from New York’s Dead Rabbit, Aaron Lirette blanches them thrice before dusting them with a savory mix of cheddar and malt vinegar.

250 E. Erie St.; 312-337-0101

Curry fried chicken at Taylor Railworks in Portland, OR

Portland's Muscadine gets much love for its buttermilk and Nashville hot-style fried chicken, but Taylor Railworks, in Inner SE, should be another go-to for the bird KFC and Popeye’s made famous. Erik Van Kley’s curry rendition drizzled in buttermilk and served atop avocado ups the ante on the classic made popular by chains like Chick-fil-A. 

117 SE Taylor St.; 503-208-2573

The Patty Melt at Osso in Los Angeles, CA

The patty melt, which you can order on Five Guys' secret menu, gets upgraded at LA's Osso. At this laid-back addition to the downtown Arts District, chef Nick Montgomery makes his with grass-fed brisket. Draped in Emmental and cheddar, it’s tricked out with caramelized onions slowly cooked in sherry vinegar and served on his own rye bread made with beer from nearby Coronado Brewing Company. 

901 E. First St.; 213-880-5999

Biscuit sandwiches at Scratch Biscuits in Philadelphia, PA

Across the South, countless mornings begin with devouring hefty biscuit sandwiches, which can also be found at chains like Bojangles or Hardee's. In Philadelphia’s Midtown Village, Mitch Prensky resurrects the ritual at Scratch Biscuits. Along with alluring sides like root beer pepper jelly, he turns out sandwiches including the Philly Farmhand, with from-scratch scrapple and baked eggs smothered in sage cream gravy and hot sauce.

1306 Chestnut St.; 267-930-3727

In-N-Out Burger at Park Avenue Autumn in NYC

Perhaps the most direct homage to fast food, chef Craig Koketsu of NYC's Park Avenue Autumn attempts to re-create his hometown favorite with this burger at the seasonally rotating Park Avenue Autumn. Made with a combo of chuck, brisket and short rib the patty is topped "animal style" with a mixture of sautéed onions, special sauce and cucumber slices (instead of pickles) and draped in American cheese.  

360 Park Ave. S.; 212-951-7111

Chili at Old Bus Tavern in San Francisco, CA

It doesn’t cost 99 cents, but Max Snyder’s chili at the Old Bus Tavern in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights is a thoughtful and piquant reimagining of the Wendy’s staple. First he slow cooks dry-aged Marin Sun Farms beef and then incorporates a blend of chile peppers spanning dried guajillo to fresh poblano. Cotija cheese adds further south-of-the-border appeal.

3193 Mission St.; 415-843-1938

Fernet Branca soft-serve at Bar Fausto in Denver, CO

Cocktails are the main draw at Denver’s Bar Fausto, the latest RiNo project from Jonathan Power of the Populist fame. But locals know that after their scotch-amaro-cardamom libations, the evening won’t be complete until the Fernet Branca soft-serve has been consumed. A plain-Jane McDonald’s cone just can’t compete with such boozy merriment.

3126 Larimer St.; 720-445-9691

Cinnamon roll at Parks & Rec Diner in Detroit, MI

With Cinnabon’s ubiquity, it’s easy to forget how gratifying a homemade one plucked straight from the oven tastes. Sarah Welch of Parks & Rec Diner, inside Detroit’s historic Grand Army of the Republic Building, is trying to rectify that with her made-to-order ones. Stuffed with walnuts and cinnamon, they are then slicked with bright-orange chèvre icing.

1942 Grand River Ave.; 313-446-8370