Even chefs have nostalgic cravings for the junk foods of their American youths, but three of them went the extra mile to not only re-create, but elevate their favorites.
Jason McLeod, Executive Chef of Morning Glory, summed up the playful adaptations as a combination of nostalgia and the desire for a future of comfort foods made in thoughtful, sustainable ways.
“On our best days we’re creating an emotional connection with our guests, and part of that is connecting through common experiences,” McLeod explained. “During my formative years McDonalds was that. For better or worse, Motley Crue and an Egg McMuffin was a great meal. The evils of big food aside, I still look back on those years and flavor profiles with fondness, and we wanted to pay tribute in a better way with better ingredients, but hopefully take you back to those early years.”
The Egg McMuffin has been a McDonalds breakfast staple since 1972, invented to resemble an eggs Benedict, adapted for the fast food concept into a car-friendly sandwich.
At Morning Glory, a restaurant known for its over-the-top $4 million design, you might expect the Egg McFunnin to be as extravagant as the white marble tabletops inlaid with their monogram, but Chef McLeod presents a fairly straightforward rendition of the McMuffin.
A monogrammed flag tops a toasted Wolferman’s Deluxe English muffin that has been hand-torn to preserve all the nooks and crannies. Between the bread you’ll find a griddled Gonestraw Farms egg cooked over medium, melted sharp white cheddar cheese, and Canadian Bacon from Hills Premium Meats, all topped with a perfectly obscene slathering of ketchup.
Try an Egg McFunnin at Morning Glory in Little Italy
To be fair, the Taco Bell Egg Roll at You & Yours Distilling Co. dish is more of an homage than a knock off, as the fast food chain doesn't technically have an egg roll on their menu.
"The inspiration actually started with (Kettner Exchange Chef) Brian Redzikowski's love for elevating classic McDonald's items as he helped develop our initial menu,” explained Laura Johnson, founder of You & Yours Distilling Co. “His obsession with the chain rivals my own obsession with Taco Bell, so I asked him to help me recreate those flavors in a fancy, updated bar snack-style application and voila! the Taco Bell Egg Roll was born!"
Chef Cecelia Valencia set about replicating the flavors of Taco Bell while creating a brand new dish that contained all the essential Taco Bell elements of crunchy, cheesy, and tangy.
The result is a crunchy egg roll filled with cheese and seasoned beef, served atop a homemade hot sauce and delicately adorned with microgreens and edible flowers from Two Forks, the beautiful presentation offering a lovely contrast to the fast food flavor.
Try the Taco Bell Egg Rolls at You & Yours Distilling Co. in Downtown San Diego
Ask San Diegians what their favorite fast food is and many will say the In-N-Out burger. While some might think there is no way to improve on the infamous off-menu Double Double Animal Style burger, Juniper & Ivy Executive Chef Anthony Wells decided to try.
“The inspiration for our In-N-Haute burger came from our love of In-N-Out and the desire to put our own spin on it,” shared Chef Wells.
Of all the fast food favorites on this list, the In-N-Haute burger at Juniper & Ivy is the most similar to the classic. Where the In-N-Out burger uses 100% USDA ground chuck that’s free of additives, fillers and preservatives, the In-N-Haute steps it up another level by using dry aged beef from Flannery Beef in San Rafael and topping the patty with grilled onions that have been sous vide with mustard, house-made pickles made from local cucumbers, and their own version of the In-N-Out secret sauce.
The restaurant only creates five burgers each night, which are available until they sell out, which they do often, even though the burger isn’t listed on their menu (Yep, that’s another nod to In-N-Out’s not-so-secret menu).
Taste the In-N-Haute Burger at Juniper & Ivy in Little Italy