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10 tasty retro dishes that deserve a comeback

It's time to bring back the glory days of these delicious culinary treats

Trends certainly do have a way of circling back around, don’t they? And while this may be glaringly obvious in things like fashion and entertainment, certain foods can also find their way back into our lives after decades of mysterious absence. And while some dishes are better off left in the past (we’re looking at you, aspic), others never should have left our dinner tables in the first place. Perhaps simply buried underneath the plethora of new Pinterest recipes and TikTok trends, or just forgotten due to nothing more than the passage of time, these dishes are due for a comeback to your table.

Ambrosia salad

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If you’re lucky enough, you have one surviving relative that still brings this dish to every potluck and family get-together. That relative will likely transport this salad in a Cool Whip container and can tell you every detail about where she was the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Spoiler alert: this salad was on the menu that day, too.

At the height of its glory in the 1960s and 1970s, this creamy, fruity treat was the epitome of hip. Ambrosia salad traditionally contains a mixture of citrus fruits, coconut flakes, pineapple, marshmallows, and nuts, and is coated generously in a sweet, creamy dressing, made usually of whipped cream or vanilla pudding. Of course, the mixture of fruits and other ingredients is completely customizable, which is why every grandmother has her own version that she claims is the best. The truth is, they’re all delicious. And we demand a comeback.

Baked Alaska

baked alaska dessert
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Popularized in the late 1950s, Baked Alaska’s charm comes from its complexity. A layer of cake is topped with frozen ice cream, then mounted with a meringue topping which is then either baked or torched to crisp the outer layer. The trick is getting the meringue properly toasty without the quickly melting ice cream seeping through the shell. Talk about stressful! When done properly, however, Baked Alaska is a wonderful combination of flavors, textures, and temperatures in one spoonful. This one is definitely a crowd-pleaser!

Baked Ham with pineapple

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This retro dish is hard to imagine being served by anyone other than a stereotypical, Stepford-esque, 1950s housewife, donning a frilly apron and pearls, a perfectly painted, albeit somewhat strained, smile on her face as she offers a warm, “Welcome home, dear.”

Toxic stereotypes aside, this dish is filled with all of the good parts of down-home nostalgia, with all the creepy bits left out. The sweetness of the pineapple and maraschino cherries seep down into the briney savoriness of the ham and the delicious combination is anything but old-fashioned.

Bananas Foster

bananas foster dessert
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This flambéed wonder is a treat for all the senses. In this retro dessert, bananas are sautéed with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar, then doused with rum and set ablaze before being served with vanilla ice cream. And if that weren’t already enough of a crowd pleaser, the fancy flambéing is often done table-side, providing a dramatic show for the entire restaurant. Caramelized bananas, rum, and fire? How did this ever go out of style?

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington
Food Network

Tender filet mignon, delicately wrapped in silky prosciutto with buttery puff pastry embracing the entire delicious package? How this ever went out of fashion is beyond us. We say it’s time to bring back the Beef Wellington.

Still sometimes served for a special occasion, this delicious dish enjoyed its heyday in the 1960s, helped propelled to fame by the great Julia Child. She dedicated five pages in her famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking to just this one dish. After Julia’s glowing endorsement, it didn’t take long for America to catch on, and the Beef Wellington was on every fancy dinner table in the country.

Canapés

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Not to be confused with the hors d’oeuvre, which can be any sort of small appetizer, a canapé is a small bite, consisting of four distinct layers — a base, a spread, a topping, and a garnish. Within these guidelines, the possibilities are expansive, but the rules are what make a canapé a canapé.

Perhaps you want to top your melba toast with goat cheese and fig, garnished with chive. Or spread a little pate on your pita, topped with smoked tuna and caviar.

We’re not sure when cocktail party appetizers got so willy-nilly with the rules, but a little bit of order never hurt anyone.

Classic martini

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Is there anything sexier than a sleek, simple, dry martini? Arguably a classic that will never go out of style, there is something very mid-century, very Mad Men-esque about this particular cocktail.

In the modern age of gorgeously fruity, insanely creative, and deliciously wild cocktails, there’s something so strong and resolute in this staple of the swanky bar scene. An old friend, a constant, the little black dress or solid black bowtie of the drink menu.

Whether your preference is gin or vodka, always remember: Shaken, not stirred.

Fondue

cheese fondue potato dip
Angela Pham

Fondue parties were the epitome of old-school cool in the swingin’ 1960s and 1970s. Melted cheese served in a communal dish, everyone gathered around, taking turns to dip in? Certainly sounds like a good time to us.

Cheese fondue is a simple mixture of cheese, wine, and seasonings, which is then served warm and meant to be a dip for anything that strikes your fancy. Popular choices include bread, vegetables, fruits, and grilled meats.

While delicious, we’re pretty sure that the social component to these parties was just as fun as the fondue itself, and we’re eager to bring back some of those groovy good times. Don’t forget to drop your keys in the bowl by the door.

Oysters Rockefeller

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Oysters Rockefeller seems to break all of the culinary “rules”. It isn’t very often one is tempted by baked shellfish with cheese. The combination is, let’s say, less than traditional. But there’s something about this classic oyster dish that just works.

This incredibly rich, and cleverly named dish is a nod to the once wealthiest man in America, John D. Rockefeller. Of course, recipes vary, but Oysters Rockefeller typically consists of oysters topped with a mixture of spinach, bread crumbs, cheese and herbs, then baked to perfection.

While these little beauties have fallen out of fashion in the last few decades, we think they deserve another round in the spotlight.

Steak Diane

Jordon Kaplan/Unsplash

In the 1950s and 1960s, it seems people just loved lighting their food on fire. And who are we to blame them? Steak Diane, while delicious without the dramatics, is known for her flair. This steak dish is typically a thinly pounded tenderloin, grilled and served with a butter and mushroom sauce. The pièce de résistance comes upon service, when the dish is doused with cognac and flambéd table-side. Deliciously rich and decadent, this steak dish has lost none of its flavor or charm over the years. It just seems a shame that the curtain seems to have fallen on so many restaurant theatrics.

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