Even for a decade that’s more commonly associated with Gushers and Dunkaroos (and maybe a trip to the dentist) than with groundbreaking culinary innovation, the 1990s had plenty of beloved foods that made their way into restaurants and home kitchens. While perhaps not as long-gone as the food you’d find on our 1970s or 1980s list, these 13 items below are sure to evoke fond memories of Lisa Frank school supplies, Beanie Babies, and other relics of the ’90s glory days.
Give Pizza Hut a standing ovation for creating this innovative gem. It helped alleviate the sadness that comes with reaching the crust on a slice of pizza and realizing you have no cheese left—unless you think crust is the best part of pizza, in which case it just made the experience even better. Here’s what every fast food chain looked like the day it opened.
There was a boom in popularity of Mediterranean food in the 1990s, and with that came an explosive passion for sun-dried tomatoes. For better or for worse, no salad, pasta, or pizza went without a wrinkly, flavor-concentrated version of a tomato.
In a similar Italian-inspired vein, you would find focaccia in every restaurant bread basket. You can think of it as pizza dough that’s yeastier (and thus taller) with fewer toppings, and even though it had its heyday in the ’90s, it has existed in Italy for thousands of years. And yes, the chances of being served focaccia topped with sun-dried tomato were quite high. Get more vintage favorites we love today with 50 Vintage Recipes That Still Taste Great.
Consider it a remnant of the casserole craze from the ’70s and ’80s, but ’90s kids surely had a tuna casserole in some form as part of the weekly dinner rotation. This recipe—straight from Starkist—even includes the classic casserole inclusion of peas. Here’s what happens to your body when you eat cheese every day.
Chefs were literally shooting for the stars in the ’90s. Tall food, or vertical food, was the accurately named practice of taking a dish and seeing how high it could stack without falling. Presentation was key, meaning French fries and chocolate cake alike came in towers, not piles or slices. Chef Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar & Grill, which recently closed, is said to have originated this trend.
Whether you were at Applebee’s digging into their famous Triple Chocolate Meltdown or straightening the napkin on your lap before ordering a fancified fine-dining version, this dessert was everywhere. And while it may have since fallen from grace, it’s hard to resist the delight brought about by rupturing the chocolate center of one of these single-serve desserts. Try our healthy Cinnamon-Orange Lava Cake recipe.
The jury’s out as to whether or not this counts as home cooking, but for many people in a pinch (or ’90s kids just learning how to use a microwave), it definitely counted. A recent attempt at a rebrand to make them more “artisanal” belies what made cheesy, pizza-like Hot Pockets so perfect in the first place.
This decidedly not-Chinese salad was on the crest of the “Asian fusion” trend wave. It often featured chicken, cabbage, a sesame-flavored vinaigrette. Instead of croutons, you’d find fried pieces of wonton for crunch on top. It was found everywhere from fast food joints to Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, and recreated in many home kitchens. Make your own with our Healthy Chinese Chicken Salad recipe.
Blame it on the rise of California Pizza Kitchen, but pizza that thinks outside of the mozzarella and tomato box was everywhere in the ’90s. In addition to the admittedly delicious barbecue chicken version, the chain introduced combos like Thai chicken pizza and Peking duck pizza, that helped pizza permeate the restaurant culture at large. Make your own healthy version with our Barbecue Chicken Pizza recipe.
Baltimore may still be renowned for its crab cakes, but the Chesapeake Bay wasn’t the only place in America riding the crustacean wave of the ’90s. In fact, it wasn’t even all due to domestic products. There was a 550% increase in blue crab imports from 1995 to 1999 on the part of famed restaurant chain Phillips Seafood, and crab cakes started to take over restaurant menus in turn. Craving those crab cakes now? Try our stellar recipe for Baked Crab Cakes With Mango-Avocado Salsa.
The 1990s were the glory days of snacking. Lunchables, Fruit By the Foot, and Dunkaroos were all lunchbox staples, but perhaps no chip saw as much fame as the hallowed Dorito—especially when combined with chicken, salsa, and cheese to make a complete meal. Reminisce futher with 30 Comfort Foods From Your Childhood Everyone Loves.
This dessert trend gives new meaning to the trope of a woman popping out of a cake. While the concept is simultaneously terrifying, ingenious, and adorable, it’s hard to deny the surprise and delight that a doll-plus-cake concoction brings to any birthday celebration.
Hot melty cheese is timeless, but this dish had its time in the spotlight during the ’90s, where no cocktail party was complete unless there was a warm round of brie for guests to orbit around. And if you happened to encounter brie en croûte—where the cheese is wrapped up in puff pastry before baking—you knew you were at a truly fancy affair. Check out our list of Forgotten Comfort Foods We Need to Bring Back ASAP.