Whether they're trying to appeal to gourmands who want creative input into their meal or to grown-up kids who don't want their peas to touch their potatoes, chefs across the country are designing building block-style menus. At Snackbar (111 W. 17th St., New York; 212/627-3700; dinner for two $50), guests choose from simply grilled meat or fish paired with a ramekin of sauce (rosemary cream is a favorite) and a mound of organic greens, all arranged on a rectangular white platter. The result looks like a glamorous TV dinner. In Los Angeles, a town where you're defined by what you don't eat, chef Eric Rillos of Lot 1224 (Loews Beverly Hills, 1224 S. Beverwil Dr.; 310/772-2999; dinner for two $70) presents an extensive roster of mix-and-match options such as grilled Niman Ranch pork porterhouse with roasted garlic-pear demi-glace and charred asparagus. Chef Sandro Gamba's brochette menu at NoMI (Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave.; 312/239-4030; dinner for two $50) takes a slightly different approach. Each of five kebabs is accompanied by a wooden tray bearing three bowls with your choice of "frills" (Sichuan-pepper noodle salad, for example), sauce, and condiments. Some assembly required.

—Francine Maroukian

Lot 1224

Snackbar, New York