Fried cheese sticks are the ultimate guilty pleasure food. They taste so good when you get a batch that's right out of the oven … but at the same time, you know you're eating something that just came out of a bag in the freezer.

Fried cheese sticks are the ultimate guilty pleasure food. They taste so good when you get a batch that's right out of the oven … but at the same time, you know you're eating something that just came out of a bag in the freezer.

Despite their popularity (list-loving blog The Awl recently named mozzarella sticks the No. 1 bar food), you don't see chefs giving them a gourmet twist the way they do with nachos and sliders.

That's why fried cheese lovers should head to the newish BBR Bar (stands for Beer, Burgers, Rock) in the Arena District. The sports bar/rock club might have multiple personality disorder, but it serves up some darn good bar food, including made-in-house Cheese Sticks, $8.

Various sizes and shapes of cheeses - pepper jack, Gouda, Swiss, white cheddar and provolone - are hand-battered and fried until they're crunchy outside and melty inside.

These cheese sticks are delightful and super fun to eat. While BBR's "signature red" dipping sauce could use some work - it has a tangy note that's so hard to distinguish it distracts from the cheese - it's great to see this beloved bar snack get some love in the kitchen.

Here are a few other upscale takes on classic pub grub.

Korean Wings, $7

Latitude 41

50 N. Third St., Downtown

They're as fiery as standard hot wings, but pack a much more complex flavor, with sweet and spicy Asian notes like soy, ginger and tahini. They're served on a bed of Korean kimchee.

Brezel Pretzel Bites, $5

MoJoe Lounge

149 S. High St., Downtown

No gloppy fake nacho cheese here - a platter of made-in-Columbus Brezel pretzel nubs comes with a cup of chef William Fugitt's housemade fondue-like white cheese dipping sauce.

Ohio Calamari, $8

Knead

505 N. High St., Short North

Knead does everything with a sense of humor, including this appetizer take on fried squid. Pork tenderloin is cut into little squidlike shapes, then battered, fried and served with the delicious lemony house aioli.

Ohio Nachos, $9

Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails

73 E. Gay St., Downtown

Of all the many version of nachos and fancy truffle chips served around town, my fallback favorite is always Tip Top's Ohio Nachos. They smother housemade potato chips with tons of melted cheese and a whole bunch of delicious toppings: diced tomatoes, green onions, black olives, jalapenos and sour cream.

Shelley Mann is the editor of Crave, Columbus' new dining magazine. Keep up with her at ColumbusCrave.com.