17 Must-Try Comfort-Food Staples

By Zagat Staff  |  November 26, 2013
Credit: Luuvu Hoang

It's a hard rule of the restaurant world: when the temperature goes down, calorie counts go up. This week we're calling out some of the nation's heartiest and most rib-sticking comfort-food dishes in our local markets, and below, we've rounded up the highlights. Check out the gut-filling goodness in the slide show, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

  • Miami: City Hall

    Inside this all American eatery in Edgewater, you’ll find a relaxed bistro-type setting with hearty cuisine options all times of the day. They serve house-blend meatloaf with chorizo-maple mac 'n' cheese at dinner, corned beef on rye for lunch, and mushrooms and eggs in puff pastry during brunch.

  • Seattle: Heartland Cafe

    Heartland Cafe's menu is a love letter to Midwestern meat-and-potatoes classics. Think tater tot casserole, meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. Go big with The Eruption, featuring ground-beef patties buried in a pile of mashed potatoes, which is in turn smothered with green-bean casserole. The Volcano is the veggie version.

  • Credit: acuna-hansen

    Los Angeles: Shepherd's Pie at The Morrison

    The Scottish restaurant and bar in Atwater Village has a lot of stick-to-your-ribs dishes, and the dark plaid room is just the place you want to cozy up in during cooler winter months. The shepherd's pie is a decadent feast featuring black stout-braised short ribs topped with blue cheese, mashed potatoes and crispy onions.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: The Dandelion, MilkBoy, Luke's Lobster

    Possibly the most comforting comfort food of all time, a crock of mac ‘n’ cheese can work wonders on a frigid evening. Luke’s Lobster in Rittenhouse just introduced a lobster-studded version, while the bubbling bowl at The Dandelion is studded with chunks of braised ham hock. At MilkBoy, new chef Joel Mazigian tosses cavatappi with butternut squash and roasted mushrooms along with the cheese.

  • Austin: Lucy’s Fried Chicken

    This South Austin spot features a greatest hits of Southern comfort food, including fried chicken, chili, deep-fried deviled eggs and banana pudding. And now chef James Holmes can feed you his famous fried chicken at not just one location but two; the Burnet Road branch opened a few months ago, with the same sexy pin-up-girl sign up front and same hearty food inside.

  • Washington, DC: Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers

    Founding Farmers’ grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup is a favorite at both lunch and dinner, when plates of the sandwiches filled with Gruyère, white cheddar and muenster cheeses fly out of the kitchen. It’s served on bread baked just down the street at the restaurant’s sibling eatery, Farmers Fishers Bakers, and flanked by fries and a bowl of creamy tomato soup.

  • Houston: Fish 'n' Chips at Red Lion Pub

    Houston's closest approximation of a proper British pub, the Red Lion does an excellent job with U.K. classics like Yorkshire pudding and shepherd's pie. The most common dish you'll see, however, is a generous plate of fish 'n' chips, typically accompanied by a pint of authentic English ale. 

  • Dallas: Hangover Sandwich at Gin Mill

    Because some of us find comfort in breakfast food, the East Dallas bar-restaurant’s brunch sandwich is perfect. A fried egg and Jimmy's sausage patties are wedged between two slices of brioche French toast. Douse this baby in maple syrup, order up a mimosa and settle in for comfort-food euphoria.

  • Chicago: Ribs at Belly Q

    Is there a better way to start our journey down comfort-food road than with a big, sticky plate of ribs? We think not, especially when those slow-smoked beef ribs and brisket burnt ends are covered in tamarind glaze and served with mustard-braised greens. The fall-off-the-bone meat has the right combination of smoke and sweet to satisfy even the pickiest rib connoisseur.

  • Boston: Autumn Lasagna at Trina's Starlite Lounge

    It's not exactly nonna's recipe, but we think she'd approve. On a cold day, Trina's autumn lasagna will warm you with its mix of pork belly, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, roasted apples, fontina cheese and hazelnuts.

  • Credit: Tamara Palmer

    San Francisco: Potato Knishes at Shorty Goldstein's

    Many a Financial District denizen's day is fueled by this small but hearty order of potato knishes, a Jewish deli treat that is all too rare in San Francisco.

  • New York: Biscuits at Empire Biscuit

    A haven for carb-cutters it's not, but everybody else should find something to please at this East Village's new 24-hour operation. You can have your biscuit as a sandwich (say, with bacon, egg and cheddar), doused in one of several gravies or spread with anything from arugula-and-fennel butter to oxtail-and-brown-sugar jelly. The spot was reportedly mobbed when it opened in early November, so we wouldn't be surprised if they're cooking up more locations around town.

  • Atlanta: Fried Chicken at Watershed

    When Watershed relocated to its new digs on Peachtree Street last year, there was much consternation about how the move could affect the restaurant's food. Would standards hold? Especially of concern: Watershed's famed fried chicken recipe. Heralded by locals and out-of-towners alike, Watershed's fried chicken is available only on Wednesday nights and often sells out before peak dining hours. Half a chicken is quartered, brined and soaked in buttermilk - a four-day process. The special touch? After being lightly dusted in flour and spices, the chicken's fried in lard flavored with ham and served - of course - with two biscuits. 

  • Credit: Christopher Cina

    Denver: Chowda’ Fries at Euclid Hall

    At Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch’s tavern on the edge of Larimer Square, chef Jorel Pierce has made his name paying homage to the munchies of the world’s watering holes, be it German and Austrian sausages or Canadian poutine - or, as in this case, Cape Cod seafood shacks. “It’s just good french fries topped with hand-breaded clam strips and a well-made chowder; I love all of them individually, and together they made sense to us,” he explains. “There’s no bacon in the chowder - I really want the clams to be the star. We use so many, with their juice, that the dish doesn’t even need any salt. If you’re using enough clams to season something with them, you’re using a lot of clams!”