Best comfort food dishes in NYC
The cheeseburger at this kitschy Upper East Side haunt is a bite of a bygone era, simple griddled on a flattop and medium-rare juicy. The thick, eight-ounce burger arrives open-faced, peeking beneath a layer of melted American cheese on a pillow-soft, lightly toasted bun, with sliced tomato, crisp lettuce, red onion and dill-pickle chips on the side. Don’t bypass the bacon—the deep-fried tangle adds delicious textural contrast to the coarsely packed patty.
If you get one of warm, chocolate-webbed loaves fresh out of the oven at this Union Square bakery, you’re in for sweet-tooth nirvana. The bread is doughy yet flaky, and the chocolate is mixed with Nutella to create a rich, yet not-too-sweet filling. The hype is real, people.
Theo Peck’s rich, restorative matzo-ball soup is as old-school as his deli roots (Peck is the great-grandson of the cofounder of famed kosher-dairy restaurant Ratner’s), swimming with slips of confit rotisserie chicken, carrot and celery batons, and one giant sinker, the dill-flecked midpoint between dense and tender.
Combining the best of American baking and French technique, the chocolate-studded stunner at Armand Arnal’s Soho café could tempt even the most ardent Levain loyalist. The Michelin-starred chef (France’s La Chassagnette) uses imported chocolate for its melty core, sprinkled with sea salt and crammed with macadamias, almonds and walnuts, with oven-kissed edges so buttery, they rival toffee. $3.75
It wouldn't be a list of comfort food without an appearance from this classic and this midtown American brasserie is serving some of the best mac and cheese in town. There is never a bad time to get an order of this golden, bubbly pasta in a creamy cheese sauce, arriving in a cast-iron dish straight from the oven.
Head over early (yes, there will be a line) to this Lower East Side breakfast favorite to taste the golden flapjacks that are on nearly every NYC must-eat list. Stacked in a set of three, the pancakes are fluffy, buttery and topped with wild Maine blueberry compote (or banana walnut or chocolate chunk—your choice!) with a side of warm maple butter.
The Halal Guys are the kings of street meat. For a mere $7, the Midtown food-cart vendors stuff an aluminum foil dish with warm rice, lettuce, vegetables, meat (chicken, lamb or beef) and top it off with your choice of sauces (red or white) and some pita bread. Comfort is knowing that you’re going to get the same thing every time, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Top Chef alums Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth brine Pennsylvania Dutch country chicken in sweet tea spiked with paprika and cayenne for 24 hours, giving it a distinct sweetness amplified by the dusting of dehydrated lemon powder the bird gets when it’s pulled golden and crunchy from the pressure cooker. A drizzle of Tabasco honey happily keeps that salty-sweet tug-of-war going.
Is there anything more fortifying in the cold than a soul-warming bowl of noodles and broth? At husband-and-wife team Joshua and Heidy Smookler’s Long Island City ramen-ya, the namesake ramen is based with a beefy 20-hour broth of oxtail and bone marrow—heartier than your average chicken-stock soup—bobbing with hunks of brisket, fermented bamboo shoots, cabbage and half-sour pickle shreds.
Britain’s humble fish pie gets a high-minded overhaul at this uptown Anglo canteen. Chef Joseph Capozzi binds flaky pollock and generous hunks of lobster claw with a tarragon-flecked fennel puree, adding a jolt of brightness, all tucked beneath a thick, bubbly head of puff pastry that’s practically begging to be pierced with a spoon.