Sometimes soothing, often decadent and never boring, comfort food means different things to different diners, but one thing is clear: If it tastes like a treat and offers soul-satisfying solace by the forkful, it makes the culinary cut.
No matter the course, comfort dishes abound in Western New York and come in many incarnations. Here we dish up a few hearty choices, some tried and true, and perhaps a couple out of the ordinary.
Macaroni & Cheese
Glen Park Tavern
5507 Main Street, Williamsville
Operating as a tavern and restaurant since 1881, this venerable establishment is known for its all-day carving station and classic standards: Hot turkey sandwiches on white bread and beef on weck. Both are popular dishes at this village spot, but co-owner Ellie Grenauer says there’s a hidden gem on her restaurant menu, one that originated on the children’s menu.
“It’s good, old-fashioned macaroni and cheese, made from scratch by our chef, Todd Posch. He uses two to three different cheeses, cream and noodles, which seems to evoke childhood memories of hearty food for many of our customers,” Grenauer said. “It is definitely high on the comfort food scale.”
The Yelling Goat
205 Central Avenue, Lancaster
Co-owner and chef John Rooney refers to his Cassoulet as the “pinnacle dish” for The Yelling Goat, citing his “left-of-center” version that he says goes over the top. Once sold primarily in the winter, this “big, beautiful, hearty” French dish is in demand year-round, he said. His tricked up version includes duck legs — the type used in foie gras – for extra richness; it’s mixed with white beans, andouille and chorizo, along with braised pork butt. Rooney combines the ingredients in a casserole topped with toasted garlicky homemade bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
716 French Fries
#Getfried Fry Café
Food Truck; Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls
As the tagline on the #getfried website declares, “Sometimes, it’s good to be bad.”
Purveyors of gourmet fry baskets, the 716 variety is available in medium and large servings. With a distinct local flavor, the spuds (your choice of fry cut) are covered in tender pulled chicken, hot sauce and a drizzle of blue cheese.
“This is as Buffalo as it gets,” said Chris Covelli, founder and managing partner, who has opened franchises in Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Egypt and Oman.
“We named our most popular dish after our area code; the ingredients pay homage to where we came from, sharing a rich Buffalo food culture around the globe,” Covelli noted. “Even in the Middle East, customers love this type of portable comfort food.”
“Our pho embodies the labor of love feeling of Southeast Asian cooking,” said Jennifer Laban, Kaydara owner. She said it takes 16 hours to create the beef-based broth, with the aromas of cinnamon, cloves, and star of anise permeating her kitchen, lending itself to a final broth that tastes as good as it smells. Kaydara ladles the pho over a bed of rice noodles or udon (traditional wheat based tube noodles); thinly sliced ribbons of beef simmer in the broth while the aroma of fresh scallions, cilantro, and Thai basil are released.
Until Kaydara reopens with a brick and mortar place, the Noodle Bar does pop-ups at a variety of eateries and breweries, offering several dishes off their menu, including customer favorite, pho. “A lot of times we will pair with their signature drinks, specialty beers, sake,” Laban said.
See Kaydra’s Facebook page for pop-up locations.
Story topics: Food + Drink