date published: October 9, 2006

Dieters and organic food lovers beware: what lies in wait may not be for you. Representing that beautiful subsection of culinary godsends known as “comfort food,” we at Panorama have taken it upon ourselves to track down the best spots in Boston to find the most decadent, yet almost universally beloved, dishes from our childhoods. Call us enablers if you will, but know this: while the dozen delightful meals described within may have no discernible benefits to one’s body, the positive effects they have on one’s soul simply cannot be quantified.
Hearty, filling and guaranteed to give that warm feeling inside, the chicken pot pie is one of the quintessential comfort foods. And when it comes to comfort food, nobody does it quite like Stephanie’s on Newbury (190 Newbury St., 617-236-0990), where owner Stephanie Sokolove has been serving what she calls “sophisticated comfort food” for more than a decade. Their delicious pot pie comes packed with pearl onions, peas, carrots and, of course, chunks of plump chicken in a creamy sauce. DRINK PAIRING: The Fallen Apple Martini, made from Berentzen’s Winter Apple, Shakka Apple and apple cider with a cinnamon sugar coated rim ($11).


On its own, day-old bread is for the birds. But if you layer it with a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar and other tasty ingredients… well, then you’ve got bread pudding, which has been satisfying bellies for generations. At Sonsie (327 Newbury St., 617-351-2500), they’ve found a way to make bread pudding even more scrumptious. The chocolate bread pudding ($8) is Sonsie’s signature dessert, and served warm with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, it’s pure Newbury Street Nirvana. DRINK PAIRING: A glass of the 40-year-old Tawny port ($38).
When a restaurant asks to “be your Jewish mother,” you can assume that comfort food will be the order of the day. At Zaftigs Delicatessen (335 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-975-0075), all the staples of the beloved Jewish deli can be found in all their glory, including Zaftigs’ delicious bowl of matzo ball soup ($2.95 per cup, $3.50 per pint, $6.75 per quart), complete with chicken broth, egg noodles and giant hunks of carrot. DRINK PAIRING: Try deli staples like a Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda ($1.75) or a chocolate or vanilla egg cream ($1.50).


On a cold and dreary day, what was better than a bowl of tomato soup and a freshly-made grilled cheese sandwich off the griddle? The grilled cheese ($7.95) at Delux Café (100 Chandler St., 617-338-5258) served by Chef John Luciano is more upscale than you’ll remember from childhood (think roasted tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and truffle oil on grilled pumpernickel), but every bit as delicious. DRINK PAIRING: Tremont Ale ($3.75).
The Sunset Grill & Tap (130 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-1331) isn’t afraid to make a childhood favorite cool for every palate—the restaurant grinds its own fresh peanut butter (accented with honey) and spreads it on a toasted egg roll with strawberry preserves ($3.99), with gooey and delicious marshmallow Fluff and banana ($4.49) or, for the Peanut Butter 3D Clubhouse, with jelly, fluff and cream cheese ($4.99). DRINK PAIRING: Your mom would’ve served you a cold glass of milk, but the beer mavens at Sunset recommend the Dogfish Head Raison D’etre ($4.25).


With its crispy, flavorful coating, fried chicken is the last food that really allows us to eat un-self-consciously. It’s our southern neighbors, however, that discovered the best way to eat fried chicken—just add waffles. Bob’s Southern Bistro (604 Columbus Ave., 617-536-6204) is one of few places here in the Hub that one can enjoy this holiest of unions for just $9.95. Pass the syrup, pass the gravy and dig in! DRINK PAIRING: Darryl’s Chicken Martini—a combination of Level vodka, Cointreau, Sour Apple Pucker with a twist of lime, and topped off with a splash of Hennessey ($10).
Forget that nuclear orange stuff that the Kraft people peddle—mac & cheese can be delicious when made with real ingredients, the way they do it at Zon’s (2 Perkins St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9667). They make their mac & cheese with bowtie pasta, a crumbly crust on top and real farmhouse cheddar and fontina cheeses ($13). And you can even add peas or Italian sausage mixed in for $2 more. Ooey gooey heaven for any cheesehead. DRINK PAIRING: White Zon-gria ($7).


It’s not cool, and you usually only find it on the menu at places your grandparents like to eat. But think back to those family dinners with those tender strips of beef, dripping with juice, paired with rich root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnips… Hungry yet? Head to Durgin-Park (340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 617-227-2038) for a heaping dish of sumptuous roasted goodness ($8.95 at lunch, $12.95 at dinner). DRINK PAIRING: Why not a beer named after another old Yankee—Sam Adams, anyone?
Remember those days when Mom would throw up her hands and just make breakfast food at dinnertime? The wonderful thing about being grown-up is that you can do that anytime you want. For a delicious serving of that fluffy, tasty breakfast staple—the pancake—check out Zoe’s Restaurant (1105 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-495-0055) where $5.95 will get you a short stack of delicious hotcakes, and for $6.50 you can walk on the wild side and try the sweet potato version. DRINK PAIRING: An Oreo frappe ($4.75). What, you were expecting a diet Coke?


Obviously, our cave-dwelling ancestors got plenty of sustenance from gnawing their meat off the bone, but you gotta think comfort food was born once someone got the idea to simmer beef, vegetables and seasoning together in the first stew. The folks at Matt Murphy’s Pub (14 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-232-0188) are far more evolved than cavemen, but they know that a delicious beef stew ($18) can still warm those primal pleasure centers within us all. DRINK PAIRING: A pint of Old Speckled Hen English Cream Ale ($5).
Not really sure why this stalwart concoction of ground beef, egg and spices is so much more comforting than a hamburger. Could it be as simple as the loaf shape itself? Today, diners can enjoy modern takes on the dish, such as the turkey meatloaf ($17) at Franklin Café (278 Shawmut Ave., 617-350-0010). Served with spiced fig gravy and chive mashed potatoes, it’s lower in fat than Mom’s recipe, making it comfort food that’s somewhat health-conscious, too. DRINK PAIRING: The Vanilla Manhattan ($8), made with vanilla bean-infused Maker’s Mark and sweet vermouth.


Some like chocolate cream, some are big on lemon meringue, but we can all agree on loving some kind of pie, right? Petsi Pies (31 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, 617-499-0801 and 285 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-661-PIES) does the whole gamut of crusty creations, including a delicious and gooey sweet classic pecan ($2.95 per slice). DRINK PAIRING: Coffee works perfectly—real caffeine addicts can try the double cappuccino for $2.75.

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