There’s no shame in a hearty bowl of comfort food when body and soul desire, and to drive that point home, many Westchester eateries have been riffing on the classics, transforming down-home basics into upmarket menu offerings even the most discerning of foodies are tickled to tuck into. From pizza adorned with dried figs and crumbled nuts to burgers made with cured meats and grilled cheese sandwiches with nary a shred of American or cheddar in sight, these sublime standards take everyday comfort fare to another level.
While everyone knows not all burgers are created equal, those in-the-know gravitate toward this elevated Rivertown beauty, which boasts a sumptuous blend of house-ground chuck, brisket, and fine prosciutto. It’s blanketed not merely with American or cheddar cheese but raclette, then tastefully dressed with grilled onions, health-supporting maitake mushrooms, and mustard aioli. It’s served sizzling on a soft brioche bun from, where else, Balthazar.
Just as it would be a disgrace to call this intimate establishment — with a menu that embraces everything from black mission fig pizza to chicken confit scarpariello — by its English translation (“meatball”), it would be a mistake to, well, mistake the fries here for just fries. They command dedicated menu space and beckon seasonings such as Amagansett sea salt or redolent truffle oil, parm, and parsley. There’s also a zippy iteration of chipotle and ancho chile with a spicy aioli. The choices abound and rest-assured: These batons of salty glory are always fresh and cut by hand.
Shrub Oak; 901woodburningkitchenbar.com
A soul-soothing selection of pizza possibilities is on offer here, touting toppings that don’t seem to belong on your typical tomato pie yet somehow work like magic on a shining silver platter in a setting that radiates rustic-chic charm. The one called “blueberry & fig” pretty much sums up the high-brow dining deal, with goat cheese, mozzarella, blueberries, dried figs, fig jam, and the crunch of toasted almonds. The sweet Lily Rose pie also features goat cheese alongside fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, honey, and crushed pistachios.
On a menu laden with exquisite marine delights and thick-cut chops sits a sophisticated sandwich reminiscent of a grilled cheese but better suited to the stylish surrounds. It oozes ever so slightly with rich, smoked Gruyère, which gives shelter to tomato, bacon, and gently wilted arugula that’s swaddled by slabs of crisp, sliced brioche. Keeping with tradition, it’s served aside a steaming bowl of tomato bisque, as if the chef were actually your mother, and you were successfully faking a sick day from middle school.
Embellish a timeless standard with seafood, and its street cred immediately goes up a notch. At this well-conceived gastro-pub, where partner Brian Angarola dishes out what he considers “an elevated take on neighborhood fare,” the mac ’n’ cheese is made up of mezze rigatoni (the furthest thing from elbow macs this side of the Arno) with a winning blend of cheese, including Asiago, fontina, Manchego, and cheddar, plus a Parmesan-panko, truffle-infused crust that supports a parade of butter-poached shrimp.
Sleepy Hollow; tboysbistro.com
Hearty, allowedly heavy, and warmly filling, a meal of meat and potatoes practically screams comfort, yet at this relative newcomer, it’s too refined to shout. Fashioned from not beef but rather veal, as well as succulent duck confit and shiitake mushrooms, this rich dish is quintessential comfort on a grand, incomparable scale. Generous natural juice gives the house-made mashed potatoes something to do, and a smattering of spinach makes it a meal your grandma would insist you finish (or no dessert!).
The buttermilk fried chicken at this corner nook is distinctly Southern, but it’s what owner Hassan Jarane calls an “updated version” of a down-home dish: “You don’t usually see fried chicken made with an organic bird.” The delicate, crunchy coating comprises mostly rice flour, which lends a “crisper, healthier, and more interesting,” taste, he explains, yet it maintains every bit of the finger-lickin’ goodness fried chicken aficionados seek out. A hint of spice strikes a pleasing balance with the rosemary pepper honey dip served on the side.
For many growing up in Westchester, Nonna’s meatballs on Sunday defined comfort, and at this slick, urban den of Modern Italian fare, the beefy bad boys are oversized and inside out, so to speak. Chef Giuseppe Fanelli makes them in-house, from a blend of beef, veal, and pork that conceals a rich mix of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and fontina cheeses. Fanelli’s creations are coated with panko breadcrumbs, lightly fried, topped with his crushed plum tomato sauce and served two at a time.
Old-school American, lunchbox-style staples escort endless ease to an otherwise dreary day, and with “Twinkies” made of carrot cake, red-velvet “Ring Dings,” and “Yodels” that are gluten-free, ultra-civilized comfort is a given for kids of all ages and stages.