Anyone trying to eat cheaply these days can’t help but run into the shameful side of organics: it’s an elite style of eating. Too expensive for slim wallets, organics are the province of trustafarians: below Grateful Dead stickers at Whole Foods Market, you won’t see any ’70s-era Ford Pintos.
Yet some restaurants are addressing Westchester’s growing interest in wholesome food, while still positioning themselves as non-splurge options. John Halko, owner of bright, mostly organic Comfort, is a veteran of this effort. Sure, the primarily take-out joint at 598 Warburton Avenue offered only a few tables (and held neither bathroom nor liquor license), but its nutritious, family meals could be snagged in a bag on the way from the station. Priced to compete with pizza delivery, Comfort was a Hastings-on-Hudson bragging point.
But would success spoil Rock Hunter? The restaurant world is full of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” parables—made even more chilling now that restaurants are tanking in droves. Would Halko be tempted toward glitzy upgrades, when Comfort’s simplicity was so much a part of its charm? In fact, Comfort’s new digs across the street at 583 Warburton are the soul of economy; Halko did much of the labor himself, and the new décor is modest. With minimalist white panels and wood finishes, the new Comfort is urbane—yet still welcoming for family dinners, or a couple of drinks at the bar.
While non-soup starters are entirely omitted on this menu, booze now is included in Comfort’s repertoire. Look for tasty, fun cocktails made with organic, freshly juiced produce—like the “Cougartini” ($10), Comfort’s carrot/apple/beet/ginger/lemon “wake-up” combo dosed with organic Square One vodka ($4.25). Also on hand are 10 beers by the bottle ($5 to $8). (Comfort has no taps.) Expect, too, bargain vintages like glasses of Estralla California Merlot for $6—plus, there are two organic wines on the list of 17 choices.
Comfort’s three-sheet menu includes an entire page devoted to “The Basics,” essentially, the dishes that earned it fame. There you’ll find the “Family Dinner”: a soy-and-star-anise-spiced non-organic roasted chicken with two large sides and a dessert for $25.99—cheap and plentiful for a foursome. Still frugal, yet less successful, was a stingy dinner of beef tacos, whose dry and crumbly filling sported only phantom cheese ($6.25). Best was a great burger (with one side) whose bun might have swallowed the patty, but (if pared at table) its tasty beef was well-seared and juicy ($9.95). The burger arrived with sweetly crisp house-made pickles and, our side of choice, a huge stack of fries that held their snap to the final stick.
Ventures outside “The Basics” are rewarded, as in our $18.95 Thai-style shrimp curry, an exceptionally well-spiced special in which perfectly cooked crustaceans swim in lemongrass-scented coconut milk. We loved this sparkling dish, kept on-point with snappy lime and chili, and only mourned the missing accompaniment of rice. Only slightly less successful was a barbecued pulled-pork sandwich. Nevertheless, this sweet and meaty handful felt like a steal at only $8.50. In keeping with Comfort’s take-out shtick (an amenity still offered), a wide choice of regular sides is included in the price of many dishes, or special sides can be ordered separately (small, $5.25; large $9.25). We have yet to find a loser side, and sides span organic curried chickpeas to French fries.
Desserts are perhaps crowd- (and not critic-) pleasers and include fat squares of carrot cake—which, to my taste, seemed oily, under-spiced, and lacking in cream-cheese tang. Better was a cool, fudgy, gluten-free brownie that had us skipping coffee for glasses of milk.
In general, critics are a cheap bunch, too frugal to spend their own money when they eat so well for free, but John Halko’s new Comfort is where I will happily carry my paycheck. Though consistently imperfect, Comfort offers a nutritious, reasonably priced alternative when I’m too bogged down to cook, and now amenities like margaritas and bathrooms make this place too seductive to resist.
Comfort Lounge ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
583 Warburton Ave, Hastings-on-Hudson
Hours: lunch, Tues to Fri 11:30 am–3 pm, Sat 12–3 pm; dinner Mon to Fri 5–10 pm, Sat 5–11 pm. Appetizers: $4.50-$8.25; entrées: $6.25- $25.95; desserts $3-$4.95.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦—Outstanding ♦ ♦ ♦ —Very Good
♦ ♦ —Good ♦ —Fair