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Our Favorite Comfort Foods 2012

little muenster 2-1.jpgThough it’s undoubtedly milder, winter is officially here, and with it comes cravings for comfort foods.  Who doesn’t want to escape the cold outdoors and cozy up to a warm bowl of ramen, gooey grilled cheese or buttery biscuits.?  We strongly suggest the flaky, fresh from the oven biscuits from Brooklyn Star or the shepherd’s pie empanadas at Sons of Essex. This year, there’s an impressive and hearty, new and old batch of creature comforts to get you through the winter months.

Little Muenster
Address: 100 Stanton St., btwn. Ludlow & Orchard Sts.
Phone: (212) 203-7197

Their slogan may be “super fancy grilled cheese,” but it’s more like super gooey, yummy, melted goodness.  Little Muenster just opened its doors this fall, bringing a serious selection of grilled cheese to the New York dining scene.  Forget plain old yellow American cheese.  They’ve got everything from Stilton with pear puree to muenster with pastrami and beyond.  The Lower East Side space may be tight, but the warm, crusty options are endless.  There’s even a grilled cheese with anchovies.  Our personal favorite is the asiago, Parmesan, Muenster, butternut squash, and sage brown butter between two thick pieces of peasant bread.  Don’t forget to add in bone marrow butter for just $1 more.

Sons of Essex
Address: 133 Essex St., btwn. Stanton & Rivington Sts.
Phone: (212) 674-7100

For a full-on comfort food fest, you might consider Sons of Essex. Begin
with the shepherd’s pie empanada and served with a to-die-for thyme
demi-glaze dipping sauce.  That’s just the beginning.  Then, settle into
their apple crumb pork chop,  a grilled, bone-in pork chop topped with
sautéed apple and graham cracker butter crumbs.  There are several sides
to choose from, but we’re keen on the fried Guss’ L.E.S pickles and the
braised cabbage. Whether you’ve saved room for dessert or not, order
the chocolate bacon bark.  Take it home if you must, but don’t miss out
on this dark chocolate confection, laced with bacon, almonds, dried
cranberries, and apricots.

Arepa de Pabellón-1.jpgThe Brooklyn Star
Address: 593 Lorimer St.., at Conselyea (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718-599-9899)

We really love a good, old-fashioned breakfast with  all the proper,
southern comforts, like warm, buttery biscuits or grits. You’ll find all
of this and more on the brunch menu at the Brooklyn Star.  Where to
begin?  The buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy are a fine way to
start.   There’s cheesy scrambled eggs or panko-crusted pork chop,
paired with fried eggs and grits or the southern staple of fried chicken
and waffles.  There’s  even fried brussels sprouts capped with apples
and spicy Chow Chow.

Arancini Bros.
Address: 940 Flushing Ave., btwn. Evergreen & Central Aves. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 404-6924

Who needs meatballs when there’s deep fried risotto balls stuffed with any number of tasty fillings?  Arancini, rice balls, are a traditional street food in Sicily, and a favorite comfort food of ours lately.  They’re also the perfect pick me up on  a chilly winter day.  Arancini Bros.’s traditional arancini are made of saffron risotto, stuffed with meat ragu, but there are plenty of other kinds with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. The flavors change daily, ranging from broccoli rabe and sausage to nutella and cinnamon.

Crif Dogs
Address: 113 St. Marks Place, btwn. 1st Avenue & Avenue A
Phone: (212) 614-2728

Aside from soft pretzels,  hot dogs are the quintessential, New York street (and comfort food), but for a hot dog on steroids, head to the East Village for one of Crif Dog’s unique dogs.   Take the “Spicy Redneck” for example. It’s a house dog, wrapped in bacon, smothered in chili and topped with cole slaw and jalapeños.  (It’s seriously good.)  If you’ve never a bacon wrapped hot dog with avocado and sour cream, the “Chihuaha” will be your first.

aranciniballs2-1.jpgMinca Ramen Factory
Address: 536 E. 5th St., btwn. Avenue A & Avenue B
Phone: (212) 505-8001

Japanese cuisine may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to comfort food for most New Yorkers, but a soothing bowl of ramen noodles will surely change that.  The East Village isn’t short on noodle houses, but for authentic Japaense soul food, we find ourselves returning to Minca for the spicy miso ramen. The heat from the spicy broth is met with the crunch of fresh vegetables and bean sprouts, all rounded out by the tenderness of the sliced stewed pork.  This is real deal ramen done right.

Address: 1272 Amsterdam Ave., btwn. 122nd &123rd Sts.
Phone: (212) 531-7600

Think you’ve seen it all.  How about a Mac and cheese BLT? Kitchenette takes comfort food to a whole new level with one of the most indulgent sandwiches we’ve ever bitten into.  The Mac & cheese BLT comes piled high with our favorite comfort staples – cheese, bacon, pasta, and bread,  homemade white bread at that. Tack on a side of oven roasted garlic fries and you’re ready to  hibernate until spring rolls  around.

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
Address: 328 E. 14th St., btwn. 1st & 2nd Aves. (multiple locations)
Phone: (212) 228-2004

While we find it daunting, not to mention controversial,  to single out our favorite New York slice, we can safely say that we love pizza as well as  spinach and artichoke dip.  Artichoke took the two and ingeniously married them. Order a slice of the artichoke pizza and you walk out with a slice  the size of your head, loaded with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino Romano cheese.   Doesn’t get much better than that.

Caracas Arepa Bar
Address: 93 E. 7th St., btwn. 1st Avenue & Avenue A (multiple locations)
Phone: (212) 529-2314

Part sandwich, part taco, and part pita, the area  is comfort food Venezuelan-style.  At Caracas Arepa Bar, the golden arepas are made from scratch daily, grilled and baked, and stuffed with a variety of fillings.  This East Village eatery covers all its bases, like the La Surena with grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, and chimichurri sauce. Or try the La de Pernil, stuffed with roasted pork shoulder, tomato and a spicy mango sauce. There are a number of vegetarian options as well, including our favorite, La Mulata, with grilled white cheese, jalapenos, black beans, sautéed red pepper and fried sweet plantains.  Believe me, you’ll forget your stateside.

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