As the weather cools down, we're all looking for comfort foods - and here are 5 of our staff favourites
By Avenue Staff | October 3, 2016
As we plan this section month after month, the Avenue staff members will champion dishes that have impressed them of late. And we do our best to stay plugged in to the latest news when it comes to new menus, new chefs and new places to try.
But, sometimes, we just want to get back to our old favourites – menu items that we go back to, time after time. This month, each member of the Avenue team picked his or her favourite comfort dish.
at Seoul Fried Chicken
Pick from Art Director Pete Nguyen
Though Seoul Fried Chicken has only been around since February, it has already become a staple comfort food for Avenue art director Pete Nguyen. “The portions are crazy,” he says of the five-piece chicken set in front of him. And he’s right. The chicken meal is a healthy portion of chicken meat. The bird is chopped haphazardly, so while not the uniform pieces one might encounter at a certain Colonel’s chicken chain, they have a tendency to be bigger, juicier, crispier and, according to Nguyen, so much better.
Of the list of flavoured sets listed on Seoul’s order-counter blackboard (there are seven, which include cilantro lime, onion lover, grana padano cheese, SFC BBQ and golden kari) Nguyen’s go-to favourite is the garlic soy which comes dripping in Seoul’s sauce and then garnished in freshly cut green onion. But to really appreciate that, he says, one has to revisit the OG (original) recipe. Golden crispy chicken pieces that have been brined over night, then made to order in-house, leave no substitute in his mind. Add to that the generous portion of fries, plus slaw made with cabbage and shredded potatoes and drizzled in black sesame dressing, and he is comforted with every bite (though, occasionally uncomfortably full).
The best part is, if he can’t finish in one sitting, it’s the easiest thing in the world to take home. “They serve the food in pizza boxes”, says Nguyen, closing the lid over his leftovers. “I mean, how cool is that?” –Cory Haller
It used to be a family tradition – going with my parents to Hungarian restaurants. I’d order a schnitzel that was bigger than my head; it would dangle off the edges of my plate. Cucumber salad on the side – with vinegar and sugar in the dressing. My father would suggest that not eating the whole schnitzel would be an insult to my developing manhood.
Schnitzel is decidedly pan-European. Though its name (“Wiener” is German for Viennese) suggests an Austrian origin, it’s a dish that’s loved from Poland all the way down to the Balkans. Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians all claim it as their own.
Fast forward three decades. When my mom comes out to visit the family here in Edmonton, she wants to go to Bistro Praha. It’s at this decidedly Old World downtown destination where we get a reminder of those old family outings. I think of my Dad – he passed away eight years ago.
The breading is browned and crisp but doesn’t come off as oily. And the pork inside is tender; you can break it off with a fork. It’s such an old-school dish; a glorious crunch that’s best washed down with a great Czech pilsner.
It is decidedly Old World; but it’s so satisfying. And, yes, dad, I make sure to eat the whole thing. – Steven Sandor
The Next Act is best known for its delectable burgers, but when it comes to comfort food, there’s something to be said for the nostalgia factor – and what can make you feel nostalgic quicker than a buttery grilled cheese sandwich? Many restaurants attempt to elevate the simple dish by adding endless jams and compotes or by using more sophisticated cheeses, and that’s just not what grilled cheese is all about. The Next Act’s version proves that sometimes, it’s better to keep things simple.
A blend of Swiss and aged cheddar offers just the right intensity – a bit sharper than regular cheddar, yet subtle enough for the two cheeses to combine seamlessly – and the apple slices and bacon add an element of sweet and salty into the sandwich. Pair it with a cold brew for a comforting dish made for adults. – Adrianna Szenthe
When it comes to comfort food, you can’t go wrong with a steaming bowl of soup, but the coconut chicken soup that our associate art director Terri Belley selected takes things to an entirely new level. The colour itself – an impossibly vibrant yellow – is enough to lift your spirits, and then you take the first bite.
There is a lingering heat, not overpowering, just enough to warm you up, as well as a richness to the broth that makes the dish feel decadent. A few pieces of chicken and vegetables scattered throughout the soup make it heartier, but the star of the dish is truly the broth itself. Make sure to order a side of naan bread – which generally comes so fresh it’s still warm – to soak up every last drop. – A.S.
Memphis Dry Rub Ribs (w/Succotash and Collard Greens)
at Have Mercy
Pick from Associate Editor Cory Haller
From its rustic corner stage, light-up sign above the kitchen stand and buzzing neon lights to the restaurant’s desert landscape spread along the back wall, Have Mercy looks like the kind of place a cowboy may go to drown his sorrows. It’s no surprise then, that the same “southern comfort” idea in the decor is reflected in its menu.
World got you down? Listen to some blues or bluegrass, order yourself a beer and delight in some creative and traditional southern cooking.
My favourite is the Memphis dry rub pork ribs. They come crispy and heavily seasoned but, if that ain’t your style, you can always slather them in barbecue sauce, hot sauce or honey mustard – all conveniently within reach, resting in a tobacco tin at your table.
The dish comes with your choice of sides, ranging from fries to slaw, but I prefer nice warm bowls of succotash and collard greens with ham. The succotash is a healthy dollop of beans and corn coated in chili-like sauce. The collard greens and ham swim in a burgundy smoky sauce that you can’t help but slurp. It warms the belly and adds kick. Heck, when I’m finished the side dish, I use the remaining sauce as a dip for my ribs. Top that off with a Have Mercy Old Fashioned (mixed with Old Grand-Dad bourbon, honey amarena cherry syrup, angostura and orange bitters), and you’ve got a meal that’ll cure the most serious of cowboy blues – getting your dog, wife and kitchen sink back notwithstanding. – C.H.