Comfort food cravings: We searched local restaurants for some of the best meals perfect for those cold, wintery evenings
Chicken fried chicken at Tavern on the Point
6724 N. Northwest Highway in Edison Park
This modern, industrial and stylish sports bar is, when you recognize the high-end options on the menu, really more of a “sports restaurant” that specializes in elevated American comfort food. The kitchen is just that good.
There are several items at TOTP that could qualify as “winter comfort food,” but we’re going with the hearty chicken fried chicken here. It’s a giant, pan-fried chicken breast served with mashed potatoes and garlic-laden green beans and then smothered in thick country gravy. Be prepared to be transported over the Mason-Dixon Line for this Southern specialty.
Bonus: The large front windows are perfect for watching the snow fall, and their rooftop is covered by a heated tent for winter. Also noteworthy: Their weekday happy hour from 2-5 p.m. with the “3-3-3-3 special,” which includes $3 seltzers, well drinks and domestic drafts and bottles.
Fish and chips at The Curragh
6705 N. Northwest Highway in Edison Park
This comfortable Edison Park staple has a passion for creative and traditional Irish fare, not to mention live music, plenty of sports on TV and great drink specials. Even though it boasts several different rooms and a large bar, the pub has a cozy feel to it, especially in the winter when the fireplace is roaring.
The slow-cooked lamb stew or bangers and mash are logical choices on a cold night, but we can’t help but be lured toward the fish & chips at The Curragh. Three large fillets of cod are dipped in a Guinness batter and fried up golden brown — the ideal combination of crispy and flaky. Served with a heaping pile of steak fries, coleslaw and homemade tartar sauce, its close to perfection. Especially with a nice whiskey, Smithwick’s or Guinness to go with it.
Top sirloin is slow braised at Harp and Fiddle for five hours, then they add some fresh garlic, carrots, onions and potatoes to a rich Guinness stew. Toss in some crispy French baguettes perfect for dunking, and you’re in business on a cold winter night.
Guinness stew at Harp & Fiddle
110 Main Street in Park Ridge
This popular Main Street destination has a relaxed, family-friendly environment and boasts a wide-ranging, chef-driven menu full of both classic Irish favorites and innovative creations.
For their Guinness stew, the Harp & Fiddle doesn’t mess around. Top sirloin is slow braised for five hours, then they add some fresh garlic, carrots, onions and potatoes to a rich Guinness stew. Toss in some crispy French baguettes perfect for dunking, and you’re in business on a cold winter night.
Shepherd’s pie at Sweet & Tart
112 S. Prospect Ave. in Park Ridge
Sweet & Tart isn’t just for your favorite baked desserts, although, it should be noted, their baked desserts are incredible (click here for a glimpse). There’s actually a lot of diversity to their menu, and the seasonal shepherd’s pie is a perfect complement to a chilly evening.
The shepherd’s pie — along with their decadent mac & cheese and flaky chicken pot pie — is available for pickup and dining in annually every November through the spring.
If you’re ordering the whole pie, we’d advise bringing help because it’s a hearty serving meant for more than one. However, individual servings are available for dinner at the restaurant. This hearty dish consists of seasoned ground beef, mixed vegetables, gravy and a baked layer of mashed potatoes on top.
And if somehow you’re not convinced yet, you should know it’s “made by Irish women in an Irish kitchen.” Enough said.
Rigatoni bolognese at Café Touche
6731 N. Northwest Highway.
Zagat award-winning chef Joseph Calabrese (see our feature on his new venture, Zia’s Social) pays tribute to the casual, cozy bistros of France with this Edison Park favorite. So many delicious options here, but for a meal perfect for a cold winter evening, we’re leaning toward the rigatoni bolognese, which comes loaded with sweet, tender short rib.
The jumbalaya — with shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage for a little New Orleans kick — would serve as a good choice as well.
The complimentary valet service is a nice touch, especially during the winter months, when none of us enjoy parking in Chicago.
Zaza’s tender veal marsala is pounded thin and served with wild mushrooms and roasted potatoes in a rich marsala wine sauce.
Veal marsala at Zaza Cucina
608 W. Touhy Ave. in Park Ridge
Celebrating its second anniversary this past November, this beautiful Italian restaurant in the heart of Uptown has brought a lot of style and substance to the Park Ridge restaurant scene. Comfortable, classic and contemporary at the same time, it focuses on “family recipes with a twist” and is ideal for anything from date night to a larger family outing.
Zaza’s tender veal marsala is pounded thin and served with wild mushrooms and roasted potatoes in a rich marsala wine sauce. A perfect, flavor-filled meal — and warm, inviting restaurant with a great wine and cocktail list — for when there’s a chill in the air.