Should everyone know how to roast a chicken, make a good spaghetti sauce, make a serviceable pie? Yeah, probably. But sometimes part of the comfort is having somebody else
do that for you. So we put together a list of 10 of our favorite comfort foods - and some of our favorite places around town to find them.
A great place to find old-school favorites is Joan's on Third
, which is kind of like our version of Dean & Deluca crossed with the Platonic ideal of your grandmother's greatest hits. You can get iterations of most classic comfort food at Joan McNamara's place: roast chicken, egg salad, BLTs, meatloaf, awesome individual chicken pot pies and a stellar mac-n-cheese. McNamara's dish is baked, with three kinds of cheese and noodles and no silly bells and whistles. It's served sliced, so you can see the cool interior, like a geological cross-section of your dinner. 8350 W. Third St.; Los Angeles; 323-655-2285.
If you don't feel like roasting your own chicken - although on a cold evening, it is a LOT of fun - you can head over to Barnyard
in Venice and let them do it for you. Chef Jesse Barber's is juicy and fragrant and torqued up a bit with the harissa he rubs the bird with. (Do most things taste better with harissa? Yes, indeed.) And you get to eat your dinner with the cool Venice crowd. Invite your grandmother if it'll make you feel better about that. If the Westside is a trek, you can dine-in or pick up a whole Peruvian roast chicken at Pollo a la Brasa
in Koreatown, which has stunningly great rotisserie chickens, fired by all the wood from their outdoor wood pile. Barnyard: 1715 Pacific Ave., Venice; (310) 581-1015. Pollo a la Brasa: 764 S. Western Ave., Koreatown; 213-387-1531.
With all the great fish shack seafood places that have recently opened in L.A., you have plenty of excellent chowder options. And we mean truly excellent. Probably best among them is the chowder at Michael Cimarusti's Connie & Ted's
in West Hollywood. Not only do Cimarusti and his crew make fantastic old-school chowder, but they make three different kinds of the stuff: Manhattan, New England and Rhode Island, which is where Cimarusti's grandparents (Connie and Ted) lived and where the chef grew up eating chowder in the first place. If you can't decide, order all three on a sampler. All the seafood here is sustainable too. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 323-460-4170.
Classic American comfort food is our version of Proustian madeleines - maybe crossed with a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. It's the food of childhood, the culinary equivalent of fireflies and baseball, or bicycles and hot sidewalks, or whatever you remember coming out of your mother's or grandmother's kitchen, or maybe your next-door neighbor's kitchen, depending on how good a cook your mom was. It's the stuff we eat when we're happy - or when the Prozac isn't working. It's probably our kids' favorite foods, and ours too, if we're honest.