Serving Up a Slice of Comfort Food

shell pasta in vodka sauce on a plate

It’s more than filling the belly. It’s serving up memories on a plate.

The weeks following the holidays are a good time to introduce a few new comfort food items to the menu. You can even add them as a special that changes daily for awhile. It will give you an idea of what your guests really want before you make it part of your menu. When you are researching which dishes to offer keep your regional specialties in mind. For example, in Texas the comfort food tends to be things like chicken fried steak, chili, and Texas Sheet Cake but in New York it might be meatloaf, pastrami on rye, or cannoli. This is why it is important to have a good relationship with your guests and talk to them regularly. Just casually mention that you were thinking of putting a few family recipes on the menu and ask what their favorite food memories are.

That should give you plenty of material to get started with.

What Is Comfort Food?

Comfort food is the food that your remember from your childhood. It’s that plate that makes you smile when it’s placed in front of you. Common examples of comfort foods are:

  • Meatloaf
  • Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Soup
  • Lasagne
  • Chicken Fried Steak
  • Barbecue
  • Pot Pie
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  • Apple Pie
  • Chocolate Layer Cake

Give It Your Own Touch

Just because you are serving these customer favorites doesn’t mean that you can’t give it your own, special touch to keep it from being run of the mill, average, or (God forbid) boring. Experiment with updated cooking techniques, trendy ingredients, and unique flavors. Think about the popularity of the cronut. After all it was originally a donut — a classic comfort food.

  • Macaroni and cheese on pizza
  • Macaroni and cheese that has been deep friend
  • Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Skewers served with creamy tomato soup for dippinng
  • Meatloaf with chopped bacon mixed in

Whatever you think will be delicious is a good place to start your experimenting.

Keep It Affordable

One of the most appealing things about comfort food is that it is affordable. If you start adding caviar and black truffles to your mac and cheese you will defeat the purpose. Find a comfortable (and profitable) balance between uniqueness, portion size, and cost to ensure success.

Scope out the competition on this. Visit some competitors dining rooms and order a few different menu items related to comfort food. What do they have that seems to be popular? How are the plates arranged? What are the charging?

A little research will go a long way toward your success.

Make It Pretty

While your mom probably didn’t do much more than get the food on the table, the plates that come out of your kitchen should be pretty. People are looking for comfort food but they want to see it professionally presented!

It doesn’t have to be fancy garnish. A few sprinkles of parsley might be just the right touch for the dish.

What are some different types of comfort food that you enjoy?

image: Marye Audet

- Marye Audet

Marye Audet is an author, freelance writer, and editor. Cooking, baking, and recipe development have been a major part of her life since she baked her first loaf of bread at age 13. Luckily, with a husband, eight children, a son in law, and three grandchildren she has enough test-tasters to handle the steady stream of experiments that come from her kitchen.

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