In Buffalo we know how to handle winter, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need a break sometimes. And what better way to warm and comfort ourselves than with a big plate of good food? In the past several years the restaurant scene has really taken off in Western New York and we have a large variety of cuisines to choose from, but sometimes we just want something familiar and simple. We want something we know will fill us up, boost our spirits and leave us satisfied, something that might bring up fond memories of happy times with family or friends. Below is our list of favorite Buffalo comfort foods that we turn to when we need a pick me up or just want something consistently delicious to fill our bellies.
Chicken Finger Sub from Jim’s SteakOut
Ah Jim’s Steak Out, Buffalo’s go-to late night comfort food hangout. What started as one small shop in the city has turned into one of the most successful local WNY franchises. And while you can go there any time of the day, I dare anyone to tell me a sloppy Chicken Finger Sub at 2 a.m. after a night on the town is not the most delicious and comforting food you could eat at that moment. Outside of WNY, few people know what a real Chicken Finger Sub is and they are missing out. A toasted bun, some greasy chicken fingers, hot sauce, blue cheese and maybe some lettuce and tomato so you feel like you’re eating something healthy…it’s really the perfect combination. Ask anyone who has moved away from WNY what they miss most and I bet a chicken finger sub will be on their list.
Fish Fry from Gene McCarthy’s
Buffalo loves fish frys. It’s a tradition that spans back decades and carries a certain nostalgia and sense of Buffalo pride with it. And while every corner bar has a fish fry, especially during Lent, there are actually (in our opinion) only maybe a handful of places that truly do it right. Gene McCarthy’s is one of those places. Opened in 1963, the bar has changed hands and has been upgraded but still retains that unpretentious relaxed neighborhood bar feel. To me, there are few things more comforting than cozying up at a wooden bar full of regulars and enjoying a conversation over beer and fried food. Their 14 oz. piece of fried Haddock stands out from the crowd. It’s moist and flavorful with a batter that’s crunchy but not overly greasy. In true Buffalo fashion, the piece of fish is gigantic and placed top of piles of potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw and french fries. If the size scares you, they also offer a smaller piece as part of a fried fish sandwich. Bonus: Gene McCarthy also brews their own beer and believe me when I say it’s good, real good.
Spaghetti Parm from Chef’s
Chef’s is a Buffalo institution. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who lives in WNY who hasn’t been there at least once. Heck, it’s even a favorite of many Sabres players before home games. And while there may be more authentic and upscale Italian restaurants in WNY, Chef’s is at the top of the list of red sauce, no frills pasta joints. Sure the menu has many favorites, but what we usually order when we want some pasta comfort food is the Spaghetti Parmesan. It’s spaghetti covered with Chef’s famous sauce and smothered in gooey bubbly parmesan cheese, and it’s always tasty and consistent. Yes, it’s huge and no you probably won’t finish it in one sitting, but that’s what take home containers are for.
Giambotta from Sophia’s
Who doesn’t love going out for a big breakfast on the weekend? Sometimes there is nothing better than relaxing in an old diner and reading the Sunday paper. Or maybe you have a hangover to nurse. One of our favorite things to do after a night of drinking is to order a huge greasy breakfast that will fill us up until dinner (or maybe even later). Sophia’s fills both of those roles with delicious breakfast comfort food that satisfies eaters of all ages. A personal favorite is the Giambotta, a massive plate of homemade Italian sausage, peppers, onions, hot pepper, garlic, potatoes and 2 large eggs mixed together in one giant pile. It’s large enough to share, but it’s so good and satisfying that I bet you can finish it yourself. It’s sure to warm you up on a cold winter morning and keep you full as you re-shovel your driveway in the afternoon.