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To take advantage of Chase Sapphire Preferred’s lucrative offer of 3x points on dining on the first Friday of every month — until January 2016 — we regularly round up the best in food and drink. To kick off December, TPG Contributor Betsy Mikel suggests nine restaurants that serve the best comfort foods. Note that this First Friday bonus will no longer be offered as of January 2016, so now’s the time to take advantage of those 3x points on dining!
If you hadn’t yet heard, Chase Sapphire Preferred is eliminating a generous bonus points-earning promotion. Come 2016, dining purchases made on the first Friday of each month will no longer earn 3 points per dollar. While Chase Sapphire Preferred is still one of our top travel rewards card picks, earning 2x points on travel and dining expenses, it’s disappointing to lose this First Friday benefit.
As today’s the last day to snag 3x points on dining, consider a few ideas to maximize your earning potential with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Stock up on gift cards to your favorite restaurants, make your mom’s day by taking her out to dinner or put everyone’s happy hour drinks on your card and have your friends pay you back.
As is our tradition on each First Friday, we’ve rounded up a few tasty dishes across the US. This month’s theme is comfort foods. Since the holidays can be the most
cheerful stressful of seasons, we compiled a list of the deliciously terrible foods that can make even the worst of family get-togethers a bit more bearable.
From gooey mac and cheese and hearty chili to delectable chocolate cake and raved-about chocolate chip cookies, dig into these dishes and eat your feelings away.
1. Shrimp & Grits
Crook’s Corner – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Comfort food has its roots in Southern cuisine. And quintessential Southern cuisine starts with shrimp and grits.
Crook’s Corner is often heralded as the birthplace of the dish. Though that may be tough to prove, there’s no arguing that the celebrated North Carolina restaurant serves up one of the best plates of shrimp and grits the South has to offer. Nearly every recipe website offers a Crook’s Corner-inspired take on the dish. But it’s always best to sample such a delicacy from the source.
Crook’s Corner sautées the shrimp with bacon, mushrooms and scallions and serves them over Adluh stone-ground white grits cooked with cheese. The restaurant’s staple dish costs $23.75. A third of everyone who dines at Crook’s Corner orders it, according to The Eater.
Deemed one the country’s best Macaroni and Cheese dishes by Food & Wine Magazine, Parkside serves up elbow macaroni smothered in melted Gruyere and Cheddar, then topped with Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Pro tip from the chef himself: Once the steaming mac and cheese hits your table, resist the temptation to dig in immediately and wait a few minutes. “The hardest part is not taking a bite right when it comes out because it will burn the top of your mouth, like a good pizza,” Chef Shawn Cirkiel told Food & Wine.
The Austin native opened Parkside in 2008, naming the gastropub after the Bronx housing project where his father grew up. Chef Cirkiel has built a solid reputation for the raw fish bar and extensive oyster selection, but the gooey mac and cheese is high up on the list, too. So why not order both? The $8 mac and cheese is served as a side and oysters run $16-$64, depending on the size.
3. Fried Chicken
Chick’s Fry House – Charleston, South Carolina
Chick’s Fry House is new in town as of summer 2015. Its chef, James Beard award winner Robert Stehling, has long been recognized as one of the region’s best.
While snagging a table at long-standing sister restaurant Hominy Grill often requires an hours-long wait, you can get seated quickly here. Chick’s Fry House is a modern take on a vintage diner — think high-top chairs and booths with reclaimed wood tables — that serves 100% hormone and antibiotic-free meat, catfish and pork chops alongside standard Southern sides. Order by the piece ($2.50-$5), a whole chicken ($17) or a combo basket with a variety of pieces ($10-$11).
Pine State Biscuits are made with local, high-quality ingredients, making them a popular comfort food for locals and visitors alike. When people couldn’t get enough of its delicious buttermilk biscuits at the Portland Farmers Market, Pine State Biscuits expanded to its first brick and mortar location. Now you can get your biscuit fix at several locations across Portland or seasonally at the Saturday farmers market.
A single Pine State Biscuit will run you $1.50, but most people go for something heartier. Keep it traditional with biscuits and gravy ($5.50) or order The Reggie, the most popular sandwich: fried chicken, bacon and cheese topped with gravy ($8).
These are not the cookies mom used to make. Maman makes them far better.
Since Michelin-starred chef Armand Arnal opened the Soho bakery and cafe in 2014 with Elisa Marshall and Ben Sormonte, its “famous” nutty chocolate chunk cookies have been a huge hit and risen to the top of foodie best-of lists everywhere.
Each $3.75 cookie has a generous amount of chocolate chips, of course, plus macadamias, almonds, walnuts and sea salt. They’re just the right amount of crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.
What takes a grilled cheese sandwich from good to great? The technique. The ingredients. The temperature. The perfect balance of cheese to bread.
Head to American Grilled Cheese Kitchen to revel in the deliciousness that is a perfectly cooked grilled cheese. With seven grilled cheese championships under her belt, co-owner Heidi Gibson can be counted on to deliver one tasty sandwich. She elevates this simple dish with ingredients such as apricot-jalapeño relish, melted leeks and coffee rubbed pulled pork.
Stick with the cheese-only Mousetrap for $7, or explore the adventurous side of grilled cheese and order the Mushroom Gruyere ($10.50). Add a cup of smoky tomato soup to any sandwich for $4.
7. Chicken Soup
Famous 4th Street Delicatessen – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
For anyone who’s fed up with the how pretentious restaurant culture has become, this place is a safe haven. At this Philly favorite, it’s all about the history and the food.
For more than 80 years, the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen has been serving the same signature dishes. In order for comfort food to live up to its name, it’s gotta be served in heaping proportions, and 4th Street excels in this department. Its sandwiches are packed with so much pastrami they threaten to topple over, and the matzo balls are the size of baseballs. You won’t go home hungry.
Order the Chicken Soup only if you’ve got an extremely large appetite (or plan to share with friends). The $17 pot of soup serves two to three, is made with kreplach dumplings, noodles, rice and kasha and comes with one ginormous matzo ball.
8. 5-Way Cincinnati Chili
Skyline Chili – Cincinnati, Ohio, with more locations in Indiana, Kentucky and Florida
If you’ve never tried Cincinnati Chili before, you’re in for a treat.
Served over either spaghetti or hot dogs, the Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce is thinner than the traditional Spanish-inspired chili con carne most Americans are familiar with. In fact, the origins of Cincinnati Chili start in Kastoria, Greece. In 1948, immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides opened a restaurant overlooking the skyline of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he served recipes inspired by the home-cooked food he grew up eating in a small town in Greece. Today, Skyline serves up that exact same recipe using the same secret blend of spices.
In Cincinnati, you order your chili in “ways” – the number of ways is the number of ingredients. Skyline’s signature 5-Way Chili is served with spaghetti topped with beans, chili, onions and a mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese. Pick up a small for $4.79, regular for $6.19 or a large for $8.39.
Portillo’s is not a tiny artisanal bakery tucked into a corner on a Soho street. It’s a Chicagoland fast food chain known for its hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. And believe it or not, its chocolate cake is also one of the most-loved items on the menu.
Legend has it that the secret ingredient to making the super duper chocolatey Portillo’s cake so rich and moist is… mayonnaise. A slice of this delicacy is just $3.09. If you want to get real serious, go for the chocolate cake shake for $3.25.
What are your favorite comfort foods and restaurants that serve them?
Know before you go.
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