Get in the Comfort Food Mood

5 places with comfort food to warm you, body and soul

By Stephanie Gravalese

This time of year, I think about the flavors and textures of food that nourish the body and mind. I’m talking about comfort food!

What exactly makes a dish comfort food material? After reviewing many definitions of the term, I landed on one by Merriam-Webster, it was concise and hit the spot, “comfort food: food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.”

What I love about comfort food is that the definition is so broad, we can pull from our food memories to find foods that bring us comfort. Is comfort food always warm and decadent American staples like mac and cheese? For some.

For others, such as myself, the salty brine of feta cheese or the messy exercise of eating a ripe mango in the summer bring me back to childhood memories that live long after I finished my plate. The following picks are ones that do comfort food right and dishes that provide a stick-to-your-ribs comfort all year round.

Eggplant parmigiana from Mazzeo’s Ristorante in Pittsfield, Mass. Photos by Stephanie Gravalese

Mazzeo’s Ristorante

1015 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.
413-448-2095 |
Open: Monday-Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday.

The Mazzeo family has been serving Italian-American food to the Berkshire community for decades. At Mazzeo’s, located near the Pittsfield/Lenox town line, you can dine for date night or call in for takeout and everything in between. Specializing in Italian-American fare, the menu at Mazzeo’s offers many comfort food options.

My pick is the eggplant parmigiana ($10 for an appetizer size or $20 for an entree). Slices of peeled and breaded eggplant are thinly layered between sheets of pasta with marinara and mozzarella. Topped with Parmesan cheese, each bite is perfectly balanced.

A classic grilled cheese sandwich from Rubi’s Cafe in Great Barrington, Mass.

Rubi’s Cafe

264 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.
413-584-9613 |
Open: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rubi’s Cafe, located in downtown Great Barrington, is the cozy cafe arm of Rubiner’s Cheesemongers and Grocers. In addition to high-quality coffee and pastries in a relaxed atmosphere, at Rubi’s even a grilled cheese isn’t just a grilled cheese! Rubi’s grilled cheese menu offers a half-dozen options that are inspired by a cheesemonger’s palate and full of flavor.

The classic grilled cheese is a comfort food win: Comtè with Maldon sea salt on white Pullman bread for $5.50. If you are looking for a surprise, opt for the Fondue grilled cheese: cheesemonger’s selection, white wine on Pullman white for $9.50.

J.J. Hapgood General Store & Eatery

305 Main St., Peru, Vt.
802-824-4800 |
Lunch: Wednesday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; brunch: Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner: Thursday-Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.

Just down the road from Bromley Mountain, J.J. Hapgood General Store & Eatery is for ski bums, locals and travelers alike. Part general store, part restaurant, it’s the perfect spot to shake off the winter doldrums and enjoy a filling meal, and stock up on provisions.

Comfort food picks here are the buttermilk-fried chicken and waffles with herb butter, fresh greens and, of course, Vermont maple syrup for $14.95, or the Monte Cristo French toast with grilled ham, Vermont cheddar and Vermont maple syrup for $14.95.

A comforting bowl of Pozole at Twin Flames Taqueria in Brattleboro, Vt.

Twin Flames Taqueria

97 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt.
802-258-6393 |
Open: Monday-Thursday, noon to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.

Twin Flames Taqueria, located in downtown Brattleboro, is the newest location on the list. Open since last June, this fast-casual spot offers Southern California fusion. With an extensive and affordable menu featuring Mexican classics such as enchiladas de mole and barbacoa tacos, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

While there are many dishes to choose from, I found the comforting bowl of Pozole — a soup of slow-cooked pork, hominy, purple cabbage in ancho chili broth — to hit the comfort food spot. If you are looking for another option, the carne asada fries with hand-cut fries, chorizo-cheddar gravy and carne asada for $12 is the perfect pick.

Lobster mac and cheese at The Publyk House in Bennington, Vt.

The Publyk House

Historic Route 7A, 782 Harwood Hill, Bennington, Vt.
802-442-7500 |
Open: Monday-Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m.

The Publyk House, just a short drive from downtown Bennington, has been offering traditional New England food for over 40 years. A steakhouse with dishes such as French onion soup, and New York strip steak, there are many comfort food favorites on the menu.

My comfort food pick here is the lobster mac and cheese, a cavatappi pasta with fresh mozzarella, Brie and cheddar cheese and lobster ($21.95). Cheesy, and decadent, it hits the spot on a cold winter day.

Stephanie Gravalese  is a freelance writer and photographer, writing mostly about food and travel. Her work has been featured in various publications including the Berkshire Eagle and Rural Intelligence. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @stephanitaeats. When not tracking down the best food spots, she can be found in Pittsfield, Mass.

More from Stephanie

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