We’re deep into the autumn of the Dark Times, and judging by the takeout menus around town, chefs hear your plea for comfort food. In recent weeks, they’ve rolled out creamy-rich fare to soothe the soul (if not the arteries), from burgers piled high with Beecher’s mac and cheese, to Joël Robuchon’s famed pomme purée — a recipe that calls for a pound of butter for every 2 pounds of puréed potato.
It’s 2020. You deserve it.
You also deserve a good pork chop and chicken. And here’s to more cream of mushroom, too. Sure, it’s been done a zillion ways. But this standard has never been dressed up as nicely as at 84 Yesler. We all need some delight in familiarity at a time when each flip of the calendar offers little but the same sad trudge of days.
Here are five comfort-inspired dishes I’ve wolfed down happily in recent weeks that have warmed me up during these shivery days.
Pork chop at Single Shot ($34 — though currently offered at a 20% discount if ordered online to go)
611 Summit Ave. E., Seattle; 206-420-2238, singleshotseattle.com
This briny Flintstone-size slab remains the juiciest takeout pork chop I’ve had, not uniform pale beige like many other versions around town — nicely caramelized, with the edges charred brown, the center still a rosy blush. When I pressed my knife down, the pork drippings soaked up the accompanied grits and sautéed rapini. This buttery-thyme pork chop remains the only item left over from the original menu that debuted six years ago. There’s a reason why patrons won’t let Single Shot take this off the menu.
The mac-and-cheese burger at The Butcher’s Table ($16)
2121 Westlake Ave., Seattle; 206-209-5990, thebutcherstable.com
This burger should come with a warning label: This may cause drowsiness. Do not operate heavy machinery after ingesting this gut bomb. Some evil genius in the kitchen decided to marry a gooey bed of Beecher’s mac and cheese atop a medium-rare burger. It’s ground Mishima Reserve rib-eye, mesquite-grilled until a char coats the patty while the interior remains drippy and melty. Are the accompanied jalapeño and pickled onions enough to cut into the salty, beefy richness? Not really. But I love it anyway. It is gluttony on a bun, with a side of standout beef-fat fries. Think of them as a superior McDonald’s hash brown — all crunch with a bit of pale potato inside.
Robuchon mashed potatoes at Lark ($10)
952 E. Seneca St., Seattle; 206-323-5275, larkseattle.com
I once overheard a customer tell her dining companion that you’re supposed to take only a couple of spoonfuls of a Robuchon potato, since it’s so rich. Who are these puritans? I’ve never met a person who could stop at two. Forget the pint of Ben & Jerry’s as the yardstick of indulgence. This simple creation by the acclaimed French chef who died in 2018 uses a modest amount of starch to bind pounds of butter and milk. With his version, Lark chef John Sundstrom takes no prisoners. He subs out the milk for heavy cream and uses only European-style butter for its higher fat content.
Mushroom Agnolotti at 84 Yesler ($12 for half order or $24 for full)
84 Yesler Way, Seattle; 206-624-1111, 84-yesler.com
Is it bad to compare this refined dish to a soup dumpling filled with Campbell’s cream of mushroom? I mean it in a good way. The signature pasta dish at 84 Yesler is an umami bomb, a creamy medley of cremini, maitake and oyster mushrooms encased in mini pasta pockets. Take a bite and a luscious lava coats your mouth with a gooey-warm, forest-y funk. The agnolotti sits atop a bed of lamb ragu topped with shredded mint, charred eggplant skin and — because you can never get enough umami — a layer of fermented black garlic and two-year-old Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings.
Pan-seared chicken at Tilikum Place Café ($28)
407 Cedar St., Seattle; 206-282-4830, tilikumplacecafe.com
At a time when restaurants are trying to outdo each other in the game of chicken, simplicity still rules. Before being seared, Tilikum Place Café’s breast and thigh meat are dusted with only salt and pepper. The fatty skin stays crispy and the white meat remains remarkedly moist, unlike many of the dry iterations around town. My order came with golden shoestring fries and charred green beans, redolent of shallots and garlic. Sides vary.