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We’ve picked 28 dishes, recipes, and restaurants for kicking the culinary winter blues. What are your favorites?

By Jack Morris

Photographs by Anthony Tieuli

It’s chilly outside, you’re hungry, and the leftovers in the fridge are starting to talk to each other. Times like these call for comfort food. We combed some of the North Shore’s top restaurants known for classic comfort food dishes and then asked the chefs what they make for themselves if and when they have time to

cook at home. Grab your napkin, or your car keys, and start feasting.

Do you agree with us? Scroll down to the bottom of this page to let us know what you think and to share your own comfort food ideas!

The Reuben at Stone Soup Cafe in Ipswich.

Stone Soup Cafe

Chef Mark Macklin and his wife/owner Stefani have been serving Mark’s favorite sandwich, the reuben, at Stone Soup for three years and it’s turned into a hot ticket item, especially on cold afternoons. It starts with thick slices of fresh Italian bread, homemade Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, and thinly sliced fresh corned beef. Once it’s grilled, the sandwich is topped with Swiss cheese, melted in the salamander, and served with a choice of coleslaw, chips, or pickle. 0 Central St., Ipswich, 978-356-4222.

Nanna Macklin’s Meatballs Puttanesca

Serves 10


1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground veal

2 eggs

2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup fresh or dried parsley

2 tbsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. If necessary, add more breadcrumbs to produce more consistency. Form into 1-inch meatballs and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. When finished, add sauce.


4 16-oz. cans crushed or whole tomatoes

2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

1 small jar of capers

11/2 cup pitted kalamata olives

2 tins of anchovies

1/4 cup olive oil

Saute garlic with anchovies over medium low heat until garlic is brown and anchovies somewhat dissolved. Add olives and capers and cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring. Add tomatoes and stir. Cook for about 20 minutes or until flavors merge.

<p class=The Maple-Glazed Pan Roasted Duck with Butternut Squash Risotto at 10 Center in Newburyport.” />

The Maple-Glazed Pan Roasted Duck with Butternut Squash Risotto at 10 Center in Newburyport.

10 Center

When the weather’s bad on the North Shore, it’s usually worse right on the water. Tucked behind the downtown shops, Newburyport’s 10 Center is the ideal spot to escape the cold and warm up with some classic comfort food. The maple-glazed pan roasted duck came about four years ago and was eventually pulled from the menu. Back after popular demand, it has become one of 10 Center’s most popular dishes. Customers love the combination of the maple and the duck. “It’s very approachable and presented nicely with just four ingredients on the plate,” says Executive Chef Harley Smith. 10 Center St., Newburyport, 978-462-6652,

Harley Smith’s Pot Roast

Serves 3–4

2 lbs. seven-bone steak

1 medium Vidalia onion, peeled and diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 qt. beef stock

2 tbsp. tomato paste

3 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In large saute pan, heat oil until smoking. Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper, place steak in pan, and sear until dark brown on both sides. Remove from pan. Add carrots, celery, and onions and saute until soft. Add tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, and beef stock. Place steak in pan and boil. Cover and place in a preheated oven at 275 degrees and cook for 3-4 hours or until fork tender. Once done, take steak out, strain liquid, and reduce until thick. Serve with mashed potatoes, Brussels spouts, and carrots.

<p class=Irish Benedict at Sugar Magnolia’s in Gloucester.” />

Irish Benedict at Sugar Magnolia

Sugar Magnolia’s

“The secret to this dish is the savory hash,” says owner/chef Melissa Hart of her irish benedict. Smoked pork shoulder (not corned beef ), potatoes, onions, and carrots are all ground up and made on the premises. Combine that with a lemony hollandaise sauce over two poached eggs served with sweet homemade cornbread and you’ve got a happy mouthful in every bite. 112 Main St., Gloucester, 978-281-5310,

Hart Meatloaf

Serves 6–8

1 lb. ground hamburger

1 lb. ground pork

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and shredded

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 medium white onion, diced

2 medium shallots, diced

4 stalks of celery, diced

1 cup barbecue sauce, divided

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 strips of bacon

3 eggs

6 slices white bread, cubed

3 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine hamburger, pork, half a cup of barbecue sauce, chopped parsley, eggs, sweet potato, cinnamon, and bread. Set aside. Saute onions, shallots, celery, thyme, and garlic with olive oil until tender. Add to mixing bowl and mix with hands until well blended. In a casserole dish, mold ingredients into dish, making sure there’s room along the edges. Cover top with rest of barbecue sauce and bacon. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Serve with your favorite mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetable.

<p class=The Baby Back Ribs with Macaroni and Cheese at Grapevine in Salem.” />

The Baby Back Ribs with Macaroni and Cheese at Grapevine in Salem.


When it’s cold out and you’re famished, nothing fills the belly like baby back ribs with macaroni and cheese. Grapevine starts its ribs with a homemade rub and some beer then slathers them in barbecue sauce while grilling. The dish is served with mac and cheese (five cheeses with a heavy cream reduction) and broccoli rabe. “There’s something about ribs that people love,” says Chef Kate Hammond. “You don’t cook them at home a lot, so when you go out, it’s casual and not expensive.” 26 Congress St., Salem, 978-745-9335,

Kate’s Rigatoni with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 2

1/4 lb. of rigatoni, 1/2 box

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 can whole peeled tomatoes

Hot pepper flakes

Salt to taste

Pinch of oregano

Small handful of flat leaf parsley

Boil water. Add salt. Saute olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, hot pepper flakes, salt, oregano. Simmer until it gets thick (15 minutes). While sauce is simmering, add pasta to water. Cook pasta al dente (9 minutes). Drain and add pasta to plate. Pour sauce over pasta and sprinkle with parsley. Add parmesan cheese or cubes of fresh mozzarella if desired. Serve.

<p class=The Chicken Pie at Agawam Diner in Rowley.” />

The Chicken Pie at Agawam Diner in Rowley.

Agawam Diner

For over 50 years, diners have been scooping up the fresh gooeyness of Agawam’s signature dish, the chicken pie. Chef John “Bubba” Galanis makes it with homemade pastry dough, chicken, peas, carrots, and homemade gravy. The chicken pie is served in a casserole dish with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, a cup of soup, and a hot cup of coffee. “When I think of comfort food,” says Galanis, “this is what I want to eat.” Routes 1 & 133, Rowley, 978-948-7780.

Galanis Vegetable Stew

Serves 6

2 small zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 medium eggplant, chopped into 1-inch pieces

6 tbsp. canola oil, divided

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup chicken stock

2 tbsp. chicken base, preferably Better Than Bouillon

1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes, undrained

5 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 ribs celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 large russet potato, peeled, and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss together zucchini, eggplant, and 3 tbsp. canola oil in a casserole dish and bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Heat remaining oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and saute about 10 minutes. Mix stock and chicken base in a small bowl then add to pan along with green beans and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, peppers, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir well and saute about 15 minutes more. Place food in casserole dish. Stir in peas. Bake until veggies are soft, about 45 minutes. Serve.


The American Barbecue

The name says it all. Go big with a rack of Memphis ribs or a plate of smoked BBQ pulled pork. Make sure to save room for the homemade key lime pie. 5 Railroad Ave., Rowley, 978-948-2626, 950 Cummings Center, Beverly, 978-921-1212,

Black Cow

Grab a table by the fireplace and make yourself at home. Start with the wild mushroom mini turnovers then dive into the baked haddock with Ritz cracker crumbs and garlic mashed. You may not want to leave. 16 Bay Rd., South Hamilton, 978-468-1166, 54R Merrimac St., Newburyport, 978-499-8811,

Choate Bridge Pub

Named after the oldest stone bridge in the country, this local pub will warm you up with a barbecue sausage plate that is a must-order. Also try the toasted tuna roll or the 1/2 lb. deluxe pub burger. 3 South Main St., Ipswich, 978-356-2931,


With dim lights and a warm atmosphere, it’s hard not to feel comfortable at Evenfall. Head to the bar for a glass of wine or a flavored martini then slurp on a hot bowl of French onion soup while your grilled Kobe sirloin gets tender. 8 Knipe Rd. (Rt. 125), Haverhill, 978-521-7550,

Franklin Cape Ann

Like its warm and inviting sister restaurant in Boston’s South End, this local favorite is known for its great soup but also check out the slow braised boneless short ribs, perfect for a cold night by the ocean. 118 Main St., Gloucester, 978-283-7888,

The Landing

How can you talk about comfort food in New England and not mention clam chowder? This seaside haunt overlooks Marblehead Harbor and serves some of the finest (“not your Grandma’s chowder”) as well as a long list of local, fresh seafood entrees. 81 Front St., Marblehead, 781-639-1266,

The Peddler’s Daughter

You can’t go wrong with a pint of Guinness, a hot plate of shepherd’s pie, and a few tall tales. Fortunately, Peddler’s Daughter offers two of the above, you provide the tales. Also try the classic fish and chips served in a newspaper basket. 45 Wingate St., Haverhill, 978-372-9555,

Ristorante Molise

Get comfy with some Italian food. Try the fusilli bolognese with minced beef and Italian sausage or go for the four-course menu for a true sampling of the cuisine. 1 Market Sq., Amesbury, 978-388-4844, 466 Mail St., Wakefield, 978-388-4844,