Cold Weather Fare Around Town
The rich drinks and savory dishes that we’re embracing to shelter us from the winter weather…
Have you ever had an eggnog poolside? Probably not. The things we eat and drink are influenced not only by personal tastes, health decisions/restrictions, and how much time and money we have, but also by the seasons. From an emphasis on utilizing fresh ingredients to a focus on how food makes you feel, seasonal fare isn’t just tastier (fresh ingredients beat frozen goods any day of the year) but satisfies our personal, cyclical cravings. In summer, those hankerings may be for light meals, salads, and fruits, but in winter, heartier proteins, carbs, and coziness take center stage.
We’ve rounded up the best in cold-weather comfort foods from around the borough — from breakfast to dessert — to get you through the cold, shorter days and colder, longer nights.
Is it just us, or is it much harder to get out of bed when it’s cold outside? Fewer things are more tempting when the temperature dips than the coziness of your own bed. Unless, of course, you can find an equally cozy and equally tempting breakfast.
Darla’s Andouille Gravy
While Market Street Grill offers specials every week, and there are bound to be some worth crawling through snow for, one comforting breakfast you can always count on is Darla’s Andouille Gravy, on the menu year round. Made with homemade Andouille sausage gravy and Cajun flavoring, it’s one-part comfort food, one part morning kick start — that Cajun spice provides a little bit of a bang. The deep orange gravy is served over biscuits, but if you want a flavor overload, get it topped with eggs. “We recommend over-medium eggs,” says manager and server, Jenna Kelly, “but it’s however the customer wants them.”
Darla’s Andouille Gravy
“Made with homemade Andouille sausage gravy and Cajun flavoring, it’s one-part comfort food, one part morning kick start.“
Bacon & Swiss Cheese Quiche
We’re suckers for warm, flaky crusts of any kind, and the Bacon and Swiss Cheese Quiche at Edie’s Sweet & Savory Pastries is right up our alley. The crust, made with shortening, is just the tip of the iceberg; baked inside is a filling made with cream, eggs, onions, bacon, and high-quality Swiss cheese. Sold in slices or as full-sized ‘pies’ — which need to be pre-ordered —these custard-like quiches are a splendid, hearty way to start a winter day.
Bread lovers…unite! There’s nothing like a warm filling stuffed between two pieces of fluffy, fresh-baked bread to stave off winter’s chill. Usually served with chips or fries, these carb-loaded, cold-weather options keep your body warm and your belly full.
Saloon 151 may be known for its award-winning chili, but it’s just as well known for its brisket. Slow roasted, barbecued, pulled, and then stuffed into a fresh-baked kaiser roll, the brisket sandwich is topped with coleslaw. While it’s served with chips and a pickle, you can always upgrade your side to something like the mac and cheese or the garlic mashed potatoes, as the temperature or your appetite dictates.
It’s not quite a sandwich, but The Panulla from America’s Pie technically falls within the hand-held section, though we honestly doubt anyone’s ability to hold this whopping stromboli. Stuffed with chicken, penne pasta, vodka sauce, mozzarella, and bacon, this behemoth is mouthwatering, filling and inventive, with a focus on carbs, a wintertime must.
Vegan Grilled Cheese
“Custom made with your choice of vegan cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, or house-made feta, the sandwich is served on a plain or multigrain grilled panini.”
Few things conjure up comfort more than warm, melted cheese on grilled bread, which can make seeking solace a tough choice if you’re a vegan. Enter Love Again Local and their vegan grilled cheese. Custom made with your choice of vegan cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, or house-made feta, the sandwich is served on a plain or multigrain grilled panini. To further customize it, consider add-ons like avocado, coconut bacon, or house-made vegan ham. And of course, get it with a hot bowl of tomato soup for dipping.
Pastas & Pies
If you’re trying to stay away from carbs, you’re missing out on some major winter comforts: the pastas and the pot pies. Equal parts flavor and carbohydrates, these options are just too good to pass up when the weather turns chilly.
For an inspiring twist on traditional raviolis, check out the Mushroom Ravioli at Spence Café. The freshly made pasta is stuffed with a variety of mushrooms and cheese, then served up in a warm and simmering asiago cream sauce with seared duck breast, roasted cherry tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. It’s a rich and complex delight for your taste buds.
Mac & Cheese
It’s oooey; it’s gooey; it’s a bowl full of comfort, and at Rams Head Bar & Grill it comes four different ways. The OG is made with a Vermont white cheddar and fontina sauce, then finished with pecorino and a panko crust. The Nashville Hot Chicken Mac is, as it sounds, mac and cheese topped with crispy Nashville hot chicken. The Short Rib Mac comes topped with slow-roasted, red-wine short rib. And for seafood lovers, the Crab Mac is tossed with crab meat and topped with Old Bay and pecorino. Cheese, please.
Chicken Pot Pie
Warm and flaky, the chicken pot pie from Iron Hill Brewery definitely makes our list of cold-weather comfort foods. Made fresh every day with chicken, carrots, potatoes, corn and peas, and topped with a flaky pastry topping, this entrée can be made even better paired with a crisp Vienna Lager, a perfect complement to the rich, buttery goodness of the pot pie.
Soups & Stews
Looking for midday comfort? Need a little pep in your admittedly slower wintery step? Look no further than stews and soups, which often include a mix of winter vegetables, warm bases, and hearty proteins, just what your body needs to power you through the chilly temps of winter.
Crock O’ Chili
There are tons of options just right for winter dining at Barnaby’s, but Manager Jill Carnevale recommends Barnaby’s Crock o’ Chili, which is featured in the West Chester Chili Cook-Off every year. Made with ground beef, diced tomatoes, and a variety of beans, the crock comes topped with cheese and sour cream, if you choose. If you’re looking for something to dunk into that chili, order their dinner bread and butter and get to dipping.
French Onion Soup
In search of something to warm you up on a snowy day? Head to Split Rail Tavern for their seasonally available French Onion Soup. “People wait for it to come back on the menu,” says server Chris Jones. “Because who wants French Onion Soup in 98-degree weather on a patio?” Made with red and Port wine beef broth, caramelized onions and croutons, and topped with Emmenthaler Swiss, it’s sure to warm you up. Need something heartier? Go for their Moroccan Vegetable Stew, made with chickpeas, petite potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro, roasted almonds and cauliflower. Topped with a lemony whipped yogurt, this tomato-y goodness comes with a side of toasted pita.
Think warm, think savory, and think Italian, then head to Limoncello for a piping hot bowl of Pasta Fagioli. This Italian classic is a tomato-based soup that is thick and chunky, made with ditalini pasta and fagioli beans. It’s a hearty classic served just about everywhere in Italy, and also right here in West Chester.
Thai Spaghetti Squash
“Served with a pool of peanut butter Thai sauce and topped with marinated tofu and sesame seeds…”
Thai Spaghetti Squash
We’re not sure this can technically be considered a stew, but served in half a spaghetti squash (thus a bowl of sorts) and topped with a sauce, we felt we could make the case for this category. Head to the Liquid Eatery for this yummy and vegan Thai Spaghetti Squash. Served with a pool of peanut butter Thai sauce and topped with marinated tofu and sesame seeds, this mostly organic, 100% gluten-free dish offers all the flavor and just the right amount of heat for the coldest of days.
The Full Monty
When you want it all, you go the full Monty. No ordering of odds and ends, sides or apps…you get the full dinner, the maximum food satisfaction, everything you need to keep you sated, warm, and ready for an early winter slumber.
Smashed Potatoes & Cowboy Ribeye
If there’s a food more synonymous with ‘comfort’ than mashed potatoes, we don’t know what it is. At Pietro’s Prime, an order of their smashed potatoes — appropriately named for using the entire potato, skin and all — is made with lots of butter and heavy cream. Served alongside their 20-ounce Pietro’s Cowboy Ribeye — a marbled slice of beef made to order — is pure winter perfection. Executive Chef Sean Powell recommends adding their creamed corn, made with béchamel, garlic, shallots and the freshest of corn. Your belly will thank you.
Chicken and Waffles
This entrée from The Social is an amalgam of comfort foods, all impeccably assembled into a feast. At its core is crispy fried buttermilk chicken, served over a homemade Belgian waffle, both of which are propped up on a pile of homemade mashed potatoes. The whole spectacular concoction is served with smoked bacon strips and topped with a drizzle of Cholula Maple Butter for a little bit of kick. “It’s one of our most popular items,” says Assistant Manager Gunner Funk.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
If you’re a plant-based eater, you know how hard it can be to find a full-fledged vegan dinner, especially one that is as comforting and cozy as you need in the heart of winter. So you’ll really appreciate the Vegan Shepherd’s Pie at Roots Café. Made with a roasted portobello mushroom, Impossible™ ground beef, whole grain mustard cream, whipped potatoes, and crispy leeks, this vegan delight will keep you cozy, comforted and satiated.
In the quest for seasonally appropriate cuisine, don’t forget the drinks. From chocolates to toddies, there’s nothing better than a hot, frothy mug of something warm and delicious.
Hot Chocolate Gelato
You may question the inclusion of icy desserts in a roundup of cold-weather comfort drinks, but bear with us. Not only does Gemelli offer a cozy setting for gelato tasting, as well as a hot chocolate made from Valrhona chocolate (a beverage that’s delicious on its own), but they’ve found a way to adapt their gelato for cold weather. Enter the Hot Chocolate Gelato, which is not, as we first thought, hot chocolate-flavored gelato. Rather, it’s a scoop of any flavor of gelato — think cinnamon, caramel & sea salt, gingerbread cookie — in a cup of homemade hot chocolate. No really, this exists. And we think it’s perfect.
French Toast Latte
Who doesn’t love French toast? It’s one of the most impeccable bread breakfasts, albeit packed with carbs and calories. If you crave French toast but are eating on the lighter side, consider a French Toast Latte from Cathey’s Coffee Bar. Made with maple spice and cinnamon bun syrups, the milk of your choice, and Larry’s Secret Espresso, get it either as-is, or topped with whipped cream. Either way, it’s sublime.
The pièce de résistance of any meal: dessert. And while during the summer, those desserts might be sorbets and ice cream cones, fruit tarts and crisps, in the wintertime, decadence is the key ingredient.
Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Icing
“Made with rich, yeast-raised sweet dough with a brown sugar-cinnamon filling…“
Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Icing
Officially, this is a dessert that can double as breakfast, but either way, cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting are a sweet treat that’s been perfected at Yori’s Bakery. Made with rich, yeast-raised sweet dough with a brown sugar-cinnamon filling, rolled up, sliced and baked to perfection, these cinnamon buns are then topped with a cream cheese icing that melts into both the cinnamon bun and your mouth.
Hot Cocoa Cupcakes
Hot cocoa may be the quintessential cold-weather beverage, and hot cocoa cupcakes are on our list of winter treats. Dive into this velvety chocolate cake filled with homemade chocolate mousse from Dia Doce Gourmet Cupcakes. Finished off with a dollop of from-scratch marshmallow cream and a dusting of cocoa, this is a favorite of staff and guests alike, but it’s only available January 8 through March 31. Who says winter doesn’t have its perks?
One of the joys of living in a place like Pennsylvania is the changing seasons. Here in West Chester, it’s easy for your palate to embrace the joys of those changes, too.