The Most Comforting Comfort Foods, Ranked

The Redhead's Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Photo: Hannah Whitaker

There's comfort food — all of it cozy and warming and generally terrific for making you feel better — but what's the most comforting comfort food? Is a roast chicken better than perfect braised short ribs? Who can say for sure? Grub Street can. We've taken thirteen classic comfort foods and ranked them on a scale of 1 to 5 according to four factors: fattiness (self-explanatory), carb appeal (ditto), homeyness (did you grow up eating it?), and warming bubble (how much does a dish's comforting steam just totally envelop your face as you eat it?). When added together, the final tally gives a dish its official Grub Street Comfort Food Index Number (CFIN). Read on to see how everything measures up.

13. Cassoulet
Fattiness: 3; Carb Appeal: 1; Homeyness: 0; Warming Bubble: 3 (7)
Why: This super-rich dish ranked surprisingly low on the scale. It's because it's a little too fancy; true comfort food is so lowbrow that it's socially acceptable to lick the plate.
Where to Eat It: Pot of Slow-Cooked Duck, Pork, and Beans at Buvette; Kassulet Toulousain de la Maison at La Sirene; Brasserie Les Halles

12. Meatballs
Fattiness: 2; Carb Appeal: 0; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 1 (8)
Why: Meatballs are hearty and filling, causing the best kind of food belly. Top with pasta and creamy sauce to up the CFIN score.
Where To Eat It: Lamb Barbacoa Meatballs with Drunken Risotto, Picholine Olives, and Cucumber at Empellon Cocina; Lamb Meatballs with Mint Yogurt (Albondiga) at La Vara; anything and everything at the Meatball Shop

The Meatball Shop

The Offerings at The Meatball ShopPhoto: Hannah Whitaker

11. Meatloaf
Fattiness: 3; Carb Appeal: 2; Homeyness: 4; Warming Bubble: 0 (9)
Why: It's a shame that a food that includes ground beef, onions, egg, milk, and bread gets such a bad rap. Sure, it's homely as well as homey, but this isn't a beauty contest.
Where To Eat It: Meatloaf BBQ Sandwich at Ted & Honey; Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy at Bubby’s; Iris Café

10. Chicken Soup
Fattiness: 0; Carb Appeal: 1; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 4 (10)
Why: The flu remedy is light on the stomach, but it makes you feel wholesome and strong — chicken soup for the seasonally affective disordered soul.
Where to Eat It: Chicken Soup With Farro and Dumplings at Hearth; Estelle’s Chicken Soup at Fred’s at Barneys New Year; Chicken Soup With Matzo Ball at Mile End


Chicken Soup at Fred'sPhoto: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

9. Braised Short Ribs
Fattiness: 4; Carb Appeal: 1; Homeyness: 1; Warming Bubble: 5 (11)
Why: A stick-to-your-bones winter dish that, if done properly, causes cold-fighting meat sweats.
Where to Eat It: Slow-Roasted Short Ribs at Il Buco Alimentari; Braised Short Ribs With Gruyère, Baguette, and French Onion Broth at Jeffrey’s Grocery; Braised Short Ribs With Roasted Root Vegetables and Potato Purée at Gotham Bar and Grill

8. Roast Chicken
Fattiness: 2; Carb Appeal: 1; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 4 (12)
Why: Best prepared laden with butter, this old favorite smells as good as it tastes. If eaten at home, it can substitute for a space heater.
Where to Eat It: Crispy Roast Chicken With Stuffed Cabbage and Carrots at Calliope; Whole-Roasted Chicken With Foie Gras, Black Truffle, and Brioche at the NoMad; Cast-Iron Chicken at Vinegar Hill House

Vinegar Hill House

Cast-Iron Chicken at Vinegar Hill HousePhoto: Vinegar Hill House

7. Grilled Cheese
Fattiness: 3; Carb Appeal: 4; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 1 (13)
Why: Whether it's fancy with foie or made out of good ol' American, melted cheese between buttered bread works to fight both the cold and hangovers.
Where to Eat It: Foie Gras and Smoked Cheddar Grilled Cheese at Chez Sardine; Grilled Kimcheese at Porsena Extra Bar; the Maefred With Double-Cream Brie at Noorman’s Kil

Porsena Extra Bar

Grilled Kimcheese at Porsena Extra BarPhoto: Celeste Sloman/New York Magazine

6. Shrimp and Grits
Fattiness: 4; Carb Appeal: 3; Homeyness: 4; Warming Bubble: 3 (14)
Why: This Southern staple is packed with cheese, cream, and butter (win), but the real selling point is that it can be eaten with a spoon. Or slurped.
Where to Eat It: Char No. 4; Peels; the Brindle Room

5. Fried Chicken
Fattiness: 4; Carb Appeal: 4; Homeyness: 4; Warming Bubble: 3 (15)
Why: Deep-fried meat is one of life's simple pleasures. It's especially good when dipped in honey during the chilly winter months.
Where to Eat It: The Redhead; Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen; Dirty Bird to Go

4. Macaroni and Cheese
Fattiness: 4; Carb Appeal: 4; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 3 (16)
Why: Kraft macaroni and cheese is all well and good, but the best, most comforting options are made from scratch.
Where to Eat It: Smoky macaroni and cheese with optional bacon at Westville; Blue Smoke; Queens Kickshaw (a "Best of New York 2012" favorite)

Blue Smoke

Mac 'n' cheese at Blue SmokePhoto: William Brinson

3. Lasagne
Fattiness: 4; Carb Appeal: 5; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 3 (17)
Why: It's a slam dunk when meat, cheese, tomato sauce, and multiple sheets of pasta are packed into one family-style dish. Add rich béchamel for extra points.
Where to Eat It: Porsena; Hundred-Layer Lasagna at Del Posto; Lasagna at Nicoletta*

Del Posto

Lasagne at Del PostoPhoto: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

2. Potpie
Fattiness: 5; Carb Appeal: 3; Homeyness: 5; Warming Bubble: 5 (18)
Why: If anyone knows what to eat when the weather is shitty, it's the Brits, who more or less invented the idea of putting meat in puff pastry.
Where to Eat It: Shepherds Pie at the Fat Radish; Steak and Guinness Pie at Tea & Sympathy; Lobster Thermidor Potpie at Maloney & Porcelli

1. Ramen
Fattiness: 5; Carb Appeal: 5; Homeyness: 4; Warming Bubble: 5 (19)
Why: A sizzling bowl of noodles filled with pork belly, and if you're lucky, an extra-runny poached egg. There's a reason why people endure two-hour waits at Ipuddo in the heart of winter.
Where to Eat It: Akamaru Modern Ramen at Ippudo; Shoyu Ramen at Jin Ramen; Momofuku Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar


Ramen at IpuddoPhoto: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

*This post inadvertently included Insieme, which is now closed (its lasagna was pretty killer, though).