The problem with colloquialisms is that they often are discarded as simple or vulgar. The crew at Comfort is challenging that attitude with the premise that our familiar family foods are worthy of closer attention in a more formal atmosphere than a blue-plate diner or Grandma's house. It's a pretty interesting argument, and Comfort makes the case well. I'll be very interested to see if anyone listens.
Are people going to go down to 200 W. Broad once a month and drop $50-$75 for high-class diner food? That's the question and the owners know it. The fellow I spoke with seemed to know it's a 50/50 proposition at best. I admire him for having the brass to try it, and I respect him and his partner for delivering the goods. It is very tasty stuff. On one visit, I had a juicy roast chicken with a beautiful, golden-brown skin. It was really good roast chicken and stood on it's own without any funky spices or frou-frou sauce. The greens that accompanied it were thick with ham hock and onion, and cooked to just tender. The butternut squash had a little cinnamon and all-spice in it. My mom used to do that, I swear.
Comfort serves deceptively "simple," good food and doesn't make you feel like you've been taken advantage of. Appetizers are $5 or $6. Entrees run around $13 if you want two sides or $15 if you want three. They lay it on like Mom would. It's too bad you can't ask for seconds. Lunch features a pretty wide selection of soup, salads and sandwiches in the $6 to $8 range. The best part is that you can choose from sides like green beans, squash casserole and real mac & cheese instead of chips or fries. If I worked or went to school around there, I'd rarely have lunch anywhere else. It's so much more enjoyable than another turkey sandwich with a cute name in a cute café. It tastes better, too.
Comfort asks a good question. Do you have to be razzle-dazzled to feel you've had a good meal? I thought I might. I have to admit I went with mixed oppositions. On one hand I was thinking, "So you specialize in Mom's meatloaf and Uncle Dave's ribs huh? I doubt it. You ain't Uncle Dave." On the other, I didn't know how moved I'd be when confronted with a menu full of Sunday dinners on Friday night. I like things to be guru-grade (when they actually are). I don't mind if a menu is tricked out and jibber-jabbers at me about coulis, haricot verts and crŠme fraiche. It's fun when it's done well. It certainly was nice, though, to read a menu in about 45 seconds and immediately recognize every word on it. I liked knowing that I was going to have roast chicken with green beans, butternut squash and greens. I trusted that it would all be really good, and it was. I had a basket of fried okra. I love fried okra, and I can't get it on restaurant row. That alone was worth the price of admission as they say.
Comfort makes me think of a line in a song Leon Redbone sings, something like "She ain't Rose, but she ain't bad,and Rose ain't here." It ain't Mom's or Uncle Dave's, but I live a long way from home and it's just about as good. S
Randall Stamper worked in restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana for seven years and did everything from dish washing to serving as general manager. All his visits are anonymous and paid for by Style.
200 W. Broad St.
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Monday - Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Bar open later on weekends
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.