Not that we want to encourage emotional eating on a regular basis, but sometimes a slice of cake or a hot casserole can ease the pain, even if the daily financial news has you reeling. After all, Campbell Soup was the only stock that finished higher on the S&P 500 on Sept. 29 — the date of the massive selloff. We hope you'll throw a little support the way of local restaurants, which offer the ultimate in comfort: heartwarming soups (Note: These appear regularly on menus, as opposed to occasional "soups of the day"), thick sandwiches, cozy atmospheres, gooey desserts and hot drinks. Also, we sent five brave taste-testers to figure out the best in chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese, and braised meat. Tough job, but someone's gotta do it. By Kate Andrews, Susan Early, Bethany Emerson, Harry Kollatz Jr., Melissa Minetola Leddy, Hollister Lindley, Megan Marconyak, Sarah K. McDonald, Gail Plante and Paul Spicer
AMBIANCE | SOUPS | DESSERTS | DRINKS | SANDWICHES
Zed Café, 5109 Lakeside Ave., 261-5656
Sometimes it's hard to top your childhood faves, but processed American cheese ain't got nothin' on the grilled cheese at Zed Café. Melted fontina and Gruyère are married with a sun-dried-tomato tapenade between two slices of crunchy multigrain bread. The tapenade adds depth to the sandwich without overpowering the gooey cheese. Opt for sweet-potato fries and a cup of soup for extra emotional warmth.
Kitchen 64, 3336 N. Boulevard, 358-0064
If you're a Thanksgiving junkie, give thanks for this sandwich: smoked turkey, cranberry spread, herbed cream cheese and petit greens on whole-grain bread. And you don't even have to wipe your aunt's lipstick print off your cheek. The Rhysdale also resembles Thanksgiving dinner in another significant way — it's enough food for two people or a second meal. Fresh, crunchy and with a classic combination of flavors, this sandwich is good any time of year.
Strawberry Street Café, 421 N. S trawberry St., 353-6860
Crabmeat, tomatoes, melted cream cheese and other cheeses are piled atop a slice of warm French bread. A sprinkle of parsley completes the beautifully presented entrée, which — with its deliciously sweet, rich flavors — is more dessert than lunch or dinner. If you're throwing nutrition to the wind, choose macaroni and cheese for your accompanying side; it enhances the creamy flavor of the suitably named Gourmet Sandwich.
Meatball Sub with Cheese
The Italian Café Restaurant, 1002 Sycamore Square
Treat yourself to an 8-inch toasted sub roll filled with large meatballs — cut in half for easy eating — and covered in a Sicilian-style homemade marinara sauce spiked with Italian herbs and red pepper; on top are slices of melted provolone cheese. This tasty sandwich comes with your choice of coleslaw or potato chips and a slice of pickle for a hearty meal.
Beth Furgurson photo
Weezie's Kitchen, 3123 W. Cary St., 726-1270
Come hungry, and eat it slowly. This tasty offering requires at least two hands and is served with a side order (black beans and rice is a good accompaniment). The strip steak is grilled or blackened and is served open-faced on a bed of grilled onions and mushrooms. This hunk of comfort is only on the lunch menu but is ample enough to suppress hunger pangs for the rest of the day — although you may need a nap afterward.