So, The Dude had such grand plans to visit a handful of restaurants this week. And then this snow happened. And suddenly, all I could focus on is the kind of comfort food that takes my mind off of how miserable this snowpocalypse is making me and everyone around me feel.
Food is an elixir for so many ills, but there is an elite category of food that rises to a level revered by so many that it earns the ultimate compliment: comfort food.
Methuen has plenty of those spots that raise their game to earn this distinction. Just thinking of my favorites has me forgetting about that foot of snow I’m putting off shoveling. Here’s my favorites. What’s yours?
Chicken pie and fish and chips at Country Kitchen: Eric Perry is like a food whisperer. When he talks about how he breaks down the meat for his chicken pie, it’s like he has found a way to speak with the chicken and find out the essence of how to make the chicken happiest going into the diners’ mouth. I love breakfast there, but the chicken pie and the Friday fish and chips are appointment dining.
Steak tips sandwich at Bada Bing: It’s the type of sandwich that when I finish eating it, I feel like I’m just not worthy, like I need to go out on to Hampshire Street and find a person to help to be worthy of what I just consumed. It’s that good.
Chicken parmesan and prime rib at Sweetheart Inn: Michael Condon does so many dishes well. He’s the kind of chef that just lives food. Yes, he’ll retire someday. But Mike not running a kitchen is like Belichick not coaching football. He just finds the essence of two staple dishes that supposedly everyone does well and elevates them to the best around by far.
Monday Meat Loaf at the Fireside: So listen, the Tuesday hot turkey dinner and Thursday pot pies always score with us (full Food Dude review coming soon), but there is no better antedote to a case of the Mondays than this beautifully baked ground beef concoction. The Dude takes great pride in his own recipe that goes back to his Nana, but Fireside is the rare occasion I will eat out for meatloaf.
Homemade pub pies at Thwaites: I’ve had pork pies before watching Everton play Liverpool at Anfield. What Abby, Ken and the crew achieve with these pies outdoes anything I had in England. I love the chili, bratwurst, turkey and frank and beans pies the best, but that’s just me.
Chicken shawarma at Sahtaine: The Dude’s maiden dive into Methuen Middle East cuisine was such an awe-inspiring delight. This taste sensation is a lunchtime treat for when The Dude has done something truly reward worthy.
Chocolate-pudding filled birthday cake at Piro’s: Insert any bakery item and Italian bread loaf here as well, but the yellow cake, chocolate frosting, chocolate pudding cake is absolute birthday nirvana. We used to be obsessed with Publix pudding cakes down South. Piro’s is homemade and so much better.
Drunken chops and house-baked soft pretzels at Brick House Tavern: The farmhouse burger is amazing, as is the mahi mahi and chicken pot pie, but in an effort not to overlap dishes, we went with this perfect melding of two brined center cut pork chops with whiskey BBQ glaze, crispy shallots and a side of cheddar mashed potatoes.
The bar at Al’s Diner: The construction of the breakfast bar at Al’s is genius. I feel like I’m at Cheers while I’m eating an outstanding breakfast. The conversation and personalities of the regulars is almost as good as the eggs and bacon.
Traditional Irish Breakfast at The Irish Cottage: The Dude is about 98.4 percent Irish, so it would be wrong of me to say the All American breakfast, though that’s pretty tasty as well. Add in the black and white pudding, the Batchelors baked beans, rashers, Irish sausage and homemade brown bread and you’ve just made me go full leprechaun with glee.
Mann Orchards country lunch specials: I went to Facebook for help picking just one, but folks felt the dilemma. Bob’s chicken barbs are legit, as is the tuna melt and fresh quiche. Their fish chowder is growing on me as well.
Any burger at Scraps: Chef Jonathan Bryant makes the most delectable burgers and so fresh! They are huge and juicy and amazing. Simply the best around, and his homemade fries are on point as well.
Braised beef and risotto at East Street Grille: Again, another spot where eight dishes make this list. But the glazed beef, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted carrots are like a culinary hug. And their risotto is a to-die-for must. Separate dish, but I had to include it.
Poutine and baked mac and cheese at Pica’s Pub & Grill: The succulence of every dish the Bernards have come up with, oh my … I feel like I should be a paid endorser for this kind of gushing, but The Dude is a big fan of one of the newest arrivals on the Methuen restaurant scene. We’re a fan of so many dishes, but these two are Food Dude Hall of Fame first ballot.