Illustration by Taman Temirgaligeva.

Comfort Food: A Taste Of Home … Or Is It?

What is comfort food? Does it have to be connected to memories of the past or can it be something completely new?

Nov 28, 2021

A couple months into my study away in New York City, under the stress of midterms and looming finals, I began to crave comfort food. In my mind, I interpreted comfort food as familiar, sentimental food: food I would eat with my family at home. Rice and stews, stuffed zucchini, warm soups and indulgent pastas.
But, as a foodie in a city famous for its food scene, I felt obligated to explore as much of New York as I could in the limited time I had. I wanted to seek solace in food, but I had to rethink what that meant to me. I had to see if I could derive the same comfort, the same sense of familiarity and homeliness, at places that were new or more importantly, that weren’t home.
Many New York staples have proven themselves to be very satisfying comfort foods. In true New York fashion, I found joy in the city’s pizzas. From Joe’s Pizza to 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, Little Italy Pizza to Artichoke Basille’s, I tasted them all. I reveled in the familiar margarita flavors and raved about revelatory artichoke pizzas. I tasted all kinds of crusts: thick, soft, thin, crisp and everything in between. All these varying, warm flavors helped me through all the stress college can bring.
Photo of a Joe’s Pizza slice. Courtesy of Sidra Dahhan.
Other New York classics I tried included Katz’s pastrami on rye sandwiches and various bagel chains, such as Liberty Bagels. The sharp contrast between the tender, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness of the beef pastrami and its potent mustard filling, along with the pillowy rainbow bagels and smooth cream cheese, inspired a feeling of contentment within me.
Photo of Katz's pastrami on rye and Liberty Bagels’ rainbow bagel. Courtesy of Sidra Dahhan.
And of course, no city food tour would have been complete without foods that could satisfy my sweet tooth. One of my favorite pastry shops I’ve come across was Supermoon Bakehouse in the Lower East Side, with their immensely satisfying croissants that change in flavor every weekend. Alimama Tea, located in Chinatown, also provided beautiful and tasty boba teas and mochi donuts.
Photos of a Supermoon Bakehouse croissant and an Alimama Tea tea. Courtesy of Sidra Dahhan.
If I had to choose one place, however, that provided me with my favorite comfort food experience, it would have to be the Ukrainian restaurant, Veselka, close to Astor Place. Potato-stuffed pierogi with sour cream and warm, hearty borscht made me feel fuzzy inside. I cannot speak for the foods’ authenticity, as it was the first time I had tried either of these dishes, but they made me feel at home nonetheless. While the flavors were new and exciting, they felt comfortably familiar, much like home.
Photos of pierogi and borscht from Veselka. Courtesy of Sidra Dahhan.
My explorations in New York have made me reconsider how I perceive comfort food. Maybe it isn’t always limited to the food you grow up with. Instead, it could be about the feeling it inspires within. Comfort foods can be new and exciting, as long as they put you at ease.
Sidra Dahhan is Senior Columns Editor and Film Columnist. Email her at
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