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In a world where we now know global pandemics are a genuine threat, health insurance premiums cost what mortgages used to, and the Colorado suburbs burn in the middle of winter, you can see why we might need a little comforting. Fortunately, snacking on comfort foods can give us at least a momentary sense of relief. They make us feel good for as long as that bite lasts, sparking joy when joy can otherwise be difficult to spark.
With that in mind, we rounded up some of our favorite high-fat, high-salt, highly delicious classics, from mac and cheese to pozole to dumplings. But we didn’t stop there: Beyond offering the tasty but straightforward version of what you’re craving, we also deliver an option that takes that soul-warming dish you love to the next level. Go forth and be comforted.
What you’re craving: Blazing Chicken Shack II
The fried chicken at Blazing Chicken Shack II doesn’t just crackle. It downright hisses. That’s the sound you’re looking for when you bite through the crispy, salty skin and into all that juicy meat. The secret’s out on this six-year-old Park Hill soul food restaurant, so be prepared to wait for your bird. (Especially since it’s fried to order.) But once it arrives at your table, your spirit will be warmed and your taste buds very, very satisfied. 5560 E. 33rd Ave.
Next level: Yardbird
There’s a reason Yardbird, the mini-chain that just opened a massive location in RiNo over the summer, can charge $32 for four pieces of fried chicken: It’s damn good. Brined for 27 hours with paprika, cayenne, sugar, and garlic before being dredged in seasoned flour and fried in lard, these are the crispy, glistening pieces that fried chicken dreams are made of. 2743 Blake St.
What you’re craving: Yummy Dumpling
We trust you’ll want to do a complete taste test yourself of Yummy’s seven different dumplings, so we’ll keep it brief. Just know that this half-a-year-old dumpling paradise is wrapping up fillings like crab roe soup and beautifully seasoned pork into chewy, steamy little pockets of deliciousness. (Or flash-fried pockets of deliciousness, because flash-fried pockets are delicious, too.) 10350 Federal Blvd., Suite 400, Federal Heights
Next level: Bao Brewhouse
Let us introduce you to some of the dumplings you’ll find at the so-very-scene-y Bao Brewhouse in Larimer Square: Wagyu beef, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese packed into the Philly Cheesesteak Dumpling; intensely flavorful shiitake mushrooms in a mushroom dashi; and spicy pork folded, pleated, and drizzled with chile oil. Go on a Tuesday night and get your fill with $30 all-you-can-eat soup dumplings upstairs in the tearoom. 1317 14th St.
Mac and Cheese
What you’re craving: Sassafras American Eatery
There’s only one problem with Sassafras’ mac and cheese: You can only grab the bowl of ooey gooey cheesy heaven until 2 p.m. Other than the brunch restaurant’s hours, there’s not a fault to be had with the Tillamook-sharp-cheddar-loaded giant elbow noodles. You could also order your bowl topped with barbecue pulled pork, roasted mushrooms, or diced smoked bacon, but why would you when the original mac is exactly what you want? 3927 W. 32nd Ave.
Next level: Mizuna
Mizuna’s lobster mac and cheese isn’t just Denver famous; it’s Food Network famous. You can find Frank Bonanno’s recipe on the Food Network’s website, but it’s way easier to pull up a stool at the bar and have Mizuna’s chefs do the heavy whisking for you. Made with mascarpone, a heavy pour of white wine, and, of course, all that lobster, it’s a buttery, crustacean-forward bowl of decadence. 225 E. Seventh Ave.
What you’re craving: Tarasco’s
Nothing heals like pozole. Whether you’ve got the flu, a broken heart, or a hangover, a hominy-studded bowl of smoldering chiles, garlic, and cumin is just what you need. Tarasco’s ladles up three different versions of the stew—verde, blanco, and rojo, the difference being the types of chiles used—all of which are pretty much guaranteed to lift your spirits, or at the very least, fill you up. 470 S. Federal Blvd.
Next level: La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal
Not surprisingly, the city’s first restaurant dedicated to pozole, La Diabla, does the soup right. Or rather, it does six different versions of pozole right. From the best-selling northern Mexican verde style simmered with tomatillos and serranos, to the pozole negro (chef-owner Jose Avila’s favorite) rich with garlic and chiles, there’s a stew for every mood and affliction. Wash down your cure for what ails you with one of the restaurant’s 37 mezcals. 2233 Larimer St.
What you’re craving: Bud’s Café & Bar
How far are you willing to drive to sate your carnivorous craving? If it’s about 25 miles south to Sedalia, then you’ll be rewarded with a single or double patty topped and steamed with melty-messy American cheese. There’s nothing fancy here—not even French fries—just a greasy burger, that molten cheese, onion if you want it, and a couple of sliced pickles on a squishy bun with a side of Lay’s potato chips. And bring cash, as Bud’s doesn’t take cards. 5453 Manhart Ave., Sedalia
Next level: Brasserie Brixton
Like a fancy In-N-Out-style Double-Double, the Brixton Burger is made with fast-food soul but elevated ingredients. The chefs at Brasserie Brixton melt Gruyère cheese into two smashed, charred patties, and the accompanying call-the-cardiologist-salty matchstick fries are far superior to those found at any drive-thru. 3701 N. Williams St.
What you’re craving: The Brutal Poodle
Anyone can slap a Kraft single on a piece of bread, so when you go out for a grilled cheese, you want something a little extra. Enter the Brutal Poodle’s Gwarled Cheese. Candied pork belly, tomato compote, and the trifecta of cheddar, American, and smoked gouda cheeses are all melted onto cheddar-Jack-crusted challah bread. It’s over the top, it’s indulgent, and it’s everything you want to be eating right now. 1967 S. Broadway
Next level: Maine Shack
The marriage of a grilled cheese with a lobster roll is a very happy union, indeed. Maine Shack (which opened a Boulder location in November) layers lobster, cheddar, and a punchy tomato jam onto sourdough, then grills it all up to golden perfection. Considering how much lobster is packed in between the slices, it’s a steal at $16. 1535 Central St.; 2010 16th St., Boulder
Matzo Ball Soup
What you’re craving: The Bagel Deli
When Guy Fieri rolls into town in his red Chevy Camaro, he’s going to the 56-year-old Bagel Deli for his matzo ball soup fix. Owner Rhoda Kaplan has been rolling up ginger-tinged matzo balls since she was three, so she knows what she’s doing. The chicken stock slow simmers for at least three hours to develop its rich, soothing flavors, and it’s no wonder the Deli goes through 15 to 20 gallons of the stuff daily. 6439 E. Hampden Ave.
Next level: El Five
El Five ups the matzo ball ante by taking the beloved soup’s flavors, adding chicken sausage and lemon-spiked olive oil, and turning it into a dumpling. Yes, a dumpling. These matzo ball soup parcels wrap two of the planet’s most comforting foods into one, crossing borders, uniting cultures, and maybe even prompting world peace. 2930 Umatilla St., Suite 500