Comfort Cravings

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The holiday season always seems to evoke a hunger for delicious and satisfying comfort food—just like grandma used to make. Here’s a look at some of the favorite places in town for feel-good fare.- By Beth Fhaner

With the holiday whirlwind upon us, not to mention chillier temperatures and shorter daylight hours, we tend to crave heartier, traditional dishes for sustenance. To get your comfort food fix this season, visit any of these Laguna establishments and indulge in satiating, feel-good dishes such as macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, potpie, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, soup and more.

Enticing Eats

For mouth-watering comfort food served at both lunch and dinner, diners should consider visiting the Lumberyard in downtown Laguna. Patrons can select from several hearty dishes on the menu, including a scrumptious chicken potpie, the Lumberyard Meatloaf wrapped in bacon and served with whipped potatoes and mushroom demi-glaze, a rotisserie chicken served with mashed potatoes and broccolini, and skillet corn bread. For a smaller appetite, the side order of macaroni and cheese with bits of bacon and bleu cheese is simply delish. If you still have room left after your main course, finish with either the fresh fruit cobbler a la mode or the Lumberyard Hog Heaven Pie—a sweetly decadent concoction of cookie crumb crust, chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse and whipped cream. (949-715-3900; lblumberyard.com)

Chef-Driven Comfort Food

With an emphasis on the farm-to-fork movement, Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink supports sustainability and uses fresh, local ingredients to create comfort dishes such as pork loin with harissa barbecue served with macaroni and cheese and apple-sweet onion slaw, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf served with spinach, country mash, mushroom and gravy. For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the restaurant will present their regular menu along with a special prix-fixe menu featuring traditional prime rib with all of the fixings. Be sure to save room for the retro-inspired desserts, including Grandma B’s Chocolate Cake with vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate banana bread pudding and The “Presley,” cinnamon toast with banana, peanut butter ice cream and honey. (949-494-8686; 370common.com)

Soups and a Delicious Duo

For appetizing, aromatic soups sure to please your palate, Sundried Tomato Cafe offers daily soup creations, including grilled chicken, vegetable, glass noodle, creamy lemon, chicken, risotto, butternut squash and caramelized onion, among others. Or try a cup or bowl of the restaurant’s signature soup—the delectable, creamy Sundried Tomato Soup. The eatery also offers Sundried’s “Comfort Combo,” which consists of a grilled Asiago cheese and tomato sandwich paired with the creamy Sundried Tomato Soup—the ultimate feel-good dish food for a winter day. (949-494-3312; sundriedtomatocafe.com)

Regional Favorites

With a view overlooking the Pacific and an American regional menu featuring fresh seafood and aged steaks, Rock’n Fish offers a lively ambience for edibles inspired by the steakhouses of Chicago, classic New Orleans cuisine, and the seafood restaurants of Boston, Seattle and San Francisco. Try the bistro style cioppino, a San Francisco fisherman’s stew with fresh fish, shrimp and clams in a tomato broth, served with garlic cheese toast. The spicy macaroni and cheese is a tasty side dish, too. Additionally, the restaurant’s popular Prime Rib Sundays meal—which features slow-roasted prime rib with au jus, garlic mashed potatoes, creamed corn and horseradish sauce served with a choice of soup or salad, and dessert—will be offered Sunday through Thursday during the holiday season. (949-497-3113; rocknfishlb.com)

Home-Style With a Twist

Modern American cuisine and upscale tavern fare are featured on the regular dinner menu at Stonehill Tavern at The St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point. Patrons can enjoy entrees including a whole-fried jidori chicken for two that is served with long beans, truffled macaroni and cheese and sweet onion jus, and a Maine lobster potpie served with seasonal vegetables and brandied lobster cream. A special comfort dish, coq au vin with “Rhone flavors,” will also be available during the month of December. Consisting of chicken that has been marinated and gently braised in syrah with a garnish of sweet baby carrots, cippolini onions, porcini mushrooms and bacon lardons over handmade noodles and served with mashed potatoes or rice; this entree makes for one amazing holiday meal. (949-234-3318; michaelmina.net)

Global Bites

At Sapphire Laguna, comfort food items with a decidedly global spin are featured on the Spice Plates menu. Served daily beginning at 4 p.m., the unique menu items make an excellent before-dinner appetizer or can serve as a complete meal for those with smaller appetites. Among the options are a bacon-wrapped kimchi hot dog with sesame spinach and ssamjang aioli, Jamaican jerk chicken wings with a habanero-mango salsa, and Southern fried chicken liver with a spicy remoulade. Although this global comfort cuisine might not be exactly what grandma whipped up for the holidays, these unique bites are irresistible. (949-715-9888; sapphirellc.com)

Merry Meals at Montage

Boasting a stunning oceanfront view and award-winning cuisine, both Studio and The Loft at Montage Laguna Beach offer patrons an unforgettable dining experience. Throughout December, guests can indulge in four- and five-course holiday tasting menus at The Loft and Studio, respectively. Chef Casey Overton of The Loft will offer several tempting dishes on his holiday menu, including braised iberico pork cheek served with dried cherry ravioli and wilted escarole; loin of free-range venison, pickled pears and wild mushroom salad; and pan-seared Hudson Valley duck breast with roasted endive, and candied apple tart and Sicilian pistachio. Other comforting holiday treats at Montage include an eggnog tasting on Dec. 21 and Christmas Eve s’mores. (949-715-6420; montagelagunabeach.com)

No matter what kind of comfort food you’re craving this season, these Laguna Beach restaurants and others around town can satisfy your appetite. When you’re feeling nostalgic for a dish just like grandma used to make, visit one of these locations and get your comfort food fix—Laguna style! LBM

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