“Comfort food” is not just about the food. It’s about the habit of going to the same restaurant over and over to order what you know, and it’s about companionship.
“I know what I want and where to get it,” explained Mr. Vaughn, one of my tablemates. He eats at Pierrot Gourmet, the French bistro attached to the Peninsula hotel, at least once a week.
“Why would I try something new?” he asked, taking a big bite of his flat bread, the dish he always orders.
“Variety?” I suggested.
“Nah. It’s overrated.”
We were seated at a large community table – strangers chatting over a late lunch. I had brought a book for company but abandoned it for the conversation around me, which was much more entertaining. I’d stumbled upon a group of local regulars right in the middle of a sea of tourists.
The young law student sitting next to me nodded in agreement.
“I always order the same thing too.”
“Men like routine?” he shrugged.
At first, I felt a little sorry for them.
“You’re like my son,” Mr. Vaughn said, reading my face. “You’re always looking for something new.”
He’s right. Tammy and I started Chicago Bites to get out of our restaurant rut and to explore the culinary treasures the city has to offer. We aim to push our limits and our comfort zones. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my old favorites. As I dine out more and my tastes evolve, it’s all about striking a balance between nostalgia and adventure. At the heart of it (hopefully) is an ongoing quest for good food.
My conversation with my tablemates touched on any number of topics throughout our meal, and it dawned on me that that the aimless chitchat was as much a part of the comfort my dining companions enjoyed as the food was. That’s because a meal can be good because of the people you’re with.
“We’ll see you again, won’t we?” Mr. Vaughn asked as I paid my bill.