When you're dining, nothing is as soothing as a big pot of cheese -- hot, molten goo ready-made for melting away the cares of the day. The aptly named Swiss Haven is so warm and welcoming a restaurant that by the time you're seated, you feel like you're sitting in the middle of a big tub of custard, while charming servers prepare your personal, authentic Swiss fondue experience. Each pot of kirschwasser-kissed cheese (choose from four possible combinations, all based on Gruyère) comes with a basket of bread cubes, and the pot stays on the tabletop burner until the last little bit of la religieuse -- the crispy, browned crust that forms in the center of the fondue pan -- is scraped off and scarfed down. If you're not yet fond of fondue, Swiss Haven will melt away any objections.


The Buckhorn Exchange is in its 109th year, and unlike the hundreds of animals whose heads (and other parts) grace the walls, it's still alive and kickin'. And this restaurant really jumps at lunchtime, when the hungry hordes pile into its Old West-style dining room and dive into the pot-roast sandwich, the Buckhorn's best-selling comfort food. Good luck getting this monster into your mouth: The thick-cut black pumpernickel bread can barely hold in the fat chunks of falling-apart-tender beef brisket, which are soaked through with a dark, salty, beef pan gravy. That gravy eventually soaks through the bread, too, at which point you might as well surrender and eat the whole mess with a fork, alternating dips into the side of chunky mashed potatoes, also smothered in that good gravy.


All aboard for the ultimate in comfort food: the Great Northern Tavern's chicken pot pie. At this train-themed brewpub, the pot pie arrives as a huge crock filled with soft chicken chunks and fork-tender root vegetables suspended in a chicken-rich, lightly peppered country gravy that's just beginning to ooze out of a golden topper of rich, flaky pastry. The second your fork pierces the lid, steam wafts up and permeates the air with a smell reminiscent of fresh-baked pies and dew-kissed mornings on the farm. A frosty mug of the tavern's hoppy Western Star Wheat is just the thing to wash down this entree pie; after that, it might be time to find a sleeper car.


The most comforting thing about comfort food is how satisfied your tummy feels after it's full. And it's not going to get any fuller than at Kathy and Bill's Diner, a place that clearly knows the meaning of "super-size." Every meal at this divey diner comes super-sized, but the breakfasts, which are served all day, are particularly big. The pancakes look like steering wheels; a pita the size of a toddler's head overflows with scrambled eggs and feta cheese; six strips of bacon sit next to a four-egg omelette. Our favorite eye-opener is the Havana muffin, which makes the McDonald's version look like a snack. The kitchen takes a regular-sized muffin and tops it with a flap of ham the size of a compact disc, four slices of melted American cheese and two eggs, then puts three or four potatoes' worth of crispy-edged home fries on the side. Uncle!
Pasta is always comforting, but at midday, we need it most. For comfortable carbo-loading, head over to the soothing Bruno's, where nothing is rushed and the servers never fail to sport a smile. Start your meal with a bowl of that day's zuppa, maybe a creamy wild mushroom or a warming minestrone. Then follow up with penne Alfredo, with its gentle, creamy cheese sauce tossed with artichoke hearts and oven-dried tomatoes; or perhaps the chicken Sienese, a breast grilled with honey and balsamic and topped with a portobello, all nestled in a bed of capellini slick with garlic and olive oil. The truly needy should head straight to the brodo del giorno, or broth of the day, which Bruno's makes from scratch, simmering bones and vegetables into a stock and then adding fresh meats and veggies for a satisfying, healthy brew sure to help you forget that the boss just asked for that project that was due yesterday. On second thought, make that a double.


Owner Marilyn LeBlanc is so gracious, Cafe Evangeline feels more like a Louisiana home than a storefront on South Broadway. And a bit of the food at this small Cajun and Creole eatery is enough to transport you straight to the Bayou. The kitchen at Evangeline puts out a mean jambalaya and étouffée, and the catfish and frog's legs are pretty good, too. But what really sends us south is the red beans 'n' rice, a dish filled with spicy, smoky sausage that releases its good grease down into the rice. It's just the thing to warm the coldest days and send us sweatin' in the summer. Y'all come back now, ya hear?


Forget those cooler-than-thou chain spots: Rocky Mountain Fruit Shake knows how to make a liquid lunch a stirring experience. Fresh fruits and juices mix with frozen yogurt or ice for healthy, refreshing shakes; for an extra boost, add protein powder, ginseng, lecithin or spirulina. Take the invigorating brew back to the office or sit in the food court where you can feel truly comforted by the fact that your life is less miserable than those of the lonely souls who hang out here. And if your day has been so tough that even that doesn't help, the only option is one of their dreamy floats, which add a big blob of creamy frozen yogurt to the top of the glass.
Everything at Citrus seems a bit overblown, from the cocktail waitresses clad in little black dresses to the copious amounts of Champagne consumed on any given night. And there's something about the velvety booths against the restaurant's far wall that takes even the cozy concept of "comfy" over the top. High-backed and banquette-style, these seats feel isolated from each other and the rest of the dining area; the plush,

touch-me upholstery just begs for skin contact. Sitting in one of these booths is sinfully delicious.


Best Comfy Place to Sit While Waiting for a Table

Mateo

So many restaurants have stopped taking reservations, it's becoming commonplace for would-be diners to stand awkwardly in a foyer the size of a broom closet or resort to paying extra in order to drink overpriced liquor at an overcrowded bar until a table comes open. But Mateo, a charmingly hip Provençal spot in Boulder, makes the wait a worthwhile part of the whole dining experience. You get to pass the time in a plush, velvety alcove next to the front window, settled against soft pillows, enjoying a clear view of the dining scene and the twinkling lights of Pearl Street. There's plenty of leg room, plus a well-positioned table in case you'd like to enjoy a glass of wine, and the area seats two or three small parties comfortably. And if the waiting room's full, there's still the oval bar, another comfy space that's popular with local singles.
The team at Mizuna works like a well-oiled machine. It helps that many of the staffers have been at this spot since it was Aubergine and were so happy there that when chef/owner Frank Bonanno and his partner, Doug Fleischmann, took over the space, they stuck around. But Bonanno and Fleisch-mann quickly gave them even more reason to be happy at this charming Mediterranean room: food that never fails to please. So from the second diners walk through the door, they're made to feel welcome, promptly greeted and seated, then properly wined and dined. The service is seamless, and no need is left unmet. It serves us right to eat at Mizuna.


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