Restaurant News & Reviews

Arroyo Grande's Comfort Market serves up gourmet comfort food

Mary's free range-chicken with Washington cherry port sauce is among the dinner entree options at Comfort Market in Arroyo Grande.
Mary's free range-chicken with Washington cherry port sauce is among the dinner entree options at Comfort Market in Arroyo Grande. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Whether you want to enjoy a flavorful, from-scratch meal or to find ingredients for a dish you’re making at home, Comfort Market can fit the bill.

Situated at the west end of the Village of Arroyo Grande, Comfort Market opened in April 2014. The bright, airy space opens out to the sidewalk whenever weather permits, giving it the ambiance of a casual courtyard setting.

As the name suggests, this establishment is indeed part market. Among the many provisions on the shelves are gourmet pastas, spices and even canned tuna from a Morro Bay-based boat — the F/V Capriccio.

There’s also a well-curated array of Central Coast wines, and if you buy a bottle to have with your meal, you will just pay the retail price. Or you can enjoy a hard cider or one of several craft beers on tap.

“Originally, we thought (Comfort Market) was going to be much more a specialty market where people got an occasional sandwich,” explained Kari Ziegler, who launched Comfort Market with business partner Steve Bridge. The pair also owned the now-shuttered Gather Wine Bar, formerly located a few doors down.

When Comfort Market first opened, diners placed their orders at the counter, and the food was brought to their tables.

It now operates like a traditional restaurant with sit-down service and a creative dinner menu (available Thursday through Sunday) developed by Fernando Rodriguez.

A classically trained chef from Uruguay, Rodriguez brought serious culinary chops to the table when he joined the Comfort team in January 2015.

Some of those tempting dinner entrees include shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese with pancetta and meatloaf served with a Marsala mushroom sauce and polenta. There are also plates designed to be shared, such as bacon-wrapped dates, potato gnocchi with béchamel sauce and slow-roasted pork belly that’s been marinated in Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Among the “morning munchies” served all day are scones and muffins, breakfast sandwiches and several breakfast burrito options such as the Irish with Irish bacon and potatoes and the Veggie with mushroom duxelles (a reduction of minced mushrooms, shallots and herbs). There's also a breakfast burrito with housemade sausage, scrambled eggs and Sriracha sauce.

The lunch menu offers daily soups, several hearty salads and quite a few noshes — but it is decidedly sandwich-centric, and rightly so.

Some customer favorites are the Chicken Artichoke Baguette with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions; the Chicken Salad with free-range, house-roasted poultry and lemon garlic aioli; and the Comfort Market take on a Cuban, which features thin-sliced pork loin, ham, housemade slaw and pickles on a brioche bun.

Daily specials are also available. And be sure to take a peek at the dessert menu so you can plan accordingly. You can go all in with a double chocolate brownie drizzled with salted caramel, share bites of a berry tart or take home a couple of freshly baked cookies.

In addition to making everything in house, Ziegler noted that the emphasis throughout all the menus is on local and seasonal.

“We use as many locally grown ingredients — including proteins — as possible,” she said. “Beyond that, it has to be fresh, and then it has to be the best of the best, like imported Italian tomatoes or Gulf shrimp.”

In that vein, she added that many of the menu items are gluten-free simply because they taste better with the use of rice-potato flour (the Cup 4 Cup brand).

“The vision has never changed. Everything still has to taste good,” Ziegler said.

“People think ‘comfort food’ has to be heavy, but we have very few things like that on our menu,” she added. “We don’t go for huge calories and huge portions. We go for amazing flavors.”

Comfort Market

116 West Branch St., Arroyo Grande | 481-1558 | comfortmarkets.com

Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday-Sunday 9:30 a.m.- 9 p.m.

The scene: A casual restaurant and specialty market with a relaxed open feel thanks to the big doors that open out to the sidewalk when weather allows. Comfort Market will also be restarting monthly cooking classes in August.

The cuisine: From-scratch, comfort-inspired food made with fresh, seasonal and quality ingredients.

Expect to spend: Breakfast and lunch all under $10, dinner about $10-20, daily specials vary.

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