Best Comfort Food - 2009
Lola's on Harrison
Chef Michael Wagner knows there's more to American classics than chicken wings and turkey dinners. There are potatoes, for instance. And Coke. But what he does with corn dogs and hamburger meat goes well beyond anything your mama would recognize from her recipe-card file: Potato skins at Lola's come in hues of purple, topped with crème fraîche, bacon bits, and a luxurious sprinkling of sturgeon caviar; a corn dog employs Wagyu beef, porcini mushrooms, and homemade sweet bell pepper ketchup; Coca-Cola appears in barbecued beef ribs with buttermilk-battered onion rings and creamed corn. Wagner's turkey dinner is calculated to soothe any metaphysical ache you might have dragged through the door with you, substituting creamy polenta for the usual mashed potatoes, beautifully glazed Brussels sprouts, and pomegranate-sundried cherry gravy that floats the idea of cranberry sauce without that tired trope. Where other chefs offer a less-than-comforting pat on the head with their meatloaf and fried chicken, Wagner's New American cooking feels like a sweeping embrace from some beloved, half-crazy Auntie Mame: Life's a banquet, baby!