Movable Feast: Hearty dishes to keep warm

Now that winter has settled in to stay, midday thoughts are likely to turn to the predictable, sustaining pleasures of comfort food. But that doesn’t have to mean pizza or a cheesesteak every time the mercury plummets. On and around campus we’ve found a host of hearty dishes to keep the mid-winter chills at bay.

Savory stew
Fatou & Fama, 4002 Chestnut St., 215-386-0700

If you’re craving warmth, you’ll find it as soon as you walk into this cozy pink dining room decorated with brightly colored kinte cloth. The service is warm, too, and the heat just rises as you follow the spicy aromas to the buffet lunch set up in the rear of the restaurant. While the à la carte menu shows off the full range of chef/owner Fatou Ndiaye’s culinary influences—with Senegalese staples like the richly savory yassa stew, along with West Indian and soul food dishes—the lunch buffet offers simple, comforting fare that might include ginger turkey, chicken curry or black-eyed peas. At $7.95, it’s a bargain, and the slow-cooked sauces, redolent of onions, peanuts and peppers provide nourishment for the soul as well as the belly. Need more heat? Try a glass of Mama Fama punch, a perky brew made with ginger root and fresh sorrel.

Hot cereal
Cereality, 3631 Walnut St.,
215-222-1162

You’ve probably heard the buzz about this cereal-only restaurant by now, but even if you’re prepared for cereal overload it’s easy to get flustered trying to choose among the 30 varieties of brand-name cereal offered. For $2.95 you get two 8-ounce scoops with the topping of your choice, from almonds to malted milk balls. For serious mid-winter solace, though, try one of Cereality’s hot cereal combos like the Banana Brown Betty—a generous serving of hot oatmeal, bananas, molasses sugar and streusel topping. Though the café offers wireless access, a couple of couches and a flat-screen TV, you may find it a tad crowded and hectic for true comfort. Leak-proof cardboard cartons—think oversize Chinese takeout containers—make it easy to carry your carb-fest back to the office.

Nachos
White Dog Café, 3420 Sansom St., 215-386-9224

Nachos have been a mainstay of the White Dog bar menu for as long as we can remember. Though there are plenty of healthier options on offer—spinach salads, veggie burgers, hummus with flatbread—when the days are short and spring seems far away the appeal of Tex Mex fast food is hard to resist. This rendition of the classic bar fare hits all the right notes, with crispy corn tortilla chips and ample helpings of refried black beans, salsa and sour cream under a blanket of soothing melted jack cheese. Though $7.95 may sound steep for a plate of chips and dips, there’s plenty here for two, and the feeling of wellbeing should last you all the way to dinner.

Originally published on January 13, 2005