Saturday, October 31, 2015

Urban Comfort, St. Petersburg, FL

We all have another reason to visit St. Pete’s charming Grand Central District. I will be the first to admit that Urban Comfort struck (and strummed) a nostalgic chord in my native Tennessean heart. Situated in a repurposed 1950’s gas station on Central Avenue, the architectural integrity of the structure and its era has been well preserved and the interior remains delightfully gritty. There’s covered bench seating outdoors (with shuffleboard courts in the works) and utilitarian stainless booth seating within. Don’t go to Urban Comfort expecting an extensive menu, a wine list, haute cuisine or a refined ambiance, because you’ll not be getting any of that. Food is served on aluminum trays and beverages are dispensed in cute Mason jars.
What you will get is unabashed comfort food - fine renditions of classic Sunday supper style offerings and a short list of signature cocktails, craft beers (soon which will all be brewed on the premises) and a handful of house wines. And, great news! At Urban Comfort, you may indulge without fear of Aunt June’s pearl clutching and conniption fits that are often associated with daring to crack a cold one at a bona fide Sabbath dinner in the Bible Belt. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Appetizers are limited to fried green tomatoes, fish spread, hush puppies with smoked Gouda sauce, house-cured bacon and a seasonal selection. The fish spread is a chunky, sturdy version served with cool and crunchy veggies, buttery crackers and a little crock of the restaurant’s signature Urban Hot Sauce. The hot sauce is a life affirming elixir with a velvety texture and a subtle “slow burn” that I’m praying will be available by the bottle someday (preferably next week). 
 I could cheerfully eat the house-cured bacon app for breakfast every day for the rest of my life. The melt-in-your-mouth slabs of pork belly show up resting atop a creamy bed of grits which have been simmered in chicken stock and laced with a hint of maple syrup. I haven’t often found grits that were prepared to the proper consistency in the greater Tampa Bay area, but Comfort nailed it on my visit.
Entrees do not easily accommodate dieters and range in price from $9 to $15. Portions are huge and inclusive of sides. This is where things get deliciously carb-and-caloric-crazy.

The crunchy and succulent fried chicken (two pieces with one side and a fluffy, golden edged biscuit for $10 or four for $14.50) will have you sucking the bones and your fingers – so check your dignity at the door, bring your wet naps and go all in. Similarly, indulging in the juicy $13 chicken fried pork chops smothered in white bacon gravy might be worth eating leaves for the rest of the week. As a side note, deep fried foods are remarkably light(ish) and non-greasy here.

Chicken and dumplings are a respectable rendition and presented in their own cast iron skillet. I get annoyed by underuse of poultry leg quarters and appreciate the fact that both dark and white meat are represented here. Homey and laden with fresh herbs and veggies, this is what grownups want when we miss our mommies.

My $9 half order of fresh catch and hushpuppies may have excited me the least of everything sampled. The “catch” was grouper, which was fried to a fairly wan finish. Still, it was sweet and cooked through. Plus, I’m enamored of the tangy caper sauce that stood in for traditional tartar. Hushpuppies were a tad heavy and grainy, but the biscuit was angelic.

Sides sampled were bacon butter beans simmered in pork fat well beyond the al dente state (as decreed by law in the south), otherworldly mashed potatoes slathered in more of that previously referenced bacon gravy and a seasonal yellow squash casserole baked with layers of cheese and a Ritz cracker crust…just like the one I grew up with. 

Urban Comfort provides just that, along with a sidecar of nostalgia. Excellent for families, couples and the budget conscious (most entrees will have you packing enough leftovers for lunch the next day).

Urban Comfort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.


  1. I'll be needing to try that fried chicken.

  2. Yes please. Is there any other food quite like comfort food?